Christ Lutheran Church
July 24, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Teach Us (How) To Pray
For though I am absent in the flesh yet I am with you in the Spirit rejoicing to see your good order and how firm your faith is in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, now live your lives in him rooted and built up in him and confirmed in the faith just as you were taught it and overflowing with Eucharist! Colossians. 2:5-7 (DKV)
Let us dive right in today by saying that when it comes to the subject of prayer Christians are confused!
Not that they don’t pray, or don’t know how to pray, because for a Christian prayer is as natural as breathing; “for in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) And how could it be otherwise since our “life is hidden in God with Christ.” (Col. 3:3) And so we do as we are taught in the 2nd Commandment. We: call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.
But still it seems that we misunderstand the scope of what we are doing as often as we engage in prayer with the Living God: He who is Father! Who is our true Father! And so let us do as St. Peter admonishes. Let us “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18). Then we can begin to alleviate the confusion.
Starting at the beginning let us understand that corporate prayer takes precedence of personal prayer!
Does that shock you?
If it does it only goes to show how acutely we are influenced by the American Evangelical understanding of prayer which is, to say the least, confused and confusing to the detriment of Christ’s holy people.
Yes! Corporate prayer comes first. The prayers the baptized pray together here at the Mercy Seat of God always take precedence. There is no greater or better or more perfect, or more powerful prayer than the petitions we offer here.
Do you want to be a “prayer warrior” as people like to say today? Then come and participate in this Divine Service! Because every word the baptized utter here is offered in accordance with God’s will; petitions that are “pleasing to our God” just as we ask for in today’s Collect.
This is why the “Order of Service” we pray must be marked by “Good Order” as St. Paul notes in today’s epistle when he says, “I rejoice to see your Good Order.’ The reference here is not to orderly behavior, though that is essential to Christian worship and living. But to the orthodox Liturgy true and pure that they prayed as often as often as they gathered to celebrate Holy Eucharist.
Yes, every word uttered here is good, true and beautiful. But that said we could, for purpose of illustration, rank the prayers we pray here each week: the chief of them being the Eucharistic Prayer that we pray responsively before the Hosanna, and the Lord’s Prayer we recite as our consecration prayer!
Now if you watch carefully when the priest consecrates the elements he “lifts up his eyes to heaven” as Jesus did in John 17:1, and holds his hands over the Bread and Cup so that they might be blessed, sanctified and consecrated by “the Word of God – that is the “Words of Institution” – and the Lord’s ¬-Prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:5)
Why are Prayer and Eucharist inseparable? Because it is in this place and at this time that Christ the Groom joins with his Bride the Church in nuptial intimacy; and so is fully disposed to grant her every prayer! (Phil. 4:5)
But now that we have made the case for corporate prayer. Eucharistic prayer! What of all other prayers? Our private ones? The prayers we pray each morning and evening? The prayers we offer before each meal (and please know that a Christian must NEVER put a morsel of food to his mouth without first offering a word of thanks)? What of the prayers that we pray in the course of each day as we say, “thank God,” or “Lord have mercy!” And what of the pastoral prayers that the pastor offers in living rooms, court rooms, emergency rooms and that chaplains offer on the grimy streets of the city, in hell holes unimaginable to civilized people and at the scene of any and every tragedy?
The best way to say it is that these prayers proceed from the altar!
These prayers proceed from the altar as does every good word that the baptized utter during the course of their week. Not only do they proceed from it, but they lead back to it; so that our whole life, our entire existence in this world, is nothing other than a circuit to the altar and from the altar and so it goes!
Please hear that well – that our entire life as Christians is centered on this altar which is the dwelling place of Christ, whose flesh and blood we eat and drink here for the forgiveness of sins, the remission of guilt and shame, for life time of wayward rebellion, for salvation and every other thing we could ever need, or hope to obtain in time and eternity.
It is all dispensed here!
Private prayers are no less important than corporate prayers, but they are derivative. They proceed from the altar even as they lead back to it. For this is where the church interfaces and interacts with Christ.
And by Christ with the Holy Trinity into whom we are incorporated and are thereby made alive, and abound with Thanksgiving i.e. Eucharist as St. Paul notes in today’s epistle (Col. 2:7)
And so today by God’s goodness. By the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his suffering, death and resurrection; by his love and goodness – we have been sorted and straightened so that we might better understand the height and depth and breadth of what we are doing as often as we engage in Holy Prayer! Amen