Advent 4 Midweek: Sermon Series, the Four Pillars of the Christian Community
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
December 21, 2011
Central Passage
Luke 11:1-13
Pillar 4: The Prayers
+ On The Prayers +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine, and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.”
There you have the four pillars of the Christian community: the apostolic doctrine, the offering, the Lord’s Supper, and the prayers.  This evening we will take a look at the Prayers of the community of Jesus, the Christian Church.
A lot could be said about prayer.  What it is; why it is, and so forth.  The psalms are prayers; good prayers that you would do well to pray daily and hourly and learn by heart.  Just as Jesus prayed them.  Prayers are certainly more than wishes, but they are also more than simple askance, too.  They are not “our conversation with God” but are more pointedly are listening to God.  For when we pray for whatever it is we pray for, the prayer is not pleasing to God if we do not listen for His voice in answer.  But when we read that those who devoted themselves to the apostolic doctrine, the fellowship, and the breaking of bread also were together for the Prayers, we know that these prayers are more than individual prayers of the saints, but is the single voice of the community of Jesus, those baptized and taught by the apostles.
The first and chief prayer of the community of Jesus, the Church, is the very prayer our Lord teaches us to pray, the Our Father.  When we pray this prayer we are praying Jesus’ prayer.  We are praying to Jesus’ heavenly Father who, by our adoption through Baptism and the work of the Spirit, becomes our Father.  He is our true Father and we are His true children.  And the petitions we ask of Him we ask as
His children, trusting in His mercy and love for us through Jesus, our brother and the head of the Church.
The Our Father is not vain repetition, any more than saying thank you to mom and dad every time they feed or clothe or comfort you is vain repetition.  The Our Father is our chief prayer, the highest prayer, prayed from the lips of God Himself and given to us to pray.
The 1st century Christian document, the Didache, which means “the teachings,” probably written by Clement of Rome who St. Paul references in several of his epistles, shows us that very early on the Our Father was tied to the Lord’s Supper.  The way we have it in our liturgy is the way it’s been since the 1st century.  It is prayed as part of the Verba, the Words of Institution, which are not narrative as much as they themselves are a prayer.  They are a prayer of remembrance.  Not remembrance akin to remembering the date of your wife’s birthday or your anniversary, but a remembrance more akin to participating in the memories of Thanksgiving or Christmas festivities by participating in them year after year.
Every time you participate in your family’s rituals and customs on Thanksgiving or at family reunions, you are remembering all the previous ones.  By participating, you are engaging in the first family reunion as well as the last.  This is the type of remembrance in our Lord’s Supper when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
The Verba, then, the Words of Institution are not just narrative, saying again and again some formula that magically makes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.  The words are a prayer, a remembrance, an engaging in the Holy Meal and prayers of Jesus Himself who gave thanks to His heavenly Father.  That’s why we call this holy meal the Eucharist.  It is a thanksgiving.  Not our thanksgiving, but Jesus’ thanksgiving.  On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus gave thanks to the Father when He gave His disciples His body to eat and blood to drink.  His thanksgiving is not lost to the pages of history, it is known.  His thanksgiving was that God His Father was not going to let Him stay dead, but would raise Him up as He promised, “I will not let my Holy One see decay.”
Jesus gave thanks that the bread and wine He distributes, which is His body and blood, are not dead and decaying, but are alive and life-giving.  This is something to be thankful for!  So that the Prayers in which the community of Jesus engages in are not simply the many prayers offered up by the saints for their varies needs and necessities, but the Prayers are the prayers offered to the Father by the Son in thanksgiving for the life bestowed, the glory given, and the kingdom gained.
All of your prayers, from your table prayers to your bedtime prayers, to the prayers you shout in exclamation when trouble has landed in your lap or good has come your way – all your prayers flow from and to this great prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving offered by Jesus for all the Father’s benefits and mercy and love.  The Prayers we join together in find their birth and their fulfillment in the Our Father, prayed in thanksgiving with the Words of Institution, to be for us a participation in the Feast that never ends.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +