I've lived in the same house for over 11 years now. It's the first home I've ever owned. It's a wonderful house, and I really do love it with all its quirks. It's got a hugely sloping driveway that when we get a rare snowfall the neighborhood collects there to surf or slide all the way down. It's got a little balcony that overlooks our family room. It's got a front porch just big enough for a glider rocker.
But anyone who is lucky enough to own a home, and maybe even a little yard, knows that with that joy comes a ton of work.
Our house is nearly 30 years old, and so we've replaced almost everything. We've gotten professionals to do a lot of the work, but I've also tried to do a bunch of stuff myself. I've remodeled my kitchen by ripping out cabinets, putting up shelving, and painting. I am in the middle of yet another painting project, because two kids, three cats and a dog can really wreck a house, as far as fingerprints and paw prints go.
And lately, my husband and I have decided that we are going to tackle our most ambitious job yet...a patio in our backyard. We are super excited about this patio. We have visions of parties in the backyard, maybe movies under the stars, a grill area and smoker for barbeque, a picnic table...we've got BIG plans.
But first, we had to figure out how the heck to do it.
There are books and there are tutorials and there are even lovely people who volunteered to help us. We've been to home improvement stores...I think all of them... already on scouting trips. We've scoured Craigslist for antique brick. We've watched a few videos on the very helpful do-it-yourself channel, thank goodness for Youtube!
We think we have the general idea. We're hard workers. But we've never done this before, and so gathering all the information on HOW is just as important as the actual laying of the bricks.
Well, I am not a bricklayer. I'm a religious professional, but something I hear over and over again is...."How do I pray?" Or "Oh pastor, YOU pray. I'm not good at praying."
This makes me so sad. It probably makes me as sad as those do-it-yourself experts if they heard my husband and me say that we can't put down a patio because we're not good at it! Or that we had never done it before. "It's easy to put down a patio," they'd say. "You have all the information you need," they'd say.
And I would say, "We do too." About prayer. When Jesus' disciples came to him and asked him how to pray, he didn't say, "Well, just try it and see how it goes," which is something I've heard myself say sometimes. Jesus didn't give his disciples some long sermon on prayer. What he gave them was very simple and very short, a kind of do-it-yourself manual for prayer.
What a gift, the Lord's Prayer is! That's our Do-It-Yourself manual, right there in the Gospel of Luke. Sometimes I feel like we don't have clear instructions from Jesus on so many things, despite what we hear sometimes in the news. Jesus is, in fact, not clear on many issues of today. But he is clear on what we can say when we talk to God.
We start with a relationship, our Father. I know this word has much baggage for many of us...my father passed away many years ago now but I can't help but think of him when I say this. For good or for bad, most of us do. But Jesus reminds us that we focus first on our familiar relationship with God, our Father, our perfect parent, who represents things not of this world...we say your name is Holy when we begin to pray.
Then we're supposed to say, let your reign come here...your kingdom come. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus talks so much about the kingdom of God coming near to a certain place when a miracle happens, or when someone catches a glimpse of who Jesus really is, or is freed from a certain sin. Let your reign come here, now, always, we pray. We pray this because it spurs us to action and because we want God to make it so as Jesus wanted God to make it so.
We then ask for our daily bread. You can say it metaphorically, or you can just think about Jesus talking to the disciples, who were not exactly sure where their next meal might come from, and think about God's provision for us and for the poor in that daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, Luke's gospel says then, as we forgive everyone who has something against us. That's a tough one. But still we pray it as we live into it being the truth of forgiveness in our own lives.
Then it's do not bring us to the time of trial. Simple as that. We pray this knowing that it may not always be the case. We will come to times of trial. But Jesus tells us it is okay, and even instructed, to pray that we would not have to in every case.
That's it. It's shorter even than a Do-It-Yourself video; it's less steps than building a patio in your backyard, are the instructions for prayer from Jesus. A little DIY on how to have a relationship with the creator of the universe, along with some assurance that it is okay to be persistent--and even encouraged--and that God really does WANT to give us good gifts.
So now when people ask how to pray, or that they don't know how to pray or even where to start, I think we can tell them--we can tell ourselves--to start with the very words of Jesus. We have this wonderful, beautiful gift of a do-it-yourself guide on how to pray! It's right there in the Bible and it comes from the one who died and rose again for us, so that we might live as those who have a relationship with God, those who have daily bread, those who have forgiveness, and those who have life. Amen.
Let us pray in the words that Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.