Ecclus. 48: 1-14
Matt: 6: 7-15
‘The Prairie Tortoise’
May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Prayer is a very personal thing – it’s how we communicate with God. It’s how we share our pain, our joy, our hopes, our disappointments, our devotion and our thanks with Him. I have to admit that prayer never came easy to me. But that’s not quite true for when I was child I was taught to pray almost a soon as I could talk but because I was a child I had no real concept of who I was praying to. Also I was not what could be called a grade ‘A’ student. There was the famous occasion when asked by my mother what I had learned at Sunday School that day, I proudly replied; ‘Oh I learned about Jesus and ‘The Prairie Tortoise’. How many of you have ever heard about ‘The Prairie Tortoise’? It took my mother and my grand mother quite a while to work out that what the teacher was talking about was in fact; ‘Jesus and the prayer He taught us – The Lord’s Prayer.
Later in life the Lord’s Prayer would come to be the rock on which I built my prayer life, and if you have a problem with prayer it could also help you I am sure. When I came back to faith prayer was not the easy thing it had been when I was a child! Suddenly I was aware of the awesome being, our Creator God, that I was attempting to communicate with and I found the prospect entirely daunting, until I found the passage in Mathew’s Gospel that we heard today, and as so often before Jesus spoke to me off the page and took my fear away.
Lately I have been immersed in the World Cup and whenever England is playing one of my all time footballing heroes David Beckham’s often comes to mind, we miss his timeless talent. But when I think of David the film entitled ‘Bend it like Beckham’ always pops up in my head. If you haven’t seen it it’s about a girl who wanted to play football like her hero David Beckham. Well as Jesus is also my hero, and even better at prayer than David Beckham was at football, perhaps we should invent a similar phrase; ‘to pray it like Jesus’ in thanks to Him for giving us the perfect prayer; ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
Jesus not only tells us exactly what to say when we pray the perfect prayer, he tells us where, and how to pray it. Not on the street corner or in front of everybody as the ‘hypocrites do’, but in the privacy of our own rooms where we can be alone with our heavenly Father. But beware it can be easy to fall into the trap of the heathens and just mechanically repeat the words without thinking of what they mean. There is every thing in the Lord’s Prayer that you could possibly need to say when talking to our Heavenly Father. If you think about the words as you speak them, you have done all that is necessary for a healthy prayer life.
First you establish a relationship with your Maker, and address God as your Father, showing that you trust Him to love you as the best of parent’s trust their children. Yet He is not an earthly parent, He is in heaven, so you remind yourself that God hears your prayers and can answer your deepest needs.
Then you remember that God’s name and nature are ‘hallowed’, or holy, and you promise to treat Him with respect, and pray that other people, also, through your witness, may come to know that God loves them, and come to worship Him too.
You pray that God’s kingdom may come; God’s kingdom is wherever God is obeyed as king, and His will, what He wants people to do for Him, is done. Starting of course with us. Then if we and everybody else did what God wants us to do, earth would become like an outpost of heaven.
Give us our daily bread, you ask. You remind yourself that you are entirely dependant on God’s love and grace, for all the necessities of life. You thank God for all He has given you, and ask that, as well as the bread, you may also have an occasional slice of cake! Then you pray for the millions around the world who haven’t even enough bread, or rice, to keep them alive, and ask God to show us what we can do to help them.
Next comes the prayer for forgiveness. Nobody’s perfect, and if we look back over our lives, or even the course of the day that’s just past, we can all find things we are, or should be, ashamed of. Anyone who can’t must be somewhat lacking in humility! But you don’t need to dwell on your faults; just admit them to God, who is only waiting for you to say that you are sorry, so that he can forgive your sins and forget all about them. There is only one condition: you must be willing to forgive others, and to extend to them the same generous forgiveness that God has shown to you.
Finally you ask God to help you to avoid situations in the future where you would be tempted to do wrong; and deliver you from the power of evil.
You conclude with praise, ‘for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen’.
If you pray like that, if you ‘pray it like Jesus’, you have done all that’s necessary to put your relationship with God on a sound footing. But if, at the end of a long and trying day, you find your mind wandering as you pray, just repeat the words and let the Holy Spirit within you pray for you; be assured that God knows what is in your heart, and that’s OK.