July 22, 2019
Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
that calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father's throne
make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief
my soul has often found relief,
and oft escaped the tempter's snare
by thy return, sweet hour of prayer.
[This Far by Faith #62]
The assigned lectionary readings for July 28, 2019, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
The heat was sweltering, the humidity was unbearable, but that did not deter the planners and participants in the first ever Purpose Palooza, held at Buckeye High School in Medina on Saturday, July 20.
 Christian Band 'Lost & Found."

 Christian Rappers 'Agape' and Joe Davis

What began as an idea of two of the faithful at Zion Lutheran Church in Valley City, blossomed into an outdoor worship and service event a year later, with entertainment by popular contemporary Christian performers and musicians; plenty of information provided by area faith-based social service agencies; and an enthusiastic group of people, young and old alike, who withstood the heat and humidity, praised God, sang songs, hopefully learned, and had a joyously good time overall. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
I mention this event because it shows what can happen when we humans allow the Holy Spirit to work within us. There is a verse in the psalm for this upcoming Sunday, Psalm 138, which states:
"You [God] will make good your purpose for me."
We are, after all, instruments of God's grace. God's love is made known to others through us. Saturday's outstanding event was living evidence of the limitless ways that can happen.
This week's readings, primarily the Gospel, focus on prayer. The Gospel reading from Luke begins with the words, "Jesus was praying in a certain place."
In Luke, we find Jesus praying far more often than in Matthew, Mark or John. If you read through this Gospel, you'll find Jesus in prayer before every important decision, before every difficult situation: when he was alone in the desert tempted by the devil, before choosing his disciples, when he was at meals with his friends, when he was doing miracles of healing, when he was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane and in the upper room awaiting his suffering on the cross. Even in his final moments, he was always in conversation with his Father.
In this week's reading, Jesus' disciples ask him to teach them to pray. The prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples (which we have come to know as The Lord's Prayer) is something familiar, something we share in common. It is the one prayer which we are most likely able to recite by heart.
I have to resist the temptation here to go through the prayer line by line and give you an analysis of each petition. You have Bible studies for that purpose. You can also read Luther's Small Catechism and get some quick information on that. It never hurts to go back and re-read the "What does this mean," parts to refresh your memory. You can also find the section on the Lord's Prayer from the Catechism, by the way, on page 1163 of your Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal.
I talk a lot about prayer in my life, and you may talk a good deal about prayer in yours. Hopefully, you make prayer a regular habit in your life. But let's be honest: we're pretty lousy at praying. This is not a criticism. Many, if not all of us, mean well; but our prayer lives are just very far from what they could be.
A lot of my parish visits are usually followed by a potluck. In the majority of those, nothing begins until the bishop prays for the meal. It's become an expectation. I am often tempted to ask someone else to do that, but it's much easier for me to pray than to embarrass a faithful servant of God by having them stumble and bumble through an awkward, unprepared prayer.
Many of us don't know how to pray. Even the great apostle, Paul, at one time a Pharisee, who later became a follower of Jesus, I'm sure knew many prayers well, and still he wrote, "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom. 8:26).
I often recommend a short book on prayer written by the author Anne Lamott, to anyone who is looking to improve his or her prayer life. It's entitled, Help, Thanks, Wow, The Three Essential Prayers. It's short, less than a hundred pages, and you can read it in a couple of hours. Some of you may find Lamott's language a little salty and at times, unbecoming of a Christian author, so be forewarned. But you may find it helpful and, at the very least, entertaining.
A prayer doesn't have to be long and flowery. A prayer is best when kept simple, honest, and offered in trust. Spending time with God in prayer, in regular, intimate conversation, and opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit, will lead us on the way of compassion, and it will lead us to transformation, not just as individuals but as a community of faith.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the theologian Karl Barth.
"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." 
Prayer forms and shapes us into a community of compassion and justice that promotes healing and reconciliation. Prayer calls us to join in the building of God's kingdom not up in heaven, but here, on earth, to make it a reign of justice, healing, mercy, and love. 
This Wednesday, I will once again be with the people of God at the Copeland Oaks Retirement Community in Sebring to lead their midweek evening Vespers service. I visited with them back in March, during the Lenten season, and I so enjoyed the experience. I look forward to our visit on Wednesday.
Thursday evening I will be at the Hartville Migrant Center to visit with the youngsters at Youth Sports Night for a time of conversation and a brief bible study with the youngsters. This is a rescheduling from two weeks ago, when the event had to be postponed because of the weather.
Sunday, I will be with the people of God at Good Soil Lutheran Ministries in Lakewood and Rocky River. We preside at a service of Leave Taking to deconsecrate their Lakewood campus. The building has been sold and beginning next month, the community will worship at the Rocky River campus exclusively.
This week and always, may you continue to live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in him, established in the faith, and abounding in thanksgiving. [Colossians 2:6-7]
+Bishop Abraham Allende