O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 47.1-2, 7-10
Clap your hands together, all you peoples;
O sing to God with shouts of joy.
For the Lord Most High is to be feared;
he is the great King over all the earth.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with all your skill.
God reigns over the nations;
God has taken his seat upon his holy throne.
The nobles of the peoples are gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For the powers of the earth belong to God
and he is very highly exalted.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
In his recently published book, A Comedian’s Prayer Book, Frank Skinner writes of prayer as: a long, ongoing conversation with thousands of tabs left open and no helpful ‘new readers start here’ summaries or simplifications. He also describes his personal narrative of prayer as being: like a text message sent between two intimates, devoid of context, devoid of tone or motivation, devoid of normal spelling, punctuation or vocabulary, and devoid of any clear response from the receiver. These two statements help us to engage with Jesus’ teaching in today’s reading. Jesus says to his disciples: Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
Many people turn to God in prayer. The pandemic of the last year has revealed a prayerful longing in the hearts of many, a prayerful longing that had previously been believed to have almost vanished. But, much of that need for prayer was rooted in human need and desire, and not in pursuing the will of God.
Many people turn to God in prayer when they find the circumstances of their daily lives challenging, threatening or tragic. But that sort of prayer demonstrates a lack of mutuality, a lack of communication. That sort of prayer makes no attempt to connect with how God wishes to see our lives play out.
Before pursuing this any further, please do not misunderstand what I am saying! I am not suggesting that God wants some people to live unhappy and unfulfilled lives that are marked out by bouts of sickness or tragedy. But, God does want us to listen as well as demand.
In the Lord’s Prayer, that great model of prayer that was given to us by Jesus himself, there is just one line of intercession: Give us today our daily bread. The rest of that prayer is about hope, and praise, and forgiveness, and deliverance. The majority of the Lord’s Prayer is about our coming into the closest and most intimate of relationships with God. Yes, there is that line which encourages us to lay our needs before him too, but that needs to be done in the context of all those other aspects of prayer.
Jesus says: Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. None of us understands the compete joy of an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus did understand and know such joy, and yet his earthly life was not without its challenges and difficulties. However, Jesus remained steadfast in his relationship with God in heaven. We are called to do the same.
Let us pray that we might open our hearts and minds to God in a way that allows him to come into our lives and fill it with the complete joy we cannot imagine or create for ourselves.
Let us pray that our dialogue of prayer may be constant and complete as we learn to enter into the parent/child intimacy that Jesus himself modelled for us.
Prayers of intercession
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you have exalted your Son Christ Jesus to your right hand, and made him the head over all things for his body the Church: hear us as we pray for the Church throughout the world. Make us and all your people receptive to the gifts he pours upon us, that we may use them to your glory, and the building up of the body of Christ.
Lord God Almighty, the Ancient of Days, you have given your Son all authority in heaven and on earth: hear us as we pray for the world he came to redeem. Grant that we may know even in this time the things that make for peace, and may strive for the reconciliation of all people in his kingdom of justice and love.
Father of all, whose Son has promised to be with us always, to the end of the age: hear us as we pray for those among whom we live and work. Grant that we may be so aware of his presence with us, that people may take note of us, that we have been with Jesus.
O God our Redeemer, whose Son ever lives to make intercession for us: hear us as we pray for those in any kind of need. May he who has borne our infirmities strengthen and heal them, that they may find grace to help in time of need, and rejoice in his salvation.
Heavenly Father, whose Son has borne our humanity into the heavenly realms, and gone before us to prepare a place for us: hear us as we remember before you those whose earthly sojourn is over, and whose life is now hidden in him with you.
Make us joyful and expectant, that at his coming with all his own we too may go forth to meet him, and share in his eternal joy.
Prayer for the week
Grant that your Church, O God,
here and in every place,
may offer a living worship to you in your glory,
and a living witness to the world in its need;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.