Prayer and Fasting

The Season after Pentecost 2022  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  14:02
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Prayer and Fasting

On occasion, every priest will have something on his mind that he would like to communicate with his parish, but the Sunday lectionary doesn’t exactly agree. The readings point in one direction, while the priest wants to go another. Today is not one of those Sundays. In fact, because even looking at the lectionary, I had already planned to spend some time at our quarterly meeting talking about prayer, and if you were paying attention, that was the theme of the parable which we heard in our Gospel reading this morning.
Sometimes we are left to wonder what exactly a parable might mean, but not with this parable. Luke tells us from the start what Jesus intends by this parable.
Luke 18:1 (ESV)
And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
I will not spend any time this morning digging into the parable of the persistent widow. Suffice it to say that if you look for analogies within the parable, you end up making God the unjust judge, which should signal to us that looking for allegorical analogies in the parables might not be the best reading strategy. It might work in some parables, but certainly not in all of them.
The point of the parable is that the woman comes to the unjust judge every day demanding justice, and eventually, because of her persistence, the unjust judge acquiesces. What’s going on here is an analogy, just not an allegorical one. The Jewish rabbis widely use a form of argument known as:

Qal Va-Homer

Qal Va-Homer means “light to heavy,” or “minor to major.” This type of argumentation reasons “if the lesser has this or that property than the major must undoubtedly have it.” In this case, the argument works like this, if an unjust judge can be swayed by the persistence of the widow, how much more so can God our Father be swayed by the persistent prayers of his people.
Or let me give a more personal example. I’ll probably pay for this later, but that’s ok. I know you all think Anna and Joshua are perfect angels, but sometimes they do act up. I know. It’s shocking. And when they do, one of our forms of discipline we use in our house is to turn off the internet on their devices. Now let me tell you what happens when we do this. It doesn’t happen immediately, but eventually, because the kids known I’m the keeper of all things internet-related, they comes to me, like the persistent widow, and the beat me down by their pleading to have the internet back.
Usually, I stay strong for a little bit, but eventually, because I’ve got work to do or just want to relax, and I can’t do either with those two voices begging their hearts out for their devices to work again, I’ll turn the internet back on just so they’ll stop bothering me. And you all know how stubborn I can be. This overcoming of something I’ve decided by their constant pleading is not easily accomplished, but eventually, like Luke says of the unjust judge, the beat me down.
Luke 18:5 ESV
yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”
And as funny as this might sound, that’s the attitude we should have towards God when we think of prayer. Not because he’s the unjust judge or a stubborn father, but because if an unjust judge and a stubborn father can be swayed by continual pleading, how much more so our heavenly Father who loves us and wants to give us all good things.

Our Quarterly Meeting

Now, about today. We are obviously having a meeting today, hence this combined service. This is not a decision making meeting. This will be an information providing meeting. Your vestry and various committees have been think about and praying over the recommendation of Horizons Stewardship. The executive summary that Horizons provided to us will be made available to all of you before meeting, and Jimmy’s going to talk through it and give you all an update about where we stand currently.
There’s two goals for this meeting. The first is to provide you all with the information we received. We don’t want anyone to feel like anything is being done in the dark or in the shadows. I have enough of that in my life currently, and we’re certainly not going to do that here. But the second goal relates directly to our reading this morning. I’ve asked you all before, and I’m asking you all again, to please be praying about the future of our church. Not because our church is in jeopardy, but because we want to make sure that in every decision, the big and small, we are seeking the Lord’s will and asking both for his Holy Spirit to lead us and for God to give us the faith to walk wherever the Spirit leads.
I hope it goes without saying that I expect you to be praying whether I ask you to or not. Prayer is part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and if you feel like you don’t know how to pray or if you’re struggling in your prayer life, I would encourage you to come talk to me, or talk to some of our prayer warriors, and we can talk to you about prayer and how to get started and how to grow deeper in this beautiful time with God. However, while it’s my expectation that all of you will be praying whether I invite you to or not, what I haven’t done well is consistently encourage you and direct you to resources about praying for our church. A couple of months ago, Mary Lou Hayes created a three page document with scripture verse and prayers for our church. We printed. I hope all of you took it home. I hope all of you are using it. In case you’re not, I’ve printed it again, and I’m stapling it to the executive summary you all will receive later because those two documents go hand in hand.
I want to quickly bullet point each of the petitions Mary Lou invites us to pray in this document:
Pray that our entire congregation would be deeply committed to seeking God in prayer.
Pray that our church body will worship, adore, and praise God in spirit and truth.
Pray that our church members would dedicate themselves and their families to becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
Pray for our Clergy and Vestry Members as they lead and guide our church and seek God’s direction for St. Dunstan’s.
Pray for guidance, wisdom, and discernment as we make decisions regarding the facility and location of St. Dunstan’s.
Pray for unity of purpose within our church body.
Frankly, I was going to make my own document for us to praying through, but why? This nails it. These are exactly what we should be praying for our church, and I am asking you to take it home with you and make it a part of your prayer life.

Prayer and Fasting

In fact, I’m going to ask even more of you. I’m going to ask you to join me not just in prayer, but in setting aside one day a week, as a special day for prayer and fasting – one day a week, not forever, but from now until November 17, which is the date of our November vestry at which your vestry will have to make some of important decisions.
Now, to be clear, fasting is not expect of anyone for whom it would endanger their health, and traditionally, fasting does not mean full abstinence from food and water. For Roman Catholics, for example, say this:
When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.
I’m not going to dictate to you how you fast, but I am asking you to join me in setting aside every Friday, between now and November 17th, as a day of fasting and prayer, specifically prayer for our church and for wisdom and faith for our leadership. I hope you’ll use Mary Lou’s hand out, but even if you don’t, remember, as funny as it might sound, when you’re coming to God with these petitions, these requests, I want you to remember Anna and Joshua pleading for the internet on their devices to be turned back on, because if their stubborn, grumpy father can be beaten down by their constant pleading and the desperate looks on their cute faces, then surely our Heavenly Father, who wants all good things for his people and the best for this church, will hear our prayers and answer them.
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