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Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 17 - Proper 12 - Year C
Colossians 2:6-15; Psalm 85; Luke 11:1-13
"The Way of Prayer"

READING:  Colossians 2:6-15; Psalm 85; Luke 11:1-13 
SERMON :  "The Way of Prayer"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or17sesu 438942

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources: None except for a single quote from Harry Emerson
   Fosdick, the specific reference is not available.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  I will give the Lord thanks with my whole heart.
P  Before all the gods of this world I will sing God's praise.
L  I will bow down towards God's holy temple and give thanks to his name
   for his steadfast love and faithfulness - for God has exalted his name
   and his word above everything.
P  When I have called upon the Lord, he has answered me.  
   He answers my call and strengthens my soul.
L  Though I walk in the midst of trouble, God preserves me against the
   anger of my enemies.
P  God stretches out his hand and delivers me.  
L  God's purpose for me he will fulfil 
    - his steadfast love endures forever.  
P  Let all of God's people rejoice and be glad in him, 
   both now and forevermore.  Amen.

- Welcome and Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries  
- Special Matters  
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


Loving and caring God - we come to worship you.  In you we are fed.  In
you we are heard.  We praise you because we can call upon you as children
can call upon their parents.  We thank you because you hear our call and
are faithful to answer.  Be present with us now, O God.  Let your Spirit
flow over and through us.  Help us to conform our hearts and our minds to
your gracious will.  Strengthen us and guide us and make us one family - a
family of joy and of love, of comfort and of hope.   We ask it in the name
of Christ Jesus our Lord and our Saviour - our brother and our friend. 

* HYMN:    "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                         - VU 395

CHILDREN'S TIME: "Knock, Knock"
Object    None
Theme     God Answers Prayer
Source    Self

Good morning.  Today I want to talk to you about something Jesus said to
his disciples about asking and receiving, seeking and finding, and about
knocking and having the door opened to you.

Let me begin with a "Knock, Knock" joke.  Do you know how it is played?  
I say, "knock-knock" and you say "Who's there" and then I answer you - and
you add the words "who" - and I give you the punch line.

"Knock, Knock" (Who's there)  "Boo Hoo" (Boo Hoo Who) "Why are you crying"

Lets do another, more difficult one - "Knock, Knock" (Who's there) 
"Banana" (Banana Who) "Knock Knock" (who's there) "Banana" (Banana who?)  
Knock, Knock" (Who's there?)  "Orange"   (Orange Who) "Orange you glad I
changed the subject?"

Do you have any knock, knock jokes?  (Allow a few to be said).

The thing about the knock, knock joke is that if I don't go knock, knock,
nothing happens.   No one answers.  Jesus told his disciples one day that
if they talk to God, if they prayed, if they sought him - they would find
him, and if they knocked on heaven's door - that it would open for them
and that God would give to them the things that they need each day.

But you have to knock, you have to look, you have to ask, before anything
can happen.  Jesus says when we do this - when we talk to God, when we
turn to God in prayer, that God will answer - and that God will do good
things for us.  All we have to do is come to God and persist in our
prayer, persist in speaking to God each day.  

That is part of what the Lord's prayer is all about - the prayer that we
say each day at home and every week here in Church.  It is about thanking
God and praising God for his goodness - and asking God for the things that
we and our world needs.

Let us pray...

   Wonderful God - we thank you for your goodness - we love and adore
   you - and we want everyone to know you.    Grant to us - the things
   we need each day - help us to love others - as you love us - and
   keep us safe - by night and by day - forever and ever.  Amen

   And in the words of Jesus...

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN OF PRAISE:  "I Danced In The Morning"                       - VU 352

   (NIV)  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to
   live in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as
   you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  See to it that no
   one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which
   depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world
   rather than on Christ.  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity
   lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who
   is the head over every power and authority.  In him you were also
   circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a
   circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done
   by Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him
   through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 
   When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your
   sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our
   sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that
   was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing
   it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he
   made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING:  Psalm 85 (Voices United 802)

   (NIV)  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he
   finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray,
   just 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.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive
   everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.'" 

   Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to
   him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
   because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have
   nothing to set before him.'

   "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me.  The door is already
   locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give
   you anything.'  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the
   bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he
   will get up and give him as much as he needs.

   "So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will
   find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks
   receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be
   opened.  Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give
   him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a
   scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good
   gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give
   the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say"                          - VU 626

SERMON:  "The Way of Prayer"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
   listen.  Amen.

Last week we saw in the story of Mary and Martha that being faithful to
God involves more than doing things out of love - that an authentic doing
of the word arises out of hearing the word.

