“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” ~ sermon for July 15, 2018

July 16, 2018

“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” ~ sermon for July 15, 2018

Our New Testament reading this morning comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

There is some doubt that Paul actually wrote this letter, coming later in time than some of the others.

It is more likely that Paul’s followers composed this letter for a group of churches who were struggling to define themselves in the late part of the first century.

The letter seems to be addressed to Gentiles learning how to become the body of Christ.

We learn, from Paul’s letters, that the struggles faced by churches and the faithful change little over time.

Today’s passage is a preamble to Paul’s prayer for the people.

Hear now a reading from Ephesians 1:3-14.

Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessings.

Please pray with me.

Righteous and holy God, giver of life amid the hatred and cruelty that abounds among us when our rivalries get out of hand, let us hear your judgments as well as your promises, that our thoughts and actions may more nearly match your will for us and equip us to accomplish much good according to your counsel and to your glory.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


Lord, listen to your children praying.

Lord send your spirit in this place.

Lord, listen to your children praying.

Send us love; send us power; send us grace.

We sang this short hymn as a choral response for the past two weeks.

We will sing it again today after the Lord’s Prayer.

I have asked Jack to include it as a communal prayer response regularly because I was deeply moved hearing it these past few weeks.

I found myself singing these words all week as I reflected on our discussion regarding the meaning of “spiritual but not religious.”

As I ruminated on this week’s message I realized that I wanted talk about different spiritual practices, starting with praying.

Praying is perhaps the most universal spiritual discipline – anyone can pray – but what does it mean for you?

Our friend Leo Gafney has written a book called “Never Stop Praying.”

It is a series of 26 mini-retreats designed to help the reader develop a practice of embodied prayer.

Rather than seeing prayer as an individualized activity, Leo sees it as a way of life.

He says: “I proposed a method for cultivating our spiritual lives throughout the day, particularly in the odd moments between our responsibilities and tasks—perhaps while walking or doing other things that leave the mind and heart somewhat free, offering these reflections and exercises with the thought that our faith and understanding of God’s work should permeate every aspect of life. It should be like the air we breathe—always there, giving strength to everything we do or encounter.”

This concept of embodied prayer is not new.

Paul urged his followers to ‘pray without ceasing.’

This means to live as a prayer – not to spend your day on your knees reciting word prayers, but to live each moment in communion with God.

Richard Rohr supports this idea writing:

“For Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love, returning to love, trusting that love is the unceasing stream of reality. Prayer isn’t primarily words; it’s an attitude, a stance, a state that precedes “saying” any individual prayers.”

Do we have this attitude?

Do people know we are Christians?

Is the love of Jesus evident in how we conduct our lives?

Lucinda Moser, one of my professors at Hartford Seminary wrote a series of books called “Faith in the Neighborhood” in which she explored the rituals and practices – the outward expressions of different religious traditions.

She discusses the importance of understanding the practice of prayer in defining a religion.

In listening to one’s prayers you get a sense of what that person believes:

Who is being prayed to?

What is being asked for?

How is the exchange between the earthly, human realm and the transcendent realm carried out?

So where do we learn to pray?

As children, many of us learned prayers that we said each night before bedtime.

I’m afraid that this left the impression that you only pray at night and that there are certain words that constitute a prayer.

As adults, we have access to abundant resources to help us pray.

Books, tapes, videos – all available to encourage us on our journey to becoming ‘praying people.’

There is no formula for prayer, just as there is no formula for love.

Prayer is the tangible part of our relationship to God.

As with any relationship, our relationship with God thrives when there is mutuality.

When we are as attentive to God as we wish God to be to us that relationship is established.

Prayer might come in the form of music or art.

Praying often involves long periods of silence, as we listen for God’s voice.

Many people commune with God in nature, feeling God’s presence in the gentle breeze or beautiful vistas.

For some, prayer might come most easily in a sacred setting like this Meethinghouse or another church or cathedral.

All of these are forms of communication which convey our love of God.

But, these are also isolated, individualized practices that don’t quite reach the level of embodiment.

When your life is a prayer, each of these activities highlights that fact, but to truly embody God’s love is to reach a point of transcendence that does not require any specific activity.

Prayer, as we know it, simply trains us to be attentive to God’s presence.

Once we are trained, we are able to progress on our spiritual journey to a point where God is as present as the air that we breathe.

The great mystic Thomas Merton said “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about [God].”

I would paraphrase that to say that who we pray to and how we pray tells us much about ourselves.

Let’s have a conversation about what prayer means in our lives.

How do you pray?

Have you had experiences on your faith journey that moved you from one type of prayer to another?

Let us pray.

Gracious and holy God, creator of all that is, hear our prayers this day as we endeavor to find the best ways to know you.

Help us to feel your presence in our lives. Grant us the grace to recognize your Holy Spirit within us, among us and in the world.

Remind us that Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them to pray.

Help us to have the patience to develop a meaningful relationship with you that permeates our lives.

Hear our prayers this morning for those whom we love.

For those who are sick, we pray for healing.

For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.

For those who pray fervently for your love, may your Holy Spirit become a part of who they are.

O God, we pray this day for our world that there might be peace.

We pray for our leaders to have the wisdom to listen for your voice.

We pray for your love and spirit to be in our hearts every day.

Hear us now as we turn to you with our silent prayers, listening for your voice, seeking your presence….

Jesus taught them to pray in these words…Our Father



“Becoming What We Pray”

When the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed,
and children living on the street are given a home,
when believers truly practice what we pray,
then the world will be transformed.

When the lonely are loved, the frightened are freed,
and women ev’rywhere are treated equally,
when believers truly practice what we pray
then the kingdom of God will be near.

It’s not up to God alone to listen to prayer.
It’s not up to God alone to answer.
But when the people of God become what we pray,
the kingdom of God is revealed.
When the people of God become what we pray,
the kingdom of God is revealed.

When the nations at war put down all their arms
and troops from ev’ry country can return to their homes,
when our politics embody what we pray,
then the world will be transformed.

When respect for the earth is greater than greed,
and human laws reflect creation’s dignity,
when believers truly practice what we pray
then the kingdom of God will be near.

When religion is true to God’s living word
and preaches love and mercy over other concerns,
when the churches truly practice what we preach,
then the world will be transformed.

When our tolerance grows beyond all our fears
and we view one another as the image of God,
when believers truly practice what we pray
then the kingdom of God will be near.

Composed by Father James Marchionda


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *