2. Buttress of Prayers:
All Christians pray. The only recorded thing that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was to pray:
The Gospel according to St. Luke
11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."
2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
As you know, my precious family, one of my favorite novels and movies is How Green Was My Valley. It concerns a Welsh coal-mining family and life as seen in the village through the eyes of the youngest son, a boy affectionately called Huw. In the following excerpt Mr. Gruffydd, the new parson, visits the little boy who has been badly crippled in a mishap while trying to rescue his mother in an ice choked mountain creek. His has been the life of a little invalid enriched by his beloved family and his books. The parson encourages the boy to know that he will walk again. We pick up on the conversation at this point:
"Men who are born to dig coal," Mr. Gruffydd said to me, "need strength and courage. But they have no need of spirit, any more than the mole or the blind worm. Keep up your spirit, Huw, for that is the heritage of a thousand generations of the great ones of the Earth. As your father cleans his lamps to have good light, so keep clean your spirit."
"And how shall it be kept clean, Mr. Gruffydd?" I asked him.
"By prayer, my son," he said, "not mumbling, or shouting, or wallowing like a hog in religious sentiments. Prayer is only another name for good, clean, direct thinking. When you pray, think well what you are saying, and make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that manner, your prayer will have strength, and that strength shall become part of you, mind, body and spirit. Do you still want to see the first daffodil out up on the mountain, my son?"
"Indeed, I do, Mr. Gruffydd," I said.
"Pray, my son," he said, and left.
(from How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, Dell Publishing
Co., 1976, page 92), Copyright 1940 by Richard D. V. Llewellyn Lloyd, ...
Copyright renewed 1967 by Harry McIntire, Esq.
The Gospel according to St. Luke 18: 1 ff:
18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
We ought to pray greatly against our own unbelief personified here as an unjust judge.
(following adapted by me from St. John of Kronstadt)
i) We pray persistently, not in vain; the "unjust judge" of our fallen nature and fallen inclinations will soften and break in the onslaught.
ii) We seek the Face of the only Just and Merciful Judge, and seek not in vain. We seek inwardly by breaking down the hardness of our own hearts and all that is like an inward foe to us, because in good and holy times they must yield to the Risen Lord's judgment!
The Gospel according to St. Luke
11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Our private prayers are expressions of our actual belief in God. What we ask or sing we must recognize as our own. Since God is known to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know what God is like. Jesus Himself has told us that those who have seen Him have seen the Father. In other words, God the Son is, along with God the Holy Spirit, one God with God the Father, a most sublime and wonderful mystery that ought to humble us poor sinners. (John 14: 8-11)
Now in Jesus we see God completely for Christ is co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit (see Colossians 2: 8-10). So our prayers must be in the spirit of Christ, and the Holy Spirit will cause us to learn (it may take an entire lifetime) how to pray for those things that glorify God the Father in our earthly sojourn. Certainly having food and raiment for our loved ones comes under that category as well as the million and one little and big things and miracles we need to live godly and loving existences down here.
The buttress of our personal prayers, especially the ones we say on our own without the use of the blessed Book of Common Prayer, show us what we have learned about what God is like and Who God is from that same Prayer Book, from the Bible and from our trusting walk before our Creator. Most of the time we are all alone and without a congregation to encourage us by praying with us. In the car, in the checkout line, at work, mowing the lawn: it is then that we privately converse with our dear Lord. He does not expect us to have the great and beautiful language of the church prayers (unless, of course, we memorize them which would be wonderful). But it is right then that He looks into the cathedrals of our souls and Face to face by faith, unseen but surely held, we speak to our Father as little trusting children.
The story is told of one of the greatest Christian professors who ever lived. He was a brilliant scholar, a superb teacher, and one of the most loving and generous human beings this side of Paradise. Many of the young men looked up to him and were determined to hear him pray. This would prove to them how to pray for they rightly had concluded that how a man or woman prays reveals how they relate to the dear Lord, to others, and to life itself. The professor never prayed aloud or publicly, he was at heart a very shy academic fellow. So how might these lads ever learn? They followed him home one night but he never suspected he was being followed, for they stayed way back in the shadows so that they wouldn't be seen or heard. Soon they saw the light go off in his bedroom and huddling at the window's ledge they heard the great man pray: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."
There was the secret of the man's beautiful soul, a child's prayer prayed
by a godly genius! This is not only one of the seven great buttresses of our
Cathedral souls, it is also its undergirding and foundation in Christ. So
pray, and the Lord will hear you and cradle you. As surely as your parents
cared for you all of your life and heard you lisp your baby's wishes with a
love that is granted from Heaven only to those who want to be real fathers
and mothers, our God will love us as He who longs for us to know him as
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