Jesus reminded Martha when she became anxious and upset as she prepared a
special meal for him that simply listening to him and talking with him is
a good thing - an important thing, a necessary thing - and that perhaps a
simple meal with a good conversation might be better than a fancy meal
with anger and upset.

It is in prayer - in conversation with God - that we best hear the word of
God and receive that which we need to do the word - that which we need to
live as children of God.
Today's gospel reading continues on from the story of Mary and Martha by
showing Jesus a few days later - at prayer.   When he is finished praying,
one of his disciples says to him: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught
his disciples to pray."

What a strange thing it seems at first - 
Why, after all, would the disciples need to learn how to pray?
Surely each one - as good Jews do  - had learned to pray at the Sabbath
table?  Surely each one - as a child of Israel - would have recited the
prayers of Passover and called upon God during Yon Kipper and the Feast of
And again at home - each day - each meal - surely there was a table
blessing, a prayer to God of thanksgiving that the disciples - like most
of us, learned to say.

So why?  Why this request to Jesus:   "Lord, teach us to pray, as John
                                      taught his disciples to pray."?

I think the answer lies in the simple fact that Jesus - like John - but
only more so - had the appearance and the substance of God's power about
him.  Who, after all, would you ask to teach you how to pray if it is not
a person who is obviously very close to God?  A person who clearly is in
touch with the power of God?

Prayers learned by heart, prayers taught to us by our tradition, and
prayers used in formal worship events are a good thing - but the prayers
that arise from the heart that is connected to God - and which help one to
connect with God - are another.

This is central to everything that follows - Jesus is the one, the best
one - indeed - given his death and resurrection, the only one, who can
teach us to pray as we ought to pray.

Jesus answers the request of the disciple,
and shows his disciples with a model of prayer,
and with a parable 
and with an exhortation,
   what their prayers should be like,  
   and with what spirit prayer should be made,
   and finally, the faithfulness that God has to us when we pray.

The disciples clearly learned from him.
They went on from that learning to have Spirit filled lives, 
lives in which they shone with God's presence
despite persecution and all manners of tribulation,
- and despite too the mistakes they made from time to time 
in what they did and in how they did it.

The question is - do we know the way of prayer?
Do we pray as we ought?  
Or is there something holding us back?

Indeed, how many of us pray each day with a sense of freedom and intimacy? 
How many go beyond muttering a few words here and there, now and then - 
and actually sit, or kneel, or prostrate ourselves before God and call
upon his name with deep and persistent yearning until he answers?

It is so easy to talk to God in the way so many people talk to their wives
or husbands.  You know how I mean don't you?   You rush home from a busy
day - say hello - ask what is for dinner - confirm your plans for the
evening activities - and then rush out again, only to repeat the process
at bedtime - albeit with a slightly different destination in mind and a
slightly different set of words. 

Just as it is easy to miss being in the kind of conversation with our
wives or husbands that brings energy, joy, and life to the relationship,
so it is easy to miss really connecting with God, to miss receiving the
help we need to face the pain and the struggle that each day brings, and
the joy that expressing appreciation for our blessings grants us.

Abraham Lincoln said this about his prayer life:

   "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming
   conviction that I had nowhere else to go."

The way of prayer is not always practised upon the knees, but it is
practised best with the conviction that we have nowhere else to go but to
God - and that God is sure to answer.

Many of us have hang ups about prayer.  Totally aside from the time that
is required to prayer, we have feelings and thoughts that keep us from
praying as Jesus taught us, 
   - feelings that keep us from asking God about the things that Jesus
   told us to ask about, 
   - and thoughts that and keep us too from asking in the way that he
   showed us.

There are five common hang ups in the life of prayer that help keep us
from making the connection that Jesus wants us to have with God.  Bear in
mind that in all of these hang ups I will speak more about our talking to
God - than about God talking to us.  But if we overcome our hang-ups about
talking to God we will discover the listening side coming naturally - much
as it comes to a child who sits on our laps and chatters to us for a long
while, and then asks - and what about you Uncle?  What do you think Mommy?

The first way people hang up on God is by thinking that they are not good
enough to call on God.  And so they don't.  I call it the NOT GOOD ENOUGH

   This, my friends is answered by the cross of Jesus - he died for us
   while we were yet sinners so that we might be put right with God - his
   sacrifice for us makes us good enough in God's eyes.

   Jesus has given to each one of us a calling card by which we can call
   upon God - all communications with our Lord are placed on his
   unlimited account.

   In short, as a popular bumper sticker and poster says "God doesn't
   make junk".  

   God has made us be his children. To be like him.  That is why he put
   his image in us - male and female - and that is why Jesus teaches us
   in his model of prayer to call God "Father" or "Daddy".

