Message based on Luke 11:1-13; Lord’s (or Disciples’) Prayer and Parable of Insistent Neighbor

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1800 years ago, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “To describe it with the boldest expression, prayer is a conversation with God. … [With prayer] we are giving wings to the soul for it to reach the good things on high.”

 

Although the Lord’s prayer is not the only prayer recorded in the Holy Scriptures, it is the best known and the most beloved. We take it on faith that words found in Luke 11:1-4 poured from the heart of Jesus himself. It became so familiar to us that we say or even mumble the words of this prayer without paying much attention to their meaning.

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When we think of prayer, we tend to fixate on the mechanics of prayer: what, how, why, when. When I read today’s Gospel lesson, what jumps at me is that Jesus’ instructions focus on a different question. That question is who?

 

I am not saying that questions about “what, how, why and when” are irrelevant. Questions about the mechanics of prayer are understandable because our lives are interdependent on each other, full of challenges and interruptions; we live in a society ruled by laws and regulations. There is a certain method to everything we do; our educational system, our society, and our civilization is built on answering “what, how, why and when” questions.

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But what I hear in today’s readings is that when the Disciples asked the question about “how” to pray, Jesus gave them a short explanation that was followed by an invitation; Jesus responded with an illustration that talks about “who” of prayer. That “who” is God. Jesus invited his Disciples (and by extension us) into a relationship with God and with each other through prayer. In the parable of the insistent neighbor, Jesus teaches us how to approach Holy God with familiarity and trust that we reserve for each other. In this parable Jesus shows that prayer helps us to {1} interact with our neighbors, {2} find and assert our own place in the changing world and {3} shine the Love and Grace of God onto the world around us.

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A picture is worth a thousand words: allow me to illustrate.

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Jesus teaches us that prayer is not primarily about getting things from God but rather about the relationship of trust that we cultivate with God.


  • lead us not… implies that we know God’s voice and we recognize it when our own willfulness is about to get us into trouble and we are willing to follow God’s guidance to get out of trouble

     

  • deliver us from evil… implies that we trust that God will protect us from doing evil/wrong to our sisters and brothers.

  • forgive us as we forgive… implies that we have faith that God will bring emotional and spiritual healing when we hold a grudge against our sister(s) and/or brother(s) and that we are willing to accept that emotional and spiritual healing in our lives.

 

We are invited to make all of our needs, wants, hurts, hopes, and desires known to God; we are invited to speak them into existence, to verbalize them into our conscience in the confidence that whatever may happen, our relationship with God can bear hearing these things in love and will grow stronger as a result of our conversation.

 

Jesus also teaches us that we, when we pray, should be aware of our own desperate need of God. Jesus makes the point that our prayers are effective because of God’s nature and because we are willing to invest our lives into a relationship with God. Jesus makes the point that cajoling, or having the right formulas or words don’t really mean a lot of our Loving and Gracious God… Prayer is about relationship and how that relationship shines through our lives.

 

So what’s in it for us?

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We tend to think of prayer as discrete events in the course of our lives {I.e. I pray before meals, I pray when someone asks me to, I pray before I go to bed, someone will pray at my wedding, someone will pray at my funeral…}.

 

I want to suggest that prayer is a lifestyle and an ongoing relationship and conversation with God: we are invited to LIVE our prayers, not just say our prayers. Through prayer we are invited to see the world as Jesus sees the word. We are invited to experience the wounds of the world as invitations to being instruments of healing and reconciliation. {what do we do about those who are hungry? What do we do about those who are sick? What do we do about those who are thirsty?}. We are called to experience God’s generosity by tithing and giving to others, and by being willing to accept gifts of love, hospitality and trust from others when we are in need.

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Allow me to illustrate this concept. The movie “Outsourced” is produced and distributed under an independent label. The movie is rated PG-13; as a romantic comedy it has some scenes / illuminates interpersonal dynamics that may not be appropriate for young impressionable minds.

 

Outsourcing brings with it cheap prices (who among us does not like shopping in Wal Mart?) and it also means a loss of jobs, income and a diminished lifestyle. Outsourcing dismantles the U.S. economy on which our lives and lifestyles depend. The movie “Outsourced” explores the ethical implications of moving jobs overseas, how it shatters the hopes and dreams of individuals and how those shattered dreams and hopes can usher in new beginnings in our lives.

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In the movie, the American manager’s (his name is Todd) department was outsourced and all his employees lost their jobs. However, he got to keep his job when he agreed to travel to India to train his replacement.

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Todd’s replacement (an Indian man named Puro), whose salary is roughly 15% of what Todd makes in the U.S., is ecstatic about the opportunity because this job enabled him to marry the woman he loves. But at the end of the movie, Indian jobs are outsourced to China and Puro is left unemployed and devastated. Todd is offered to keep his job again if he agrees to travel to China.

 

A poignant illustration of the parable of the insistent neighbor comes when Todd makes a choice to quit his job so that Puro has the opportunity to marry the woman he loves and go to China instead of Todd.

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“Outsourced” is a parable. It uses imagery from far away land (India in this case) that mirrors our own struggles and fears as well as illustrates the principles that Jesus raised in today’s parable of insistent neighbor. It asks questions like, “how do we EFFECTIVELY and RESPECTFULLY interact with our neighbors?”

 

Today’s reading also asks questions like, “How do assert our own place in a changing world? How do we shine the love of God onto the world around us?”

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I want to close today with a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

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