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Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

1[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.”2He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name.   Your kingdom come.   3Give us each day our daily bread.   4And forgive us our sins,    for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.   And do not bring us to the time of trial.”   5And 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; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And 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.’ 8I 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.   9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If 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!”

In teaching his disciples this prayer, Jesus also reminds them to focus on God’s coming reign, God’s mercy, and the strengthening of the community. Jesus encourages his disciples to child-like trust and persistence in prayer.

The Walt Disney movie Snow Dogs tells the story of a dentist, Ted Brooks, who inherits a cabin and a dogsled team in Alaska. His efforts to master dog sledding are recorded in the film as he meets bumps, bruises and bears.

On one occasion when he is learning the ropes, the dogs suddenly go into high gear. Brooks is thrown in the deep Alaskan snow. He struggles to his feet, grumbling and brushing off the snow, suddenly a large shadow covers his own, and he realizes that he is not alone. A large grizzly bear is only a few yards away. When the bear roars, displaying a full set of sharp teeth, Brooks begins to run.

Just as it appears the bear is going to win the race, Brooks falls off a cliff and lands on a rock face. As he shouts victoriously, "I’m alive! I’m alive!" the rock face gives way, dropping Brooks to a steep slope, where he rockets down the mountain like a bobsled, narrowly missing tree after tree. He screams all the way down, until he finally comes to a halt.

He smiles, but his smile quickly fades when he realizes he is lying on a thin layer of ice covering a lake. As the ice begins to crack beneath him, he lunges forward, leaving a trail of ice water in his wake. He lands on what appears to be a solid piece of floating ice, and begins to sink.

So what does anyone in this kind of predicament do? He reaches for his mobile phone. He dials the emergency number, only to hear the message, "You are outside your coverage area. Should you like to expand your service, please call back during business hours".

This is not just the stuff that movies are made of. In 1983, in Naples, Italy, 45-year-old Vittorio Luise’s car was blow into a river by a fierce gust of wind. He managed to break out a window, climb out and swim to shore. When he scrambled to the shore, the wind blew over a tree that fell on him and killed him.

Maybe you haven’t been dumped by a dogsled team, chased by a bear, slid down a mountain, land on thin ice, dive for something that appears to be solid and secure, only to find that this gets you into deeper trouble, but I’m sure you can relate to times in your life when it seems that one disaster seems to follow after another. No sooner are you over one crisis, than another arises. Just when you think that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they do. These are times when you are at your wits end coping with the things that are happening.

The good news is that help is just a call away. And God won’t tell you to call back in business hours. Today we hear Jesus telling us about prayer. He knew that his disciples would soon been thrown into turmoil when the events of his arrest and trial, the beatings, the laughing and mockery, and finally the crucifixion begin to unfold. And just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse the first visitors to Jesus’ grave report that the grave is open and Jesus’ body is gone. Jesus knew that during this time they will need to be fully aware of the help that is just a prayer away.

God is waiting for us to call on his help – to call on him to use his power. He is waiting to help us when we need it the most. And so Jesus tells his disciples about praying.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus doesn’t teach the disciples any special skills. He doesn’t say if you fold your hands or hold them palms up toward heaven, or rest them on the particular person you are praying for, or kneel or stand or sit, or use a special style of language, you are more likely to have your prayers answered.

If that were the case then the answer to our prayers would be a human achievement not something that comes from the gracious and loving hand of God. Like our salvation – that doesn’t depend on all the good things we can do and so impress God so that he will let us into heaven. God comes down to us in the form of his Son Jesus and gives us salvation through his death on the cross.

So it is with prayer - no special prayer techniques have to be applied to achieve prayer success. Half the time we don’t know what to pray and when we do, we pray selfishly, without faith or conviction. Sometimes we feel that God isn’t even listening.

Let’s be clear about what prayer is. Prayer is not having special skills and saying the right words so that we can reach God’s ear. If that were the case, when would we sinful, weak humans ever get it right? We would never be able to say the right things to move God to answer us.

The picture that comes to mind when talking about prayer is one of a small child who wants to tell his dad something really important. What does dad do? He bends down, lovingly puts his arm around the child and lets the child whisper in his ear. In this sense then prayer is not so much us reaching up to God with special words or techniques, but it is God reaching down to us.

Let us pray: Lord, teach us to pray aright. Help us to not only speak, but take time to listen. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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