   God, like a good parent, wants all his children to come to him and to
   learn from him and be blessed by him.  And perhaps most especially, he
   wants those children who have strayed from his side to return to it. 
   He wants the prodigal to return and to be made whole.  He wants to
   shower us with forgiveness and help us to live as he created us to
   live.  God wants us all to come to him.

The second hang up some people have about prayer is the 

   Like the first hang up - this one too is based on a kind of respect
   for God -a misguided respect.

   The problem here is that the view these people have of God is not big
   enough.  Can not the creator of heaven and earth do more than a few
   things at a time?  Isn't the one who has counted the hairs on our
   heads - and noted that some of them are disappearing - able and
   willing to deal with all things? 

   In today's reading, with a certain sense of humour - Jesus teaches his
   disciples that even if God is busy doing something else - even if he,
   like a friend of ours, is in bed after midnight with all his children
   safely tucked in, he will get up and answer the door if we continue to
   bang on it - if only to get us to stop bothering him.

   My friends - even the Government gets around to answering the phone
   when we stay on the line long enough...  I kind of think God is up to
   government standards - don't you?

   There is no matter too small to bring to God.  And there is no time
   better than the present to talk to God.  This is what we teach our
   children about coming to us and speaking to us - and this what Jesus
   teaches us about our heavenly father.
The third hang up that helps disconnect people from a entering into full
life of prayer, and of learning from and receiving from God, is the GIMME

   Clearly some people's whole prayer life consists of asking God for
   things for themselves.   I am not speaking about them or to them.  
   Rather I am speaking about - and to - those people who are often
   diligent in the practice of prayer.  They intercede for others.  They
   pray often and with deep conviction.  But they almost never pray for

   This may arise because they feel, as in hang up number one - that they
   are not good enough to deserve God's attention - or it may arise
   because they feel that it is selfish and uncaring to think of ones'
   own needs when so many people have far greater needs.

   What then should we say to Jesus when he instructs his disciples to
   pray saying things like - "Give us this day our daily bread"  "Forgive
   our sins"  "Lead us not into the time of trial - but deliver us from

   The Prayer of Jabez which has been in the bulletin these past three
   Sundays says "Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my
   territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me
   from evil, that I may not cause pain!"

   It is a prayer for one's self.  And the scripture says "God granted
   him what he requested."  

   What is good to ask of God for others - is good to ask for ourselves.

   Remember the garden of Gethesame?  Remember all the trips that Jesus
   made to the quiet spots away from his disciples?  The master prayed
   for himself - and he has taught us to pray for ourselves.  To pray for
   our daily needs - to pray for forgiveness and a forgiving spirit - to
   pray even for an easier life - a life in which we are not tested as
   severely as we might be, a life in fact in which we are delivered from
   evil - just as Jabez was delivered from evil. 

   We can and should pray for others - as many of us do.   But we can and
   should pray for ourselves and our needs and our desires as well.  It
   pleases God to answer us - much as it pleases us to answer our
   children and to give them not only what they need - but, at times, to
   give them what they want.

The fourth hang up in prayer is the "ONCE SHOULD BE ENOUGH" hang up.

   People with this hang up often have made the assumption that once a
   person asks God for something that it displays lack of faith to
   continue to bother God about it.

   Harry Emerson Fosdick, the great preacher, writes: "Easiness of desire
   is a great enemy of the success of a good man's prayer...  For
   consider what a huge indecency it is that a man should speak to God
   for a thing that he values not.  Our prayers upbraid our spirits when
   we beg tamely for those things for which we ought to die.  This then
   is the rationale of importunity in prayer, not that it is needed to
   coax God, but that it is needed alike to express and by expressing, to
   deepen our eager readiness for the good we seek.  Some things God
   cannot give to a man until the man has prepared and proven his spirit
   by persistent prayer.  Such a prayer cleans the house, sets the table,
   opens the door, until God says, "Lo, the house is ready.  Now may thy
   guest come in."

   We pray for the Kingdom of God to come.  For justice and mercy in
   every nation.  For daily bread for ourselves and the hungry around the
   world.  For healing for the sick.   For peace.  For the oppressed. 
   For our children to be whole and happy.  For our work to be pleasing
   to God and to us.  As the Lord's prayer and the parable that follows
   it shows us - these prayers are not meant to a be once and for all
   request that we make to God - but a dynamic part of our daily
   relationship with him. 

   "Make it happen Lord!  We are here again.  We are not letting go till
   you give us an answer!"

   Which of you if you had a child who asked for something from you that
   you wanted to give them, but were not yet ready to give them - would
   be impressed if the child asked only once?  I think very few.  So,
   with God, our repeated requests are not scorned as a sign of our lack
   of faith, but rather welcomed as an expression of what we really want.

