Year C, Proper 12
Mr. Kyle Cuperwich
Trinity Episcopal Church
Moorestown, New Jersey
July 28, 2019
For those who haven’t had the chance to meet me, my name is Kyle Cuperwich. I’m currently in training for the priesthood in the Diocese of New Jersey. I was baptized and raised in the United Methodist Church. In seventh grade, I decided to take this whole following Jesus thing seriously. In college, I heard that still small voice of God calling me into a life of ordained ministry. I would go on to get a master of divinity degree from Asbury Seminary. For the past 10 years, I have served in leadership as a volunteer and paid staff person in the Methodist Church. For the past six of those years, I served as the senior pastor of five different United Methodist congregations in New Jersey. With all this experience and all this training that I have had, I admit that I am still trying to figure out this whole prayer thing that Jesus talks about.
I can remember gathering with some friends during my college years for weekly prayer. I would hear their words, and they just seemed so eloquent. They seemed to express their connection with God so strongly. I remember sitting there having a hard time finding the right words to say, finding the right emotions, the right way to connect. I’d become distracted so easily. I would pray on my own and ask the same question the disciple asks Jesus in today’s Gospel passage: “Lord, teach me how to pray.”
If I only knew the right words, and if I could only convey them in the right way and with the right emotion, then I would know that God would care. Then I knew that God would listen to me and I would find that connection I was hoping for.
So when I hear Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer, I automatically find comfort, because here are the words that I could say.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name….”
These are words that Christians have been reciting for centuries. In a few minutes, we’re going to gather for the Eucharist will recite these powerful words once again.
I find it could be tempting, however, to tune out after we hear the end of that prayer – that closing phrase, “save us from the time of trial.” After all, Jesus gave us the words! He’s given us the formula! What more could there be? What more do we need?
Yet for Jesus, nothing is ever that simple. There’s always something more. In this case, thank God, there is something more.
You see for Jesus, prayer was more than simply saying the right words. Prayer was an entire way of life. When we examine Jesus’ ministry – his life, his death, his resurrection – the entirety of it was communication with God. He communicated with God and connected with God through words AND actions. Every sermon he preached, every act of feeding, every healing he did came from a connection of word and deed.
When we hear today’s words from Luke’s Gospel, we get a summary of this life of prayer from Jesus. He says, “Ask, and it will be given you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be open.” Those who ask receive, everyone who searches finds, everyone who knocks, the door will be open.
Asking, searching and knocking … In this statement, Jesus offers three ways to communicate with God, to connect and respond to God.
I don’t know about you, but I can find it easy to get stuck on the asking, trying to find the right words at the right time. It’s easy to forget that the seeking and the knocking are perfectly valid. Seeking and knocking – they go beyond words. They involve movement; they involve activity. They involve responding to what God has done and is doing in our lives with our entire self.
I love how the Book of Common Prayer defines prayer. In this book filled with words for praying, we turn to “An Outline of the Faith” in the back and it says that prayer is “responding to God, by thought or by deed, with or without words.”
“With or without words…”
This swings the door wide open to what prayer can be. We may be led to respond to God by drawing or by writing, by making music or by painting. We might respond to God spontaneously or with a simple “thank you, God.” We might be responding to God by sitting in silence. We may even respond by writing to our representatives in congress, by taking part in a protest against injustice, by serving in a food bank, or even by purchasing school supplies for those who are in need. When the activities of our daily lives work with God to make things on earth as they are in heaven, those activities are prayer.
Dorothy Day, a spiritual hero of mine who was a Catholic activist for workers’ rights in the mid-20th century, would say something that has stuck with me whenever I get into this rut of focusing too much on the words I pray. She asks, “Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that expects each of us to follow? I believe some people pray through the witness of their lives: through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people. Since when are our words the only acceptable form of prayer?”
The activities that each and every one of us do in our daily lives, those activities that give glimpses of God’s love and justice, that give glimpses of things being done on earth as they are in heaven, those activities are our prayer. Each and every one of us has a unique way of communicating and connecting with God. You may not be the best at asking, but you may be a great “seeker” or a great “knocker.”
Yet no matter how we pray, no matter how inconvenient or inadequate we think our prayer may be, we can be assured as God’s children that God is listening and seeking our prayers, and that God loves and cherishes each and every one of them.
As you go out from this place and into the world, ask yourself…how is God calling you to pray on