It is the middle of the night.

“Hey! Open the window!”

“Did you hear something?”

Yeah. Someone outside is yelling at you to open the window.”

“For me? How do you know it’s for me? It might be for you.”

‘Because I said so.”

“Oh”

“Hey! Open the window!”

So he opens the window, and sure enough a friend is out there.

“Do you know what time it is?”

“Sure do. It’s the middle of the night.”

“Well, what is it?”

“I need a loaf of bread.”

“Come back in the morning.”

“That’s too late. I need it now.”

“No.”

“No? I thought we were friends?”

“Not anymore. Go away.”

“As soon as I get some bread.”

“No!”

“I’m still here and I’m not leaving…”

 

And it goes on and on, until he gets his bread.

 

Lord, teach us to pray.

Both the Gospel reading and the Genesis reading are about prayer.

Teach us to pray. And I’m not leaving until you give in and teach us how!

 

My own prayer life through the years has vacillated wildly from self righteous over achiever, to stubborn negligence, to humbled reluctance, to fearful of the consequences.   Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that we are all beginners at prayer. I’ve always found that comforting and truthful. It seems I am always starting over.

Teach us to pray.

We get two stories today about prayer, they can both be described as belligerently certain.

Abraham talks God down from destroying a violent city that preys on strangers walking by in the street, rather than welcoming them.   Abraham talks God into sparing destruction if there are 50 who are righteous, then 45, then 30, then 20, then 10. And God spares the city…for now.

Prayer as a confident encounter with God, confident that God is good, that God hears, that God responds.

When Jesus gives us his teaching on prayer it is interesting that he suddenly sounds playful and humorous.

We hear the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer of surrender and trust in God. Each line is a different way of saying yes to God. How many ways can we say yes?

Then the parable about being pestered at night, and the examples of children asking for an egg or a fish, and how we would never give a scorpion or a snake instead.

If even we can give in and do the right thing, how much more so will God give the Holy Spirit. An argument of lesser to the greater.

A playful and light hearted demonstration, a creative answer.

Teach us to pray.

And the response? Something lighthearted, playful and creative.

There is a playfulness in prayer that comes from deep trust. Who do we play with in reckless abandon? Those whom we trust and love.

Prayer is first and foremost that kind of assurance that God can be trusted enough for loving playfulness.

Prayer is a creative experience, it makes, it recreates, it re-imagines the world into something that we didn’t see before.

Prayer is dependence, surrender, saying yes, finding more and more ways to say yes to the one who can be trusted, the one who is trust itself.

And the other thing about prayer is that it is stubbornly insistent and persistent, belligerent. Keep praying, don’t give up hope, don’t lose heart, pray, pray, pray.

Luke’s Gospel is notorious in the New Testament for this belligerent never ending-ness of prayer. The Gospel must have been written for those who had either given up hope or who had become to cozy with the way things were and had forsaken that trusting stubborn dependence on God. They were no longer saying yes. They were no longer coming over to play.

Teach us to pray. Teach us to play.

The Gospel is that Jesus is God’s prayer to us. God’s playfulness.

Jesus is God saying yes to humanity in so many ways.

Jesus is that playful act of trust in humanity that we may share in the re-creative imagination of God.

Prayer is Jesus in the middle of the night saying, “Hey! Open the window!”