Sunday, July 24, 2016


 (The Rev. Cn. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, delivered at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Hicksville, NY. July 24, 2016)

Prayer is not an easy task. The acolyte asked the priest, “Father, can you teach me how to pray?” The priest brought him to the river and pushed him into the water. Since he did not know how to swim, he struggled so hard and screamed, “Help, help!” The priest said, “My boy, that’s the way you should pray.”

But there are others who are smart when they pray. A Jewish rabbi had been praying to God: he was poor, he was blind and had no family. One night, God appeared to him in a dream and said, ”Ask me one thing, just one thing and I will give it to you.” The rabbi was bewildered:  If he asks for sight, what would it do if he is poor and has no family? If he asks for riches, what would it do if he was blind and has no family to share his riches? And if he asks for family, what would it do if they see him blind and poor?

So he agonized but after a few hours, he came back to God and prayed, “Lord, I ask you only one thing, give me the JOY of seeing my wife and children eating from the silver platter!” In one prayer, he was able to accomplish three needs.

There are also times when our prayer becomes almost impossible to give. A story is told of an Episcopal priest who was walking by the beach and picked up a bottle. When he opened it, a Genie appeared and said, “Master, ask me three things and I will give it to you.” The priest said, “let there be ordination of women.” The Genie said, “no problem, done.” The priest again said, “Genie, let there be ordination of the GLBT.” The Genie replied, “Done.” For the third wish, the Episcopal priest thought that he should pray beyond the church so he said, “Genie, let there be peace in the Middle East.” The Genie said, “Master, you know that has been a problem way back centuries, it’s hard for me to grant that.” The priest, having realized the consequential problems that accompanied the first two requests, decided to go back to the needs of the Church and said, “Genie, let there be harmony in the worldwide Anglican Communion.” The Genie said, “Master, can we go back to the Middle East?”

Prayer indeed must be hard and that is why the apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They did not ask, “Lord, teach us to preach, teach us to teach, teach us to heal.” They said, ”Lord, teach us to pray.” The response of Jesus was to give them a sample prayer, a model prayer for us to follow. This prayer is what we call the “Our Father” of the “Lord’s Prayer.”

There are three elements in this prayer:  Prayer is relating with God; Prayer is seeking God’s will; Prayer is communicating with God.


The word that Jesus used in the Lord’s prayer is Abba  Father, which is an intimate way of addressing God. It is similar to the word Daddy or Papa. The ultimate goal of prayer is union with God. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” St. Paul said, “It’s no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me.”

Relationship with God begins with humility. 2nd Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I shall hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

Two men went to the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and said, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Jesus said, “I tell you that this man, the tax collector, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus set the stage of this relationship when he said, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” In this relationship, God is holy and we are only on the way. God is sinless and have no need of our affirmation; we are sinful and in need of God’s redemption. Without God we can do nothing; but with God, we can do everything. Without God, some things are impossible; but with God, nothing is impossible.

In a manner of speaking, Trump is not the answer, but God is the answer. Trump alone cannot fix it; but Trump with God and with Hillary and the American people, we can do it.

Now what is the question?

B.   Prayer is Seeking God’s Will

The Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In the final analysis, with all our fame and glory and honor, we are all immigrants on earth. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. The prophet Isaiah said, “All flesh are like grass and our glory are like flowers in the field. The grass withers, the flowers fall, only the Word of God stands forever.”

That bank accounts that we keep, will someday be on somebody’s hands; the mansions that we live, will someday be someone else’s property; the legacy we left may someday be buried in the dustbin of history. It’s like the sign I saw in the park, “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.”

That is why it is important that we pray in accord with the will of God. When we pray for riches, it is for a purpose. St. James wrote, “What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? You crave what you do not have so you kill and covet, but are unable to obtain it. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your own passions.”

The will of God is revealed in the Scriptures and that is why as Christians it is important that we read, hear and receive the Word of God. For instance, it is a general will of God that sickness are healed but there are instances that some sickness are not healed for God’s greater purpose. St. Paul, a mighty man of God, a healer, a missionary, evangelist and apostle had a sickness which he described as a “thorn in the flesh.” It sounds like malady that gives him constant aches and pains. Many times he asked the Lord to remove it but God impressed upon him that he was not healed to prevent him from being too conceited. In justifying God’s action or lack of action, St. Paul said, “God’s grace is sufficient for me.”

So praying for God’s will, in God’s name and in God’s presence is the key to answered prayers. “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

God’s will is that we may live and that we may live in love. But we are not perfect; we are still under construction. So in our imperfection, we must learn to forgive because we all have the potential to fall.

A story is told of a nun who fasted and prayed and saw Jesus. She was so excited she went to her bishop and reported. The bishop won’t believe and thought that because the nun was hungry that she was seeing things. But the nun was insistent, so the Bishop said, “OK, I will believe you if you go back there and once you see Jesus you ask him if he knows how many sins I committed from childhood to my becoming a bishop.” So the nun went back at the corner to pray and then returned to the bishop. “Bishop, I saw Jesus again and I told him about your question.” So what was his answer? Did he remember my sins from childhood to my becoming a bishop? Bishop, this is what Jesus said: ”What I have forgiven, I have forgotten.”


In a sense, prayer is a language of the spirit. Our spirits commune with God’s Holy Spirit. Often we think of prayer as talking to God but in reality, prayer is more on listening to God. Someone defines prayer as ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

We begin by adoring God, Confessing our sins, then Thanking God and finally Supplication or submitting our petitions. We ask like children knowing that God will not give us a snake when we ask for fish, or a stone when we ask for bread. If earthly parents know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will our heavenly father not give us the Holy Spirit?

But the image of prayer as ACTS are more of the activity of the mouth than that of the ears. God has given us two ears and one mouth; we should listen twice and speak once, not the other way around. Communicating with God is not just talking with God but listening to God. When we pray, we allow a period of silence to listen to the still small voice. If we have a keen sense of listening to God, we can hear the blade of grass grow, the squirrel’s heart beat and may discover the depth of the sound of silence.

Sermon Weekly shares this account:

“The late author Anthony de Mello tells the story of a temple built on an island. The temple contained a thousand bells ... big and small, fashioned by the finest craftsman in the world. When the wind blew or a storm raged, all the bells would peal out in a symphony that could send the heart of the hearer into rapture.”

“But over the centuries the island sank into the sea and, with it, the temple bells. An ancient legend said that the bells continued to peal out, ceaselessly, and could be heard by anyone who would listen. Inspired by this legend, a young man travelled thousands of miles, determined to hear those bells. He sat for days on the shore, facing the vanished island, and listened with all his might. But he was unable to hear the bells. He kept at his task for weeks. Each time he got disheartened he would listen to the village pundits, who spoke reverently of the mysterious legend. Then his heart would be aflame ... only to become discouraged when weeks of further effort yielded no results. Finally, he decided to give up the attempt. Perhaps he was not destined to hear the bells. Perhaps the legend was untrue. It was his final day, and he went to the shore to say goodbye to the sea and the sand and the wind and the coconut trees. He lay on the sand and, for the first time, really listened to the sound of the sea. It was the sound of silence. Soon he was so lost in that sound of silence that he was barely conscious of himself.”

“Then, in the depth of that silence, he heard it! The tinkle of a tiny bell, followed by another, and another, and another ... and soon every one of the thousand temple bells was pealing out in harmony, and his heart was rapt in joyous ecstasy.”

Prayer is relating with God; praying the will of God; and communicating with God----and more important of all, listening to God. Amen.

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