Lent 2020: Teach us to Pray so We Learn to Love

One of the central places we Christians learn about prayer is from Jesus, who made prayer a central part of his personal life and his teachings to the Disciples.  In two separate Gospels, Matthew and Luke, we have what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer,” taken from Jesus’ specific instructions to “pray like this” in Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2.  In both passages, Jesus teaches about prayer, yes, but he teaches about prayer as a way to build community.  Moving from personal to social, the Lord’s Prayer isn’t just a prayer for us individually, but a prayer for and a challenge to build community.  Jesus is not teaching his disciples a prayer just so they can have a handy formula to memorize, he is teaching his disciples how to pray so they learn how to love.  Through the practice of prayer, we learn to listen to God and those around us who are also bearers of God’s divine image.  This lesson on building community is especially important as our United Methodist Church family both here in Florida and around the world come together for General Conference in May.

Through using the Lord’s Prayer as a way to build community, we learn to let go of hatred, pretention, and power-grabbing.  Instead of seeking our own “kingdom” in competition with others, we pray that God’s Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.  Instead of considering our names as holy, we proclaim God’s name as holy, and we might notice that everyone else praying this prayer is asking the same thing.  We ask God to forgive our sins specifically because we have forgiven those who have sinned (or “trespassed”) against us.  And another thing; Jesus taught this prayer in first-person plural —as “we/our” and not “I/me.”  It should cause us to think of our faith as something we do together, not just individually.  A faith practiced and prayed according to the lessons of Jesus, then, is a faith that builds community and does not tear it down.  It uses prayer, not as a personal showpiece (Matthew 6:1-8 & 16-18), but as a vessel of God’s transforming, healing, and life-giving love.  It uses prayer to be salt and light to a dark and flavorless world (Matthew 5:13-16).  I could go on and on.

This Lent, dear Jesus, teach us to pray so we learn how to love.

Pastor Robert