Luke 11:1-13 “…and Yet, I Pray”
July 28, 2013 – Caitlin Trussell
Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
Luke 11:1-13 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
As an adult, I spent a several years outside the church before being captured by grace through the Lutheran tradition. There’s a lot I can say about that time but one of the most curious things to me is that I continued to pray. Specifically, this means that I said a lot of quick things to God – flash prayers if you will. Things like, “Please!” and “Seriously?!” Occasionally these prayers were simply crying or sometimes I would laugh at God ala the likes of Sarah in the book of Genesis. I find this all very curious because, at the time, I wasn’t even sure who God was. But how I prayed, and what I prayed, spoke volumes. How we pray gives us a lot of information about who we think God is and how we think God moves in the world. Maybe even more curiously, how we pray and whether we pray gives us a lot of information about how we see ourselves in relationship with God.
Theologians and church-types love to talk about what happens when we pray. Dissecting it into parts and giving us theories on how prayer works and how it doesn’t work and how God works in the midst of prayer. Out of all of those theories, some which come from tangling with our text in Luke today, I haven’t found one that is intellectually satisfying. I have prayed desperate prayers and silly prayers and everything in between to all kinds of outcomes. So the outcome of prayer is simply a mystery to me. The mystery of prayer is especially true when my or someone else’s world is torn apart by loss. And yet…and yet…I pray. I continue to pray desperate prayers and silly prayers and everything in between.
My prayers have been added to in both content and form from the flash prayers – although I still use those too. But much more importantly, I simply became comfortable praying. So much so that now guess what happens at the start of a church meeting or meal…yup, you guessed it – “Pastor, will you pray for us?”
What happens at a church meeting or meal or gathering when the pastor says, “Would anyone like to pray for us?” … … … … … Exactly! Crickets. Because of this response, I hear the disciples’ demanding, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and Jesus’ answer to them, as good news. They demand to be taught and he teaches them. Notice that when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray he doesn’t launch into a three-point didactic instruction with power-point. He doesn’t say things like, “Well, first you have to have a good theological understanding of the intersection between God and faith and the world. None of that! He simply prays. What might this mean? Perhaps that prayer can be learned. Not as technical proficiency but, much more importantly, disciples can simply become comfortable praying through the practice of prayer. So when someone says that they can’t pray there is a possibility that it could feel differently for them. I have a good friend who said to me a long time ago that praying out loud is like chewing rocks. Now my friend is a lay assisting minister in her congregation and is praying the Prayers of Intercession…out loud!
The prayer that Jesus teaches the disciples is the prayer we pray together as “The Lord’s Prayer” during worship. It is a corporate prayer; meaning that all of us, the whole body of Christ, pray this prayer together and on each other’s behalf. Some of us widen the net a bit with this prayer and pray it in the morning before we get out of bed or on airplanes when the weather is bad. This is a go-to prayer. This is a prayer that has served the faithful for over 2,000 years and will continue to serve the faithful long after we’re gone. We pray this prayer with our ancestors and with those yet to come. This is THE most persistent prayer of the body of Christ.
During worship we also pray with the worship leader who prepares and prays the Prayers of Intercession when we “pray for the church, those in need, and all of God’s creation.” This is a prayer for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – the concerns of now, this week. The person who leads us in this prayer names names and gives voice to individual and community worries, wonderings, events, gratitude, praise, and so much more. Week after week, like Abraham, we approach God in humble determination with petitions of prayer, holding God accountable to be God. Our prayers offer hope and healing in Jesus Christ just as we’re encouraged to do by Augustana’s mission statement.
The point is that we already are praying and we pray well together. So I’ve been wondering what it could look like if we, as the body of Christ, turned toward each other and continued praying on the foundation of our Sunday prayers and beyond. In essence, turning toward Jesus and saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And rather than a prayer tutorial, we simply begin praying more. We practice. I’m so curious about what this could look like that I’ve invited a team of Augustana people to wonder about this with me as part of something called Augustana Praying Project; so named because we are actively praying as well as working on different ways to pray – some that will work in our lives together and some that won’t. Augustana Praying Project will take shape over time and change shape over time responding to the different needs people have and the different ways people pray.
I also wonder how much our practice of prayer, as David Lose suggests, “attunes ourselves to God and to our shared life.” In all that we bring to God in prayer, we are essentially putting our lives through the filter of faith. Prayer as a connecting point between our lives of faith and our daily life gives us language for both. So, at the very least, perhaps prayer creates fluid connections between the faith we claim as Christian people on Sundays and our lives as Christian people throughout the week.
The disciples demand, “Lord, teach us to pray…” When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, his prayer attunes them with God our Father and with each other and “our” needs. Prayer, as Jesus instructs it, is highly relational even as it’s spoken by a single person. We are set free into this prayer as our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray by praying. We are also set free to pray our daily concerns so that our prayer reflects this life we live connected with this God in whom we have our being.
Thanks be to God!
 Genesis 18:1-15 – Hebrew Bible lectionary reading for July 21, 2013.
 Genesis 18:20-32 – Hebrew Bible lectionary reading for today, July 28, 2013.
 Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO. Mission Statement: Guided by the Holy Spirit we gather in Christian community, reach out and invite, offer hope and healing in Jesus Christ, and walk humbly with God.
 David Lose. “What is Prayer?” Blog: …In the Meantime, February 2013.
Find full post at:http://www.davidlose.net/2013/02/what-is-prayer/