Pentecost 9C 2010 – “Lord, teach us to pray…”

There is always hope.

Whether we are a people who have drifted from good living

or our freedom has been taken by conquering armies

or we are frustrated and overwhelmed,

waiting for God to reveal God’s intentions for us

there is always hope.

When we are first confronted with Hosea’s story, our impulse is to leave it behind.

It sounds too awful to think about – commanded to live out the failings of the nation –

Give up your righteous living Hosea is told because the nation – God’s people –

have forsaken the good things of God.

This is a tall order – and yet there is faint hope offered –

there will again be a chance to claim God’s favour –

the sheer number of people touched by the covenant (v.10)

is such that some day they will once again be called “children of the living God”,

but before that can happen, the people must remember.

Hosea’s activities, like those of any prophet,

draw people to examine their lives –

to consider their convictions – and to remember God,

whose covenant claims them; whose ‘favour’ made them a nation.

For the great sin of Israel is the sin of “forsaking the Lord” (v. 2)

the people have left behind the habits of devotion and faith that made them who they were.

They have cast aside divine worship for their own pleasures

and the prophet’s shocking marriage is meant to grab their attention.

This kind of shock treatment is not limited to Hosea’s time.

The sin of forgetfulness is the great continuing sin of humanity.

The continuing story of God’s people is one of our abandonment of God

and God’s reclamation of us.

We are living out that story still –

and Scripture gives us a glimpse into the rich history of that forgetting and remembering –

a history that takes on new urgency in the New Testament with the coming of Christ.

We catch Jesus disciples in a moment of awareness –

this cycle of faithfulness and faithlessness is very real on the day that one of them asks;

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

Jesus response tells us that the fault is, as always, with us rather than with God.

Say this when you pray, he says

directions – not for when, or even how to pray – Jesus encourages us to pray.

“Ask – search – knock” and, it goes without saying, “pray”

these words that we have frozen in time –

that roll so easily off our tongues –

are really inviting us to remember

the goodness that is ours for the asking.

When we settle to the task of offering – in worship or in other places –

the Lord’s prayer together

we are usually invited to “say the words Jesus taught us”

And while these are recorded as Jesus words (in both Luke and in Matthew’s gospels)

Jesus was not offering us a single prayer to cover all contingencies.

Though the words are powerful in and of themselves,

a pattern of prayer is the important thing –

Jesus proposes a habit of living –

of way of dealing with the world as people choosing a Godly path.

So, with those first disciples, we too might say; “Teach us to pray”

– help us to approach things we don’t understand – activities we can’t be sure of –

with an attitude that acknowledges God first – last – and always.

In this way we will constantly be reminded of the good God has offered us

the promise of grace, mercy and peace.

That offer is always there.

No matter what the perceived ‘state of the world’.

No matter how horrible the news from the crime pages

in spite of society’s indifference to the things of God

God’s promise remains.

Jesus call to prayer carries special weight

for He is our most powerful reminder of the power, beauty and grace of God –

and if we follow his example in prayer – in life

then our hope is not far from us at all.

The prophets – the apostles – and the community of faith led by Jesus himself –

all know this to be true:

God is – was – and always shall be THE giver of good things.

“Surely God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear God”, says the Psalmist (Ps 85: 9)

and we understand fear to mean reverent fear –

founded on the knowledge that God is more powerful, more beautiful,

more gracious, and more faithful than is humanly possible.

By Jesus we are still called back to that promise – and that potential that God knows is within us

through Christ our relationship with God is restored

if only we would remember to ask – to seek – to knock – and to pray

our hope shall never be taken from us.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Amen

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