O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
A craving seized them in the wilderness,
and they put God to the test in the desert.
He gave them their desire,
but sent a wasting sickness among them.
They grew jealous of Moses in the camp
and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.
So the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan
and covered the company of Abiram.
A fire was kindled in their company;
the flame burnt up the wicked.
They made a calf at Horeb
and worshipped the molten image;
Thus they exchanged their glory
for the image of an ox that feeds on hay.
They forgot God their saviour,
who had done such great things in Egypt,
Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham
and fearful things at the Red Sea.
So he would have destroyed them,
had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,
to turn away his wrath from consuming them.
Then they scorned the Promised Land
and would not believe his word.
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 went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.
How often have you heard people say that prayer is a waste of time because it is never answered? Perhaps you have expressed such sentiments yourself. We have all experienced times of great anguish in our lives. At such times we will have uttered prayers. We will have seen those prayers as being both justifiable and reasonable, whether they were prayers for healing, certainty or success. Then, when we have not come to know that healing, certainty or success, we will have wondered about the efficacy of prayer.
We live in an age of instant gratification. When we want something we expect to get it immediately. We do not like waiting for our wants to be satisfied. We do not like the thought of having to work towards achieving our aims and ambitions. Like the proverbial ‘spoilt child’, we want everything NOW!! In recent times we have had to rely heavily on the internet for the provision of goods and services. Internet shopping has turned into big business. But, rather than waiting just 24 hours, we can now order early in the day and get our goods delivered before 10pm. We live in an age of instantaneous gratification, an age that expects God to answer our prayers by return.
God does not work like that, of course. Today’s reading reminds us of that. When the Canaanite woman came to Jesus in need of healing for her daughter we read that Jesus’ immediate response was one of silence: he did not answer her. He then goes on to justify his silence by saying that his healing touch is not just an on-demand commodity. He also explained that his mission was for a specific group of people, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Such a response often leaves us in shock. A mother is in great need because her child is sick. That mother turns to Jesus for help and he ignores her. Is this the Jesus we believe in?
There is, of course, more to this story than we see on the surface. This account of the Canaanite woman’s meeting with Jesus is a lesson in the importance of faith. If we just throw prayers out in moments of desperation we will be in no position to recognize whether they have been answered or not. Prayer is part of our faithful engagement with our loving creator God. Jesus was the promised Messiah who came to earth to bring redemption to the Jewish nation. Jesus was also the promised Messiah who came to bring the whole of humanity into a new relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in our faithful response to his call in our lives.
The Canaanite woman showed us what true faith can do. She was desperate and she came to Jesus for help. But, her response to Jesus shows that this was not just a superficial cry for help, it was a faithful response to what she had come to know of Jesus. Let us pray that we might enter into a similarly committed relationship with Jesus. Let us, in that faith, take all our cares to him, and let us then wait for him to answer those prayers in the way he knows to be to our best advantage.
Prayers of intercession
To God who loves the world that he has made, let us pray for ourselves and for all people.
As you have given to your people the gift of faith, make that faith powerful as a witness to your love. Let your Church be constant in prayer, never doubting your power to save.
Gather into your fold the lost sheep of this world, the unbelievers, the hard of heart. Hear those who desire to know you but cannot speak their need.
Guide and guard our families and all others with whom we share our lives. Bless the homes where there is sickness or any other trouble.
Bring healing to children who are ill or in pain. Comfort and strengthen parents who are anxious for their children. Give peace to all unquiet minds and troubled spirits.
Give peace to the dead who had no peace in their dying. Have compassion on those who died without faith, that they too may receive your mercy.
Fed at the Table of the Lord, we ask him to accept our faith and pardon our unworthiness.
Prayer for the week
Lord, may we live in faith,
walk in love,
and be renewed in hope,
until the world reflects your glory
and you are all in all.
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.
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.