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Learning to Pray through Luke

“You’re not doing it right!” seems to be a common accusation, either spoken or implied, in houses like mine with more than one child. Perhaps it happens in houses without children as well – it might have come up a few times in BC (before children) time.

We have this fascination with doing something right. Perhaps we’re even fixated on doing everything, or at least certain things, in the right way. Some of us might be more inclined to this approach to life than others. Yet, it seems like all of us have at least something we think should be done in precisely and only this, certain, way.

In part, I think this is why rooms full of people get immediately and uncomfortably quiet whenever someone asks, “Who will pray?” We get silent because, on top of perhaps not wanting to draw attention to ourselves, we are a little afraid of doing it wrong, or praying badly, and then having our deficiencies broadcast to all present. Have you been in such a room, or had similar thoughts?  I have, and occasionally still do.

Interestingly, I think even Jesus’s disciples had a little bit of this feeling. As Luke tells us, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Lu 11:1, NIV). Even Jesus’s closest apprentices were uncertain of how best to pray.

But, what if most of that is just in our heads?  What if the only wrong prayer is the one we don’t pray?   

Richard Foster, whose written multiple books on the practice of prayer offers this idea:  

“[It] doesn’t matter if we have little faith, or none. It doesn’t matter if we have been bruised and broken by the pressures of life. It doesn’t matter if our prayers have grown cold and brittle. It doesn’t matter if God seems remote and inaccessible.  

“Just like a little child can never draw a bad picture, so a child of God can never utter a bad prayer. God, you see, accepts us just the way we are, and he accepts our prayers just the way they are” (Richard Foster in Nathan Foster’s The Making of an Ordinary Saint, 

If Richard Foster is right, then prayer is not a matter of doing it rightly or wrongly; rather, the virtue in prayer is either doing it or not doing it.

As I’ve shared frequently, we at Kearney First United Methodist Church are seeking to be a community of people who grow in our love for God and neighbor as disciples (or apprentices) of Jesus. What’s more, we believe that the Holy Spirit shapes us into such a community through our practices – practices like talking and listening to God through prayer.

During the season of Lent, we’ll be focusing on the practice of prayer. Our hope is that we’ll equip one another for richer, fuller, more confident and anointed prayer lives, through which we’ll experience the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying grace in our lives.

Ultimately, prayer shouldn’t be complicated, at least not so complicated that we feel like we’re incapable of doing it alone or in front of others. Prayer is about listening to and talking with God. It’s about connection with God, which is really the center of the Christian life. John Mark Comer describes the Christian life this way:

In all of Jesus’ teachings, what we call God is, in a mysterious but beautiful way, a flow of love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is a community of self-giving love; each member of the Trinity, as theologians call them, is distinct yet somehow still one. To be with the Spirit is to be with Jesus, and to be with Jesus is to be with the Father. It’s to enter the flow of love within the inner life of God himself. … [The first goal of the Christian life, apprenticeship to Jesus], is to live in that moment-by-moment flow of love within the Trinity. Again, if there’s a starting line, this is it” (Comer, Practicing the Way: Be with Jesus. Become like him. Do as he did; pp. 52-53, The Crown Publishing Group). 

So, this Lent, Pastor Seungli and I invite you to focus on prayer in order to focus on living as Jesus’s apprentices, his disciples. Through weekly sermons, we’ll explore prayer from different angles, particularly focusing on ways we see Jesus praying, or simply connecting, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, each week, we invite you to try at least one different prayer practice. The scriptures, themes, and practices are listed below. Try each practice daily for a week, which should be enough time to discern if it’s a practice worth making a regular method of prayer for you.

Since all of our scripture readings come from the Gospel of Luke this season, we also invite you to read the Gospel of Luke on your own, in your small group or Bible study, or with others. If you’d like to talk about anything you’ve read with Pastor Seungli or me, we’d be honored to share in those conversations. The church library has a few excellent commentaries on the Gospel of Luke if you’d like to dive deeper. I recommend N. T. Wright’s Luke For Everyone as a moving daily devotional that includes the entire gospel text.

Finally, Pastor Seungli and I are leading two different prayer small groups during the season of Lent:  

  • a study group on prayer with Pastor Matt; Thursdays at noon at church February 15-March 21, using Rueben Job’s Listen: Praying in a Noisy World.  

  • an evening prayer group with Pastor Seungli via Zoom; Tuesdays 8:30pm February 20-March 26 (contact the office for the Zoom link).  

May the Holy Spirit guide and equip us for the joy of living in increasing unity with the Triune God this season.

Blessings and Peace, Pastor Matt Fowler

Sermon Scriptures, Themes, and Practices:  

14-February – Ash Wednesday  

  • Psalm 51 – Teach us to Pray – confession, repentance, and transformation 

18-February – Praying Scripture 

  • Luke 4:1-13; cf. Mt 4:1-11 (Temptation) 

  • Practices:  

  • Memorize a scripture verse that speaks to the hope or courage you need.  

  • Make a scripture verse or passage into a prayer.  

25-February – Lord, Teach Us to Pray 

  • Luke 11:1-13 (the Lord’s Prayer) 

  • Practices: 

  • Pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. Consider learning it in another language useful to you.  

  • Journal the Lord’s Prayer, expanding each phrase with your own words, prayers, questions, and desires. 

3-March – Giving Thanks 

  • Text: Lu 22:14-20 (Communion Prayer) 

  • Practices:  

  • Make an intentional effort to mindfully pray at table. What are you praying for? Why? What is God’s role in the food and that meal?  

  • Memorize a new table prayer, or write one for yourself and others to share.  

  • Consider ways in which generosity, giving to bless others or equip the church for ministry, could be an act of prayer and praise.  

10-March – In a Space Apart 

  • Luke 6:1, 9:10-11, 9:28-36, 22:39-42 

  • Practices:  

  • If aloneness is a thing you appreciate, consider making a daily practice this week of praying in solitude. 

  • Create a space of time for prayer with others a few times this week, digitally, on the phone, or in person.  

17-March – Surrender (Mount of Olives) 

  • Luke 22:39-43, 23:46 

  • Practices: 

  • Make Jesus’s prayers here, our prayers for each day this week.  

  • Pray the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer each day this week.  

24-March – Praise (Palm-Passion Sunday)  

  • Luke 19:29-40; cf. Mk 11:1-11 

  • Practices:  

  • Take a prayer walk at least twice this week (or daily), pondering God with each step, and giving thanks to God for each little part of that experience.  

  • Walk the prayer labyrinth at Yanney Park as many times as you can.  

29-March – Maundy Thursday 

  • Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14 

  • Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

  • John 13:1-17, 31b-35  

30-March – Good Friday 

  • Isaiah 52:13-53:12 

  • Psalm 22 

  • Hebrews 10:16-25 or Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9 

  • John 18:1-19:42 

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