   Keep on coming before God for the things that keep on coming before us
   - persist in prayer and God will persist with us and give to us that
   which we want - or explain to us why something else might be better.

Which leads to the fifth hang up in many people's practice of prayer is

   Often we do not know what to pray for.  We are confused and frightened
   or we do not have the knowledge we think we need.

   Do not fear this.  God is not like a genie in a bottle - who upon
   being released grants his saviour three wishes - not matter what they
   are - and then leaves the person to deal with the consequences..  "I
   wish it would stop raining - I wish my neighbour would get lost - or

   Think of what Jesus says in verses 11 through 13 of today's gospel:

   "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?"

   Turn it around for a minute - "Is there anyone among you, if your
   child asks for a snake will give it to him?  Or if the child asks for
   a scorpion will deliver it?  

   The Apostle Paul understood that we often do not know what to pray for
   and says as much in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans,
   adding, "but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that
   words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind
   of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in
   accordance with God's will."

   Not sure what to pray for in a particular situation?  Just pray, "O
   Lord, bring healing, bring hope, bring what is right, help me, help
   the one I am praying for."  Groan to God in the midst of your anguish
   - or in the midst of the anguish of others - and keep doing it till
   the answer comes.  God will no pour oil on the fires that afflict you
   or your loved ones - nor will he send curses when you seek blessings.

The magic of prayer  - if we can call it that - is not in the particular
words we use in our prayer - nor even the particular things we pray about
- but the relationship into which we enter when we pray to God in all
things and about all things.

When we present everything that concerns us and everything that delights
us to God - we are sharing with God who we are and what we are - and that
builds between God and ourselves the intimacy that allows the new life
that God wants to give us and our world to come about.  In fact, it is
part of that new life - just as spending time together in a marriage
speaking and listening - expressing our fears and our hopes - our desires
and our wants - helps make the marriage a true marriage.  Our partners
help us where help is needed - rejoicing when we rejoice - and weeping
when we weep - and share with us all that they are as well.  

And as in human relationships sorrows shared are sorrows divided - and
joys shared are joys multiplied, so in the divine-human relationship - but
more so - for our God is greater than we are - and is fully able to help
those who call upon him - and ready and willing to lift us up when we are
cast down - and bless us when we hold forth our hands in trust and in

Speak often with God - about those things upon your hearts - and God will
speak with you and answer you.   

Blessed be the name of God, now and forever.  Amen

* HYMN:  "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"                          - VU 664

O Lord God - indeed we do give you thanks and praise.  In silence now, O
God, we think about all that we have received from you and we offer to you
our praise and our humble gratitude.  Lord hear our prayer.

From the very beginning, O God, you have asked us to call you upon, to
obey your gracious law, and to turn to you in times of trouble.  We have
often failed in this - yet you, O God,  have not failed us.  We thank you
God for continuing to reach out to us - for sending to us, in the fullness
of time, Jesus Christ, your only Son, to intercede for us, and for pouring
out upon us the Holy Spirit - to guide and lead and to comfort and to
challenge us day by day.  Help us Lord to turn to you, even as you are
turned toward us....  Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord Jesus - brother - Holy One of Israel - we have seen your goodness,
your power, your love.  We have noted how many times you left your
disciples to go apart for a while to pray - and we have seen you reach out
and touch and heal others with a word to God who is above.   Teach us,
Jesus, to pray as you prayed.  Help us in it, day by day, that we might be
more like you.  Lord, hear our prayer....

Holy Spirit - you intercede for us before the throne of God.  Look now
into our hearts and bring our thoughts and our words to the one whose will
is perfect.   We pray now for those people and those situations that have
been shared with us - and which well up from deep inside us...   BIDDING
PRAYER.... Lord Hear Our Prayer.... 

Father, all your works are gracious and loving, your intentions caring and
just.  Help us to live as your children ought to live, and to walk in the
light of the new day that Christ Jesus has brought to us.  It is by
Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ that we approach you - thanking
you for your mercy and your love, a love shown to us in the depth of his
suffering and fully revealed to all people in the triumph of his


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
   For all that you have given to us - we thank you.
   For all that you have revealed to us - we praise you.
   For all that you have commanded - we pledge our obedience.
   For all that you have called us to - we commit ourselves anew.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"                               - VU 288

* COMMISSIONING:  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth into the
   world to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of Christ.

Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
- Indeed, may God's blessings be upon you in their fullness,
- May you live by the Spirit of life and know the freedom of the children
of God, 
- And may you rest secure in the knowledge and love of the indwelling
both now and forevermore.  Amen

CHORAL BLESSING: "Go Now In Peace"                                 - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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