Monday Matters (July 25, 2016)


Take it to the Lord in prayer

Yesterday’s gospel (below) has me thinking about the disciples’ request to Jesus: Teach us to pray. I found myself wondering what those lessons were like, and in what ways prayer can be taught.

At the same time, I realize that the more I wade into this praying business, the more I find myself on the edge of deep mysteries that can quickly make me feel like I’m in over my head, facing waves of questions about how prayer works. Clearly, I could use a teacher.

So I picked up a short book by a monk and bishop and deeply spiritual guy named Anthony Bloom. A holy man. The book is entitled: Beginning to Pray. He makes the point in the very first paragraph that he is just a beginner at prayer. If this guy, near the end of a life dedicated to the spiritual journey, is just beginning, is there any hope for me?

Then I turned to another respected spiritual guide, Aretha Franklin. I was driving around town, thinking about preaching about prayer. I put in a CD (remember those?), Aretha Franklin singing hymns. I found myself replaying one hymn in particular: What a friend we have in Jesus. I’ve heard that hymn played a lot. I’ve heard it played badly. Let’s just say its melody ain’t Mozart. But as she often does, Aretha brought it to life. The way she sang, her ministry of music made me focus on this bit of the hymn text:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

I thought of how often I forfeit a sense of peace. I thought of the needless pain I bear worrying about stuff. As I watched the political convention, it did not evoke a sense of peace. As I read the newspaper, I am not filled with a sense of peace. As I think about the state of the church, I am not always filled with peace. So I was grateful for the gospel according to St. Luke, the gospel according to St. Anthony, and the gospel according to St. Aretha, which told me, each in their way, to stop forfeiting peace, and build trust, and take it to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that I am just a beginner.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have lots of questions about prayer. Maybe you do too. Here are a few of mine:

  • If prayer works, why do bad things happen to good people?
    Does the God of all creation really care if I pray?
  • Should I pray if it sometimes feels like I’m talking to the ceiling?
  • What happens if I don’t pray about something? Will it still happen?
  • Should I pray for a parking space?
  • What happens if people at the Republican Convention and people at the Democratic Convention both pray for success?
  • What happens if Chapel Hill fans and Duke fans pray for victory? Yankees and Red Sox? Cubs and Cardinals?
  • How can I do less talking and more listening in prayer?

No easy answers. Deep mysteries. But maybe we don’t need all the answers to just take one step in the journey of prayer. What would that look like today for you? Maybe just sitting for five minutes of silence. For those who are tired of forfeiting peace, it may be worth a try.

-Jay Sidebotham

Luke 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to 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. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’



Jay SidebothamContact:
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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