Anyway, there we were at some restaurant, somewhere. Our server brings the food and we fold our hands and bow our heads to pray.
“Mommy,!” Three year old Addison blurts out excitedly, “Can we teach Dave the Superman prayer? We gotta do the Superman prayer!”
“Superman prayer,” I wondered to myself. And then, ever so bravely, I asked, “What is the Superman prayer?” And Addison teaches me the Superman prayer, a prayer which is sung to the main theme from the Superman movies.
Remember that this is a three year old we are talking about. He hasn’t yet learned to be embarrassed in front of people. He isn’t worried about people watching him. Before we begin, his eyes aren’t glancing about the room wondering what others will think. He is carefree. He loves his family. He loves his God.
So with that excitement only a child can bring, he leads us in a very strong voice: “Thank you Lord for giving us food. Thank you Lord for giving us food. For the friends we meet. For the food we eat. Thanks for the food!”
There in front of God and who knows how many people, led by a child, we thanked God for friendships and for food.
Do you remember the first prayer you ever learned? Though maybe not the Superman prayer it was perhaps a prayer of blessing over a meal.
God is great. God is good.
Let us thank him for our food…
By his hands we all are fed,
Give us Lord our daily bread, Amen.
Or maybe it was a prayer before bedtime:
Now I lay me down to sleep,…
Or a prayer you learned in Sunday School.
“John taught his disciples how to pray. We want to be like John’s disciples. They have a prayer. We don’t. Teach us a prayer, pulleeze?”
This isn’t the first time people of God have been envious of other people. In the Old Testament, Israel takes a look at its neighbors and then a glimpse in the mirror and notices that they are different from their neighbors. All the other countries have kings.
We don’t have a king.
Everyone else has a king.
Why don’t we have a king.
We want a king.
So the elders of the people of Israel go to Samuel and demand a king.
Samuel prays. God tells Samuel not to be upset with the people and to give them what they want.
“Their request for a king is not a sign of them rejecting you,” God tells Samuel, “They are rejecting me from being king over them.”
Give us a prayer, Jesus. We want to be like John’s disciples.
Jesus teaches his disciples a prayer. The Model Prayer, we call it. Though the prayer recorded in Luke is shorter than the one from Matthew we are familiar with.
But Jesus doesn’t end with the Amen. There’s more to prayer than just words and phrases. And with a story Jesus reminds his disciples (and us) of the goodness of God.
Gordon Atkinson tells a story about early in his ministry training. He had only recently completed his Master of Divinity and was working as a hospital chaplain in a Clinical Pastoral Education program. He says of people facing death that they don’t care about “your interpretation of 2 Timothy. Some take the ‘bloodied, but unbowed’ road, but most dying people want to pray with the chaplain. And they don’t want wimpy prayers, either. They don’t want you to pray that God’s will be done.
Even our Lord prayed that God would “take this cup from me.”
But God isn’t Santa Claus to whom we can come with our long list of wants. Have you been a good boy this year?
“But shall we see him?” asked Susan.
“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
Times are tough. Life is not safe.
But the king is good.
God is good all the time.
And all the time God is good. Amen.