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ST MICHAEL & All ANGELS CHURCH

(Church of England)

St Michael's Green, Warwick Road, Beaconsfield, Bucks HP9 2BN

 

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Sermon Luke 11: 1-9

Prayer and Stewardship

Rev’d Cassa Messervy

Pray.

 

The theme for our sermons during this month is stewardship and quite often when we hear this word we think of money – our financial contribution to the mission of God through St. Michael’s church community. But that is not the fullness of the meaning of Stewardship as we have heard over the last couple of weeks. The entomology of the word is stig (house or hall) and weard (ward, guardian or keeper).  The addition of ‘ship’ to steward from 1899 specified a church use of the term which gave the sense of ‘responsible use of resources in the service of God’. Today its meaning is also ‘the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care’.

 

Given this meaning of the word stewardship I wonder today if we could consider our stewardship of our relationship with God in and through prayer. How do we care for this precious gift of a loving relationship with the God of the universe?

 

In our Gospel reading today Jesus is asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, in the process of doing this he also teaches them about God and our relationship with God. If we understand this passage from Luke to be only about prayer as intercessory prayer, as in part it is, then we are missing out on the relationship part of it. Shall we examine the passage together and draw out some reflections:

 

The first is that Jesus modelled prayer, but what kind of prayer? He went away to a quiet place and prayed. We do not hear in the Gospels of Jesus modelling the kind of prayer carried by the Pharisees – proclaiming prayer in the public places on street corners - to be seen by all. Jesus needed peace and quiet to speak to God away from the demands of his life and ministry. Arguably it is only through his time spent in prayer with the Father that he was able to deal with the demands upon him – think of the night before he died, his time spent in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.  This model of prayer has been practiced by the church since the time of Jesus. Augustine of Hippo taught, ‘God speaks to us in the great silence of the heart’.

 

The second thing to notice in this passage in v.2 is that Jesus taught them an intimate form of address for God for good reason.  ‘Abba’ the word for father in Aramaic is the most probable original word that was translated into Greek – it means Daddy. We could as easily have mother (sorry I know some may find this difficult but it is helpful to know God is the perfect parent, not male or female as God is God. God is not like our own fathers or mothers who like all humans are imperfect. Jesus’ use of Daddy is meant to show us that this is not the God of the universe towering over us  - this is the God who came in human form of Jesus to be close to us - to be a caring, reliable presence, a perfect parent. The kind of relationship that Jesus has with his father or parent is not exclusive, but rather a model of the relationship which we can all have. That is made possible because of the kind of God, God is. (PAUSE) This is a theme repeated elsewhere in Jesus’ teaching – think of the parable of the prodigal son – compassion and caring are central.

 

The third thing to notice are clues about prayer and our relationship with God in the format suggested by Jesus. 

 

This format includes an understanding that our relationship with God is ‘holy’ or ‘hallowed’; that the kingdom is formed or we are formed into the Kingdom of God through this relationship with God and that it is part of our daily needs or daily bread to pray in this intimate way with God.

 

There are many other things that can be said about this passage but I have chosen for our purposes today to focus on what it says about prayer as relationship with God.

 

So how might we apply some of these reflections on the stewardship of our prayer lives?

 

1)    Please do not feel guilty! Its so easy to start by thinking, ‘I am not praying enough/well enough/often etc. etc.’!

 

2)    We can appreciate what we already have in our lives of prayer – when are the times/places when we feel close to God? We can give thanks for them because they are a blessing.

 

 

 

3)    We can consider how we might continue to deepen our prayer lives.

 

Maybe through a course – Pelagos runs some excellent sessions or days on prayer – do look at their leaflet at the back of church.  A book – there are many great books on prayer; Camilla and I can recommend some.

 

Or practice, groups like the Quite Gardens or our Prayer group or small groups, where sharing our experience with others can help us grow in our prayer lives.

 

Other activities like walking, gardening or running out in the beauty of God’s creation can feed our prayer lives as well: Psalm 121 says – ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.’

I will finish with the poem by Elizabeth Rimmer, ‘My Silent Heart Opens Like a Flower, p.123 in ‘Finding Your Hidden Treasure: The Way of Silent Prayer by Benignus O’Rourke.

 

 


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