Sermon: Ute Frühwirth
The Luxury of Praying
Watch and pray! Pray without stopping! Let your requests be made known to God in prayer and pleading with thanksgiving. Be persistent in prayer. Throw him all your worries.
While I was looking for verses about praying in the Bible, the internet pointed out 59 pages. And I am certain that there are more places in the Bible where God calls to prayer.
What exactly is, „praying“?
Wikipedia has the following about praying: „The prayer (from old high German language, „gibet“which came from the word prayer which came from asking) denotes a central practice of belief in many religions. It is a verbal or non-verbal ritual affair to transcendent beings such as gods or deities. So much from Wikipedia, short, factual, dry and not inspiring!
So, I continued my search and came across the diocese homepage. And here it states, „praying is a turning to God”, a, „discussion” of the heart with God. This can happen alone or in community with others, loud or silent, spoken freely or from texts, through silence, through the lighting of a candle or by observing an image, etc..…
Now we are getting closer. Praying is turning to God. What particularly pleases me is the statement, „a discussion of the heart with God”. I think, that it does not only have to be a discussion of the heart, I conduct direct and loud conversations with God. To speak with God: is this not the ultimate luxury? Further, I ask myself the question, „Why do I pray? What does speaking to God do to me?
I would like to invite you to watch one of my days with me following the song of before, “praying“. In the first verse it says, „Arrived in silence, I will pray quietly. My alarm rings between quarter after and five thirty. My first act is to turn on the coffee machine and the radio. No silence. Prepare breakfast and snacks and depending on how my child is – either it remains a relaxing morning, no breastfeeding or a quiet morning but relaxed. Then off on my bike and for the first time when I have some peace. My way to school goes through a neighborhood which is actually a bit quiet since the morning traffic does not come through here. My thoughts become quiet and wander towards God. „Good Morning, Lord! Thank you for this new day, thank you for the quiet night, for restful sleep. Please be with my loved ones and protect them during their daily routines. Thank you that you watch over them. Amen. And with a good and quiet feeling I cycle on because I know that God carries my life in his hands. It is 7:45 and the children come into the classroom. 23 little monsters, very loving but also incredible demanding. And after three hours, „Ms. Frühwirth. I don’t understand! Ms. Frühwirth, Alex took my ruler away fromm e, Ms. Frühwirth, is the math correct? Ms. Frühwirth, Emma is annoying me!“ – sometimes it can happen that I briefly lose my nerves. Why only briefly? Verse number two, “Arrived in silence, I take off my mask. And I honestly say to God, what is on my mind, “surrounded by children, I close my eyes, breath in deeply, open my eyes, look up and days, “God, give me the patience and accompany me through this day!” And little Florentina looks at me and days asks, „Who?“. And it’s done. This short prayer balances me again, takes control and lets me be calm again. The day goes by and in the evening, I review the days. I notice, that my talk with God remained manageable. Bad conscience spreads to much, that I was caught in my world and gave God little attention. And then the last verse comes, „Arrived in silence, I thankfully take what he gives. I am allowed to call him Father, because he loves me eternally!”. I took the day from his hand and despite the little time that I had for him, he loves me – no ifs, ands or buts about it.
And then comes Monday. It was one of these days, that the teachers call a full moon day. We meet in the entrance, shake our heads and only ask, “Is today a full moon?”. Explanation: the children were wild and crazy. I left work in the afternoon tired and worn out and then I remembered a theme from a sermon. It was not a quick prayer but a real intensive prayer. Afterwards I became aware that I had to let God do his thing. My mood was really down in the dumps and this required many prayers to get me out again. But I relied on God’s answer, put my negative feelings aside and solutions pushed their way inside my head. And instead of blowing tribulation and let self-pity sink in, because I was such a poor teacher, then I started to rethink things about my work. And I am certain that I would not have been able to get out of this negative vortex so quickly without God’s help.
In the beginning of my story I asked questions. Why do I pray? What does praying do to me? Werner Tiki Küstenmacher wrote the following about prayers in his book, „Luxury Jesus“: „Leave the dirt and dust from the streets outside. Put down your useless and disturbed thoughts. Come more naked than usual, more vulernable and with more feeling. Here you do not need to run or kick. Let yourself down, here you will be bestowed.“ Is there not a better reason to pray? Praying balances me. I can sort out my thoughts, see more clearly and even find solutions. I am able to bring all my worries to God, I am able to tell them to him, when I am happy about something, I am able to thank him, when I have been successful. To speak with God is pure luxury. We know and we have this luxury. So, we keep pausing while praying and we are always astonished that something like praying is even possible. That it is possible with all strength to make contact which has brought us forth. And as soon as we have experienced this wonder one time it will always be easier to make contact to the divine through praying.
Just like in our reading today, as Abraham made contact with God and haggled with him about the people in Sodom. He, who was aware that he was just dust and ashes, was not afraid to ask God to pray for each and every life. A trusting talk between Abraham and God. And we can have such trusting talks with God, with a God who became a person through Jesus Christ and who is close to us. At all time.