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-Praying intentionally throughout the week-


Date: August 3, 2014 (Pentecost 8; St. James’ Cathedral)
1. Texts: Genesis 32:22-31; Ps. 17:1-7, 16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21.
2. Subject: prayer.
3. Topic: live more exactly as we pray.
4. Aim: educate, challenge.
5. Proposition: “Be mindful of what you pray for—you will get it.”


LIVE AS WE PRAY
We’ve all heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for—you may just get it.” In Christian terms we should actually say, “Be mindful of what you pray for—God will answer your prayer.”
This is especially true in Anglican circles. You know, we sometimes—even often—have a difficult time with prayer.
Oh, it’s not that we Anglicans don’t pray. We do—a lot. And most of our prayers are channelled through beautifully crafted prayers, prayers that are biblically based and theologically sound. We Anglicans pray a lot and we pray well.
But all those prayers with all their carefully crafted language are precisely the difficulty. We pray so much and so well with our everlasting fountain of holy words that our poor brains and spirits tend toward overload. We hear so much that sometimes we hear nothing at all. Like yesterday’s supper, we feast at the moment and then forget what we’ve shared. We Anglicans pray a lot and we pray well, and sometimes we suffer from our overly rich diet.
As an Anglican priest, I’d like to suggest a remedy for this kind of prayer-amnesia.
I don’t think we can actually change what happens on Sunday morning. While I’d like to spend time meditating on each word of each prayer and collect, corporate worship doesn’t really give us that time—and certainly not Anglican worship where some people get nervous if I preach for more than 16 minutes. I think we’ll have to keep the prayers as per usual on Sunday morning.

But, what if we were to pray in advance of the Sunday morning? Each of us can have a copy of The Book of Alternative Services. A computer version, called a pdf file, is available on the website of the national Church. You can take a copy from the church. You can buy your own from Augsburg-Fortress, which you can also order online or by using their 1-800 number.1 Then, beginning on Monday, you could actually pray the collect for the upcoming Sunday every day. You can pray it slowly, carefully, intentionally. Like chewing every mouthful thirty times before you swallow, you can pray the collect for the six days preceding the Sunday worship. By the time Sunday comes, you’ll have absorbed the collect into your very life. Imagine what that could be like!
Let’s take, for example, the collect for today. You’ll find it on page 371 of the BAS. We prayed it this morning and it sounded something like this:
Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom.
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.2
After six days of meditating on these words, you’d discover that there is much to absorb.
The collect states clearly that we are hungry. But you have to intuit what we are hungry for. The answer, of course, is that we are hungry for the abundant spiritual life that Jesus came to bring us. We are hungry for that which he feeds us—namely, “the bread of his life and the word of his kingdom.” We are hungry for his presence and power to be active in our lives. We are hungry for his guidance and support, for direction for our daily lives. We are spiritually starving, seeking to be fed by the genuine presence of God’s Christ and his Spirit.
1 Augsburg-Fortress, 1-800-265-6397.
2 The Book of Alternative Services, The Anglican Church of Canada, Toronto, 1985, page 371.


It’s not really part of the collect, but do you have a feeling for why we are spiritually starving? [Wait.] It’s not really that we are created to be spiritually hungry, but we are created to be spiritually filled. Then, sin intervened and we become spiritually hungry. We are created to be filled with God and when that is prevented, we starve.
So, we need to be fed with the bread of Christ’s life and the word of his kingdom. That is, our hunger can only be satisfied with Christ’s own presence and the gospel of the kingdom. That’s the way it was back in Jesus’ own day and that’s the way it is today.
The collect actually prays that, just as the people back then were fed, so may we be fed today. “Renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your truth and living bread…” “Renew” is the same as “feed again” and “weakness” is the same as hunger. So, we prayed today that God will feed us afresh with his heavenly grace and sustain us by the presence of his Son. We’re praying that we may experience the abundant life for which we were created and which Christ came to bring us.
And this is only the beginning.
Please remember that the purpose of prayer is never, EVER to change the mind of God. We NEVER want God to do anything other than what he has planned to do. God’s love is perfect. His plan for us is perfect. His knowledge of us is perfect. We never want him to do anything other than his perfect will. So we NEVER want him to change his mind and our prayers are never directed at changing his mind.
The purpose of prayer is not to change the mind of God—it is to change us. The purpose of prayer is to transform us. Prayer reshapes us. Prayer forms us in the image of God and not the other way around.
This collect fits in well. We’re asking God to fill our spiritual hunger. We’re asking God to change our lives to more accurately reflect the life of Christ.

We want and need to be refashioned according to Jesus’ example and words. That’s what we’re praying for.

So now, will we cooperate with what we have prayed? There’s the sticking point, isn’t it? We’ve already prayed to be filled with Christ’s Spirit and re-formed in his image. We hunger to be spiritually fed with the bread of his life and the word of his kingdom. We’ve asked our heavenly Father to satisfy our spiritual hunger. Will we actually eat the food we’re asking him to give us? Each of us will have to make the choice.
Imagine what the experience of that collect could have been if we had been praying it from last Monday onwards! We’d be returning to it this morning, like singing a favourite hymn or like having your special birthday meal. We’d be anticipating the prayer and looking for God to do something. We’d already have made the decision to cooperate with our own prayer. In fact, we’d be working in advance so that the collect could have an even deeper impact on our lives. And all it would take would be praying the collect from Monday through Saturday.
The collect for next Sunday is found on page 373.


Let us pray.
Almighty God,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom.
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.3
Amen.
3 The Book of Alternative Services, The Anglican Church of Canada, Toronto, 1985, page 371.