A priest, a minister and a rabbi are discussing the best positions for prayer. There's a telephone repairman working nearby."Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," says the priest. "No," the minister says, "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven." "You're both wrong," the rabbbi says. "The most effective prayer position is lying prostrate on the floor."
The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted, "The best praying I ever did was when I was hanging upside down from a telephone pole." As someone who worked on telephone poles for awhile. I get it!!!
In conversations with parishioners, I often hear people say, God doesn't seem to be listening. I must be doing something wrong. I just don’t know how to pray.
I think, sometimes we worry that this big mysterious thing called prayer requires special talents, or that we’re supposed to follow a particular formula for it to truly be effective.
We Catholics fall into that belief quite naturally. We’ve got lots and lots of books, with some of the most beautifully crafted prayers imaginable. We pray some of them here at Mass! I don’t know about you, but when I pray, it rarely sounds that elegant. It’s usually a lot more basic.
Ann Lamott, a Christian writer, wrote there are four essential prayers: Please, Thanks, Oops and Wow. Whether we're young or old we all use the Please prayer. Please help me pass the test. Please help me get job. Please let the biopsy results be negative.
Then, because it’s not polite to just ask for stuff there's the "Thanks" prayer. Thanks for helping me get an A on the test. Thanks for the little raise I got. Thanks that I woke up this morning.
Then there's “Oops.” “Oops” is about acknowledging that we've failed in some way, whether big or small. So we ask for God’s forgiveness. Oops. I said something hurtful about a friend. Oops. I didn’t do what I promised. Oops. I need forgiveness.
Wow's the prayer we don’t think of often enough. Maybe because we've lost our childlike ability to be amazed at the wonderfulness of God’s creation around us.
Usually beautiful sunsets, I love you Grandpa from a grandchild, or watching my wife, Mary Jo's progress since her stem cell transplant bring out the Wow prayer in me. There are so many wows all around us, if we only keep our eyes open for them.
In the gospel this morning, we hear the disciples asking Jesus the same sort of question we all ask – how should we pray? You would think that it would come naturally for them? After all, they’ve been with Jesus, himself. But they, too, have doubts about how they are supposed to pray. So Jesus gives them a prayer with all those essential prayers - Please Thanks Oops and Wow in it.
Please bring your kingdom to earth. Please give us the food we need each day. Please keep bad things away. Please show mercy to us.
Thanks for your holiness. Thanks for the promise of your kingdom. Thanks for your presence among us.
"Oops…” yes, we've sinned. We acknowledge it. So please forgive us, as we try our best to forgive those who have sinned against us.
“Wow…” you are here. You've brought the promise of your kingdom to us. We see it every day in so many unexpected ways. Such a short prayer and so much packed into it!
In case the apostles are confused about what it all means, Jesus gives them a very concrete example of how prayer works. If you go and knock on your friend’s door, even though he’d rather roll over and go back to sleep. He can’t really refuse you, because you are in relationship with him. Jesus says, don't give up go ahead knock and keep knocking. Use this prayer, or just use the words of children. He can’t really refuse you because you are in relationship with Him.
Prayer is about relationship, about opening the door to the God who dearly loves us and who wants the best for us, and wants us to be the best we can be.
God is waiting on the other side of the door. Knock. He is waiting for you, with grace and generosity and joy. Ask. God will respond. We may not get exactly what we are asking for, but God WILL respond. Search. God will find you, and let you find him. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you may find him in the place and in the way you least expect.
God understands whatever the words, whatever the form, whatever the language, Spoken aloud, or in the silence of our hearts. God knows.
Thanks be to God. Amen.