A sermon preached by Andrew McKearney at the Wednesday Eucharist on 9 March 2022.
During Lent we’re looking at the Lord’s Prayer – last week we heard Matthew’s version, this week Luke’s.
You may recall that Matthew puts it in as part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about the spiritual disciplines of giving alms, prayer and fasting. Luke as we just heard has the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray just after they’ve seen him praying.
So the Lord’s Prayer comes out of Jesus’ own life of prayer and reflects who he is, what he did and what he taught.
His experience of God was as of a Father, close and intimate. His overriding concern was for the kingdom of God. At key moments we hear of his commitment to doing the will of God. He sees forgiveness as central to life. And he battles with the forces of evil whether it’s in the Judean wilderness or in the villages and towns of Galilee.
So how Jesus lived and how he prayed is all of a piece. And whenever we take the Lord’s Prayer onto our lips we’re invited not just to pray like this but to live like this too – let these concerns shape who we are.
The further teaching about prayer that we heard Luke give us this morning can be summed up in the word – persist!
‘Ask, and it will be given to you;
search, and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened for you.’
We know from our own experience of many situations where by persisting we achieve what we want or get what we need. There are often good stories, loved by the media, in which individuals have suffered an injustice and take on a large drugs company, or a multinational food chain, and simply by persisting, eventually they win through or settle out of court.
Our own experiences may never have hit the headlines but we too will know the power of persistence when dealing with the NHS or utility providers, banks or the Inland Revenue. ‘Just keep nagging’, we’ll say to a friend, ‘don’t get fobbed off; they’re hoping you’ll pack it in; you’ll get there’ we’ll say encouragingly.
The power of persistence is not to be underestimated.
It’s one of the resources that the people of Ukraine have as they defend their country against the Russian invasion.
As Jesus’ teaching suggests, it’s the wisdom of a beggar – ask, search, knock. Elsewhere Jesus uses both the example of a widow and also of a child.
A beggar, a widow and a child are all shorthand in the Bible for people who are helpless, defenceless, vulnerable, at the mercy of others – people with nothing to lose – and one of the powers at their disposal is to persist.
Jesus seems wonderfully free to encourage this very pragmatic, almost offensive approach to the life of prayer.
As the Nike slogan puts it – just do it.
And keep on doing it!