Sunday's sermon on the Gospel lesson from Matthew 17:14-23
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
For four weeks now we have been discussing and building up a sequence of prayer. We looked at the specific readings from each Sunday to see what they can teach us about prayer.
Let’s review what we have so far. We begin with prayerful silence. Silence of both words and thoughts, where we listen instead of talk, where we give God an opportunity to respond to us instead of constantly ask.
And as I mentioned last week, in prayerful silence we focus on Christ and His presence, instead of focusing on ourselves. We are not going inward to our ego, we are going outward to our Savior.
After spending a few minutes in prayerful silence, orienting ourselves to Christ, we say “Our Father.” In this prayer, given to us by Christ Himself, we recognize God as Who He truly is in relationship to us – our Father, our Papa, our Dad.
He gave us life, He brought us into this world, and as a Good and Loving Father, He guides us through this life. And so the first prayer we say is directed to Him, so that His will be done in our life, so that He give us food daily, so that He forgive us as we forgive others, so that He protect us from evil.
Then, taking example from Jesus when He fed the five thousand, before blessing the food, He first gave thanks for it. We also, before asking for things that we very much need in this life, first give thanks. We give thanks for what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen.
This is completely in line with what we do liturgically. We pray and give thanks every Liturgy for “all the things that have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension in heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the Second and glorious coming.” This Second Coming hasn’t happened yet, obviously, yet we are already thankful.
Saying “thank You” to God is an acknowledgement of Him in our life and of His gifts. No matter what we are going through in life, there is always something to be thankful for. Being intentional and remembering what we are thankful for, every time we pray, will help us realize how much we are blessed.
After giving thanks, the first thing we ask for is to be saved. Or rather, not to lose sight of the fact that we are already saved because Christ has already died and resurrected for our salvation.
In this we take example from Saint Peter, who was allowed to walk on water towards Christ, but got distracted and began to drown. This also shows the importance of prayerful silence to orient or reorient us to Christ as we begin to pray.
The storm and the waves scared Peter, he lost his focus, began to drown, and cried out, “Lord, save me!” If you look at most Orthodox prayers, they are just an expansion of this exclamation – “Lord, save me!”
And today we’ll look at the last part of our sequence of prayer. As we just heard in the Gospel lesson, a man came up to Jesus and asked Him to have mercy his son, who was very sick and suffered a lot.
So, after asking for salvation for ourselves, we ask the same for those we care about. When we pray for others, we always mention them by name, if we know their names. And we always begin with our closest family members and always end with our enemies – those who hate us and those whom we hate. Praying for others is the fulfillment of God’s commandment to love one another.
This is the sequence of prayer. It can be adapted to any situation in our life. It can be as short or as long as we need it to be. But most importantly, pray. Prayer is not a dialogue with God, it’s not a monologue either. Prayer is a relationship with God. The only way to maintain and build up any relationship is to be present.
Therefore, pray and be present in the relationship with God. And He does answer, sometimes in the most unexpected ways, but He does answer.
May the Lord Jesus Christ hear us and save us.