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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Prayer

I used last Sunday’s sermon as an opportunity to introduce Thy Kingdom Come for 2021, and the ways in which parishioners could support the initiative this year. I then went on to talk more about prayer in general, and to suggest that, among other things, prayer is living. Through prayer we try to convert our thoughts into a conversation with God. Prayer therefore affects every aspect of our lives, and it is the never-ending acknowledgement that God is wherever we are. 

Of course this pre-supposes that we have answered the call to become disciples of Jesus, because once we have answered that call, which happens at the time of our baptism and/or conformation, the Holy Spirit resides in us. 

Today I would like to talk a little more about prayer, in the context of life being a spiritual struggle between the Holy Spirit that resides in us, and the spiritual forces that seek to alienate the world from God.

The title of the global prayer movement, Thy Kingdom Come, is derived from the Lord’s Prayer, which comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew (6:9–15). The setting in which Jesus makes the Lord’s Prayer known to people in Matthew’s Gospel is the Sermon on the Mount, and he does so in the context of telling them how NOT to pray. He tells them not to babble like the Gentiles, who use many words in the hope that they will be heard. He tells them that they don’t need to use a lot of words when they pray to God because God already knows what they need before they ask Him. So Jesus says to them, “Therefore pray in this way . . .” And he gives the people the Lord’s Prayer.

The Gospel of Luke also contains an account of Jesus giving the Lord’s Prayer, but in that account Jesus has just finished praying in an unnamed place and he is asked by his disciples to teach them to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples. The version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke’s account is shorter than that in Matthew’s Gospel, and it is Matthew’s version that most people are familiar with today. So let’s take a closer look at Matthew’s version to see exactly what it means.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10 NRSV)

These opening verses contain three separate (but related) petitions to God, for the affairs of the world to be restored to God’s control. They indicate that the world has been captive to hostile spiritual forces that have alienated the world from God. The coming of God’s kingdom represents the reversal of this situation and the acknowledgement on the part of humanity of God’s rule over the world. His kingdom on earth has been ushered in through Jesus, with the Holy Spirit residing in those who answer the call to be disciples of Jesus, but it won’t be fully established until the Second Coming. In the meantime, those in the world within whom the Holy Spirit resides, are locked in the spiritual struggle with those hostile forces that wish to alienate the world from God.

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:11–13 NRSV)

This second set of petitions focuses on human need. It is a plea to God to ensure the provision of life’s necessities, and it is also a plea for the transformation of human relationships through the act of forgiveness. Finally, it is a plea to God to give people the strength to resist the temptations of life that threaten to interfere in the relationship between God and human beings.

You have often heard me say that the key message of the Gospel is that we are called to follow the Two Great Commandments: (1) to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and (2) to love our neighbour as ourself.

So if we think of life as being a spiritual struggle between the Holy Spirit that resides in us, and the spiritual forces that seek to alienate the world from God, then we can see the Lord’s Prayer as an appeal for God’s help to live our lives in a way that mirrors the Two Great Commandments. 

In that sense, prayer becomes living, and living becomes prayer. Living a God-centred life, where our thoughts and actions are pleasing to God, and serve the good of our fellow men and women, is essentially becomes a life of prayer.

Thy Kingdom Come provides us with an opportunity to focus on living a God-centred life, at least for the time between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost, and we can draw upon the Lord’s Prayer to provide us with the strength and support that we need to so so.

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