Although I didn't have a sermon to write for today, I did reflect on the lessons for Proper 13C all this week ... in the process coming across these notes from the last time the lessons rolled around in the lectionary:
"Lord, teach us to pray" the disciple asked and in response, Jesus offers the wonderful words we all know and love ... those we often refer to as the words "our Lord Jesus taught us to pray" "The Lords Prayer."
Note that this is the "Lord's Prayer" not the "Lord's Secret Password" or "Lord's Magic Words." The point is not the precise WORDS our Lord taught us to pray -- words that indeed vary from translation to translation -- are revised from prayer book to prayer book. This is sometimes a subject of some consternation of the faithful -- in spite of the fact that they even vary between the Gospel according to Luke and the Gospel according to Matthew.
The fact is, we can sometimes become so fixed on the "words of God" and who's getting them right or wrong that we lose sight of the "Word of God" and what it has to do with our lives and journeys.
A case in point would be my son Brian who was about ten years old when he attended the Baccalaureate service as I was graduating from seminary. He was shocked to find that people did church "different" than he was used to -- appalled that the prayers he'd proudly memorized weren't EXACTLY the same as hed learned them. The final straw was the administration of communion which, because it was a Methodist service was offered by way of intinction: dipping the bread into the cup of wine.
On the way back from the communion rail he could stand it no longer and said in a voice I'm sure he inherited from me; "You call this CHURCH? First they get the prayers wrong and then they won't let you drink the wine!"
Brian let his expectations about what the prayers were supposed to sound like get in the way of what they actually said -- and it is an example I think of whenever I'm tempted to do the same. In the final analysis, prayer is not about what we say but about who we are who we are in relationship with the God who, as last week's Collect of the Day said, "knows our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking." Or as another writer has offered: "If prayer were intended only to inform God of our desires and deficiencies, it would be unnecessary" [Nosson Scherman, "Prayer, a Timeless Need"]
And then in church today I was really struck by these words from the second verse of the sequence hymn:
Come, pray with me the prayer I need this day;
help me to see your purpose and your will,
where I have failed, what I have done amiss;
held in forgiving love, let me be still.
"Come pray with me the prayer I need this day" -- not "come listen to the VERY long list of things I think ought to be different."
"Come pray with me the prayer I need this day."
I think that's going on the post-it note on the computer screen in the morning.
Right now I'm going to go try the being still part.