Sermons 2003-2004

"Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

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Proper 12C 2004 Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13

We’re going to do something a little different today. Please turn to page 856 in the Book of Common Prayer. It is the part of the Outline of Faith or Catechism that concerns prayer and succinct statements in Question and Answer form which address how and what we believe about prayer. So let’s go through it. Prayer and Worship Q. What is prayer?

A. Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.

Q. What is Christian Prayer?

A. Christian prayer is response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Q. What prayer did Christ teach us?

A. Our Lord gave us the example of prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer.

Q. What are the principal kinds of prayer?

A. The principal kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.

Q. What is adoration?

A. Adoration is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.

Q. Why do we praise God?

A. We praise God, not to obtain anything, but because God’s Being draws praise from us.

Q. For what do we offer thanksgiving?

A. Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God.

Q. What is penitence?

A. In penitence, we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives.

Q. What is prayer of oblation?

A. Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God.

Q. What are intercession and petition?

A. Intercession brings before God the needs of others; in petition, we present our own needs, that God’s will may be done.

Q. What is corporate worship?

A. In corporate worship, we unite ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer, and to celebrate the sacraments

Long before our current Prayer Book was authorized, in far away Lorraine in eastern France there was born in 1611 a child named Nicholas Herman. He joined the army to fight for his faith in the Thirty Years war as a teenager. But by the time he was eighteen years old he had tired of battle, had been wounded and permanently lamed, forced to retire. After a brief civilian career serving the royal treasurer of France he realized – in his own words – “that he was a great awkward fellow who broke everything” and began to obey his call to the monastic life.

He died in 1691 after a long life as a Carmelite monk, having been respectively the monastery cook for thirty years, then its cobbler. His fame as a good and holy person spread beyond the monastery walls and, as his biographer noted, “In spite of the quiet and unobtrusive manner of his life…Parisians from all sections of society, sensing his innate goodness and holiness, were eager to share his company and learn from him.” (1)

Notes were kept of his conversations and were subsequently published. I was struck by the Catechism section on prayers of adoration: “asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence”. The title of the book of Brother Lawrence’s conversations and letters is “The Practice of the Presence of God.” And the basis of his prayer life and devotions was this: “Whether he was engaged in the humdrum task of cooking in the monastery, or on an expedition to buy provisions for the brethren, or simply picking up a straw from the ground, his action was directed, as far as within him lay, to the honour and glory of God…. He was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking him only, and nothing else, not even his gifts.” (2)

In a very real sense, Brother Lawrence’s life was a prayer of oblation. The catechism defines it this way: Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God. To do everything that we do, however menial or exalted, for the purposes of God, however inadequate we are to understand those purposes.

Our corporate worship involves all forms of prayer, but especially a significant amount of praise. Some of us may remember the classic Anglican rubric: We sit to learn – hence sitting during sermons and lessons; we kneel to pray – at least here in this parish we do; and we stand to praise – hymns to God, the Doxology and presentation, the gospel at communion and the responses before and after it is read. All of those acts of worship are prayers of praise.

Penitence speaks for itself. All our worship services involve public confession, whether Holy Communion of Morning Prayer. Some of us know that Private Confession is also available to whoever may ask – the proper liturgical forms begin on page 447 of the Book of Common Prayer. You can look it up some night when you can't sleep, for whatever reason.

I wish we were better at Thanksgiving. The silence is sometimes thunderous when we pause during the prayers of the people for thanksgivings. It feels better to me at Morning Prayer – at least then we say the General Thanksgiving.

What we are best at is Intercession and Petition. Intercession: every Sunday we recite the names on our bulletin prayer list. I’m sure that some of us take that list home with us and pray for those folks by name all over again. At least I hope so. And we are better at intercession than petition – we do emphasize the needs of others over our own – but that may be because we are entirely too comfortable in many other ways.

Our Old Testament Lesson for today is a classical example of prayers of petition. Abraham is in conversation with God over the city of Sodom. And any prayer, whatever its merit, is a conversation with God. Abraham is interceding with God, pleading with God to spare the city. What is interesting in this conversation with God is that Abraham is also bargaining with God.

Will you spare the city, O God, if there are only fifty righteous people in it? How about only 45? 40? 30? 20? 10? And the deal, the bargain, is struck at ten.

In her classic study, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has a chapter on bargaining. She wrote that in the case of the terminally ill and dying “the bargaining is really an attempt to postpone; it has to include a prize offered ‘for good behavior,’ it also sets a self imposed ‘deadline,’…and it includes an implicit promise that the patient will not ask for more if this one postponement is granted…. Most bargains are made with God and are usually kept a secret….” The promise of no more bargaining is normally not kept nor is the other usual promise of an amendment of life or renewed dedication to the service of God.

Although Kubler-Ross studied only the terminally ill, I have always been struck by how much of what she said about bargaining applies to many of the rest of us. Certainly to me. And I have to say that I have been a little uncomfortable with bargaining with God. Certainly what Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer was to speak straight out with what we want – there’s no bargaining in the Lord’s Prayer.

Nor is there any baby talk “just” prayer stuff in the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve all heard these prayers. Usually during national prayer breakfasts or National days of prayer someone will stand and say “Oh Lord, I just know that you will do such and so that I’m asking you to do.” I’ve always been struck by the implicit arrogance of these prayers, as if any mere human could know the mind of God so well as to be able to make such a declaration.

The fatalistic prayer of intercession or petition is similar in many ways – usually ending with something that sounds like “however, despite what I am asking, your will be done about this.” Sounds like human hedging of bets, wishy washiness, I don’t really mean this kind of false humility and piety. Or worse, it reflects a disbelief in the power of prayer and a disbelief that God will listen. Yet in the minds of many, it is a sign of great piety to mouth this phrase. It’s very human, though. Jesus was at his most human at Gethsemane when he said this. But then he pulled himself together, got up and got on with the business of saving the rest of us through his crucifixion and Resurrection. Now there was a prayer of oblation!

Jesus told us to speak plainly and clearly in our prayers: to Ask, Seek, Knock. We reflect this in our prayer book during communion: And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are BOLD to say: all caps, underlined, bold face. Bold. So Ask. Seek. Knock. And be persistent, like Abraham. Keep on asking and seeking and knocking over and over again. And do it boldly.


1. Robert Llewellyn, ed., Daily Readings with Brother Lawrence, London: The Julian Shrine, 1985, pp. 9-10.

2. Ibid., p. 15.