Saturday, 23 July 2022

St Peter & St John, Wivelsfield Trinity 6 (17C) on prayer 24 July 2022


Lord, teach us to pray they asked Jesus. I want to look this morning at four aspects of prayer, of looking to Jesus: listening, friendship, recollection, and lastly empowerment. [ask children about what’s best and worst about school eg listening - we’re all being schooled]

Prayer, looking unto Jesus, is listening.  You can’t look to Jesus unless you give ear to him, unless you attend to him.  Our whole life depends on right listening – to other people and to ourselves at times – but chiefly to Jesus.Through prayer we hear from God.  We catch his inspirations for our life and for the world.

How do we look to Jesus in listening? A discipline of time offered to attend directly to God. 

Michael Ramsey’s quote – he prayed for 2 minutes but took 30 minutes to get there.

Scripture (show) is a means of looking to Jesus through listening to his Word. There is great power in imaginative listening to scripture. One way you can do this is to make the words of scripture more personal by changing the case of the pronoun in the passage. Take that Colossians passage. You could make it into a This is the Word of the Lord about John or whoever you are. It could read: When I John was buried with Christ in baptism, I was also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when I was dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of my flesh, God made me alive together with Christ, when he forgave me all my trespasses. As I read the passage like this it reminds me how God sees me and how I should see myself, as one dead to sin and alive to him. There are times when such an observation can be very powerful. This sort of exercise is about experiencing what we already possess as Christians, seeing ourselves as God sees us in his word. You read through prayerfully until God touches your Spirit and then hold yourself at that point once such a prayerful impulse has been given to you.

Prayer, looking to Jesus is secondly about friendship.  We seek our friends’ attention and he seeks ours. [children - are you looking forward to seeing more of your friends in the holidays?]

When friends meet they light up and so it is with Jesus and ourselves as we come before him in contemplation. When did you last sit in quiet before the Lord?  What is it that keeps you from doing so? Could you imagine Jesus, your friend, doing you any harm?

Contemplative prayer has been described as ‘spiritual radiotherapy’. St Augustine once said that the whole purpose of life is the healing of the heart’s eye through which God is seen. Heart surgery of the Holy Spirit: the melting of coldness within cf heavenly microwave. A major barrier to contemplation is the way our minds get so distracted which hinders our hearts from contemplation. This is where the repeating of short words that engage and focus the mind can be helpful as in the Orthodox Jesus prayer. This involves repeating again and again the gospel prayer Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner. The value of the Jesus Prayer mentioned on is commended all through the Christian tradition.  

Please don’t hesitate to talk to me afterwards if you want guidance on the Jesus Prayer as I’ve written a book about it (show). Not that I’m expert - any expertise I possess is to know that when it comes to prayer we’re all on the bottom rung of the ladder!

Looking to Jesus in prayer though, to summarise the second heading, is about building friendship, about lighting one another up so that in the words of Nehemiah (8v10) the joy of the Lord [becomes] our strength. 

Looking to Jesus is thirdly recollection, prayer that takes stock of your life and celebrates what God has done and is doing and looks forward to what God is going to do in us and through us.

The value of prayer journaling (show). Tis grace both led me safe thus far … and grace will lead me home. A good exercise is to look back over your life and recollect with Jesus the five biggest spiritual milestones along the way, your five most powerful desires, your five worst fears. Recollection is about such reminiscing or calling to mind.  It is also about ‘collecting again’ or recovering control of oneself. Through looking to God we gain self-possession. 

Attention to God, mindfulness of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian life.The recollected woman or man inhabits her or his words, is able to be present to Jesus at all times so that Jesus can be in them and show through them.

Prayer, looking to Jesus is lastly empowerment. As we heard in the Gospel: If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13).

Well we did ask for the Spirit - or others asked, at baptism and confirmation, the birth of our Christian commitment and in the receiving of Holy Communion - but we need to keep inviting him by asking regularly for the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is an empowerment especially by the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we pray we can at times feel God’s touch upon our heart, see some sort of vision or be led to some particular scripture verse as we look to Jesus. This is charismatic prayer, literally graced or given prayer in which our looking to Jesus and waiting before him is answered by a heavenly gift.

Looking to Jesus in prayer then is listening, friendship, recollection and empowerment. It's also as today’s Gospel reminds us about intercession which could provide another sermon!

For now though, may the Lord turn our eyes more and more upon himself so that our earthly pursuits may lose some of their enticement as we see more of him through seeking him in prayer. 

So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

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