16 October 2016

TRINITY 21 PROPER 24

Luke 18.1-8

This parable exhorts us to persevere in prayer. Care is required in understanding the parable, for prayer isnít just asking God for what we want - and we would be utterly wrong to think God will only give us what we want if we bother him for a long time. We need to understand correctly who God is and what he is like; we need to consider our relationship with God and the part prayer should have in that relationship. The se are all extremely large subjects for a short sermon. So for now I will simply ask, why donít people persevere in prayer? I will try to say something about that.

I wonder how many little children are taught to pray by their parents. Not many, I suspect. No doubt all British children say the Our Father at school but is prayer taught in schools? Itís hardly surprising that by puberty, if not before, prayer is largely abandoned. Why do people not continue to pray? Lack of faith perhaps. Some try when they are prepared for first communion and confirmation but get bored. Prayer seems pointless to them and secularism has a great influence.

Many years ago a house group during a mission near here talked about how much praying they did. It was revealing that the females prayed more readily and often than the men in the group. The women were comfortable chatting to God whereas for men more formality was considered appropriate, like having an interview with the Boss. It seemed that men preferred to get along without frequent reference to God. Gender may be a factor until people are taught how to pray.

Learning about different methods of prayer and using them doesnít ensure perseverance in prayer. Method in prayer is helpful but after a while any method can seem boring and dry. Prayer requires sacrifice and it reveals a wrong, self-indulgent attitude to expect the practice of prayer to be rewarding. Circumstances also are significant for determining whether or not people pray.

The parable of the Sower, taught by Jesus, suggests reasons why people give up. The seed which falls on the path, Jesus said, is eaten by birds. Those who might pray may be discouraged by those who are really agents of Satan leading them to sin.

The early church knew how a wife married to a pagan found it difficult to practice her Christian religious duties especially that of prayer during the night. A wife has to be very determined to be regular at church if her husband disapproves.

Another circumstance for giving up prayer is a shallow faith due perhaps to lack of instruction and guidance in how to pray. The n there are worldly pleasures and concerns which become all absorbing. Yet when circumstances are encouraging, for instance, when family and friends pray and books and pamphlets that give encouragement and guidance are used, then prayer becomes easy and fruitful. With the Holy Spirit leading, negative circumstances which discourage prayer can be rejected.

Obstacles to prayer seem so numerous itís a wonder anyone prays but in fact billions of people of various faiths across the world pray, at least sometimes. People commonly pray for help especially in times of sickness or disaster. Some pray for forgiveness. Our duty and our joy leads us to continual thanksgiving, as the prayer in the old Book of Common Prayer says. We bless God for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life but, above all, for Godís inestimable love, for the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. Thatís enough to keep us praying all our lives.

Each person is unique and his or her prayer should be unique even when we chose to use someone elseís prayer out of a book. Jesus taught us to approach God as our Father, who is always available and receives us gladly when we pray.

Crispin Harrison CR