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Prayer for Friday 3 September 2021

Listen to a service of Prayer for 3 September 2021 (Trinity 13 / DEL Week 22: Friday), including a reflection on the gospel reading

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Praise

Almighty God,
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Psalm 89.19b-28

I have set a youth above the mighty;
I have raised a young man over the people.

I have found David my servant;
with my holy oil have I anointed him.

My hand shall hold him fast
and my arm shall strengthen him.

No enemy shall deceive him,
nor any wicked person afflict him.

I will strike down his foes before his face
and beat down those that hate him.

My truth also and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his head be exalted.

I will set his dominion upon the sea
and his right hand upon the rivers.

He shall call to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the rock of my salvation’;

And I will make him my firstborn,
the most high above the kings of the earth.

The love I have pledged to him will I keep for ever,
and my covenant will stand fast with him.

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.

Reading
Luke 5.33-39

The Pharisees and their scribes said to Jesus, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’

He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”’

Reflection

What do you understand by the word ‘fasting’? For most of us it is a word associated with abstinence from food and drink for a specific period of time. The notion of fasting (giving something up) for Lent is well-known to many. But, have you ever considered what lies behind this notion of self-imposed abstinence?

I once heard a Bishop preach on Ash Wednesday. At that service he made it clear that fasting (or ‘giving something up for Lent’) is not a diet plan, and neither is fasting meant to be viewed as some form of penance or as a way of attaining some special level of favour with God. Instead, fasting is a period of self-deprivation that should humble us and help us to draw closer to God.

Today’s reading opens with Jesus being challenged because his disciples were not making a great show of fasting, like the disciples of the Pharisees. Jesus’ response is not one of self-justification and apology. Instead he says: You cannot make the wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them. This may seem something of a non-sequitur, but it isn’t really. The notion of the Son of God being the bridegroom and those who believe in him being both bride and wedding-guests is a recurrent theme in scripture. As Jesus walked the earth it was appropriate for those who journeyed with him to celebrate, just like guests at a wedding banquet. The time for fasting would come later.

Too often down the centuries the Church has been seen as a place associated with penance and forbearance, rather than joy and celebration. Such a negative attitude contradicts our calling to celebrate our faith in Christ and to share that joy with others. If we enter most churches, we will experience a sense of peace, a sense of the accumulated prayers of centuries and the presence of God. In the same way, when we enter those same churches with regular worshippers, the peace, prayers and real sense of the presence of God are dissipated by the expectations and practices which suddenly envelop us. The sense of fasting overwhelms us, replacing the sense of joy we should be experiencing.

Jesus is the bridegroom and we, as faithful Christians, are called to be the wedding-guests whose joy knows no bounds. There are times when we need to remind ourselves of the reality of God’s presence, and fasting can be a useful vehicle for achieving that sense of restored balance. Otherwise, it is our calling and our duty to share the sheer joy of our faith with others.

Let us pray that, through prayer and fasting, we might learn to put our human certainties and wisdom to one side and draw ever closer to God. Let us also pray that, as we listen to God speaking to us, we might respond to his call to make our fasting a matter of private devotion in order that those with whom we come into contact may see the many benefits of saying ‘Yes’ to God’s invitation to join the party.

Prayers of intercession

Let us pray, in love for God our only strength, and for all his people.

Strengthen your Church, established on the firm foundation of Christ. Make her holy in all her works, seeking always the way of righteousness.

Arouse your divine compassion in the hearts of all people. Inspire in us generosity to the poor and neglected, reconciliation and trust between enemies.

Make us loving towards our neighbours, finding in each the image of Christ. Forgive us our thoughts of hostility and failures of love, and make us eager to forgive others.

Come and relieve those who suffer through the anger of the unforgiving… those who are in want through the greed of the selfish… those who are held in the power of their own bitterness.

Grant rest to the souls who in this life made Christ their one foundation. Hold them in the peace of wrongs forgiven and enmities overcome.

Through him on whom all our hope is founded, Christ the support and strength of the faithful, we offer our prayers.

Prayer for the week

Grant, O Lord,
that your love may so fill our lives
that we may count
nothing too small to do for you,
nothing too much to give,
and nothing too hard to bear,
for Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen.

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

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.