Archive for February, 2019
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9).
The possessive pronoun utilized in the model prayer is a needed reminder that “my” prayer is, in fact, our prayer as communal people. God’s story of redemption and hope is a narrative woven and perpetuated through families—Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even within the New Testament, family is the most common metaphor for describing the church, the body of Christ, the people of God. The “Our Father” stands in opposition to the tendency toward isolationism when in pain and conflict, and the classism that arises in prosperity. Our prayerful presence is to have a democratizing influence in the place where our feet stand.
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9).
While the imperative to pray is a command to all disciples, Jesus offers us a priceless gift with the instruction to address God as, “Abba.” This Aramaic term was an expression of love and affection utilized by children in addressing their fathers, or young men their elders. It’s a sharp departure from the cold formality of the Hebrew tradition, where the covenant names of God were not even uttered. Abba breaks through the transcendent cosmos to the here-and-now of human pain and circumstances. It makes intimate the One that most see as being remote.
“Pray, then, in this way…” (Matthew 6:9).
Knowing humankind better than it knows itself, Jesus assumes all people will pray. Twice he has said, “When you pray” (5,7), to offer a contrast between his disciples and two other groups that, shockingly, pray—hypocrites and Gentiles. The emphasis being that there is both a correct and wrong way to pray. As disciples, there should be a desire to pray rightly. Having instructed us to go into our inner room, where it is only you, God, and no one else (v.6), Jesus then offers a skeleton to guide us (9-13) in the fleshing out of our prayers. His model of short and simple negates the other prevailing assumption…that prayer is hard.
“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
That my “Father knows” gives me all the confidence necessary to stay diligently prayerful in the pursuit of Christ and the journey of faith. With these words alone, he has rescued from those whose confidence comes from praying at appointed times, in particular places, and certain postures, while utilizing formulaic phrases. It is the heart that holds the key to meaningful prayer.
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
The deep and abiding peace we long for goes beyond the absence of troubles, worries, and conflict. True peace is that which emerges from the intimacy of one’s relationship with the Living God. It is accomplished when we embrace and practice the faith we have heard, learned, and profess. This balanced combination of knowing and doing brings us to the place of peace.
“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
Do you ever feel lassoed and tied up by all the causes, demands, requests, and responsibilities that vie for your attention? This often stems from codependent desires to please and not disappoint others. The solution may be a return to the boot camp of our faith and the reminder that we soldier for an audience of One. It is by this perspective toward the life of service that his Spirit gives meaning and purpose to our daily lives and routines.
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
Physics and mathematics contend that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Strangely enough, the same principal holds true in prayer. Drawing things out with much verbosity or rote phrases do not better gain God’s attention or obligate him all the more to respond to your liking. As the wisdom writer says, regarding our petitions before God, “…let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Prayer isn’t for the purpose of keeping God up to speed on what you want him to do but, rather, it is our seeking to keep up to speed on what God is doing.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
Instead of praying with a preoccupation of everyone else (v.5), Jesus’ instruction is to pray in a way where it’s just you, God, and no one else. Allow not the ears, opinions, or approval of others to taint the sacredness and sanctity of the place that belongs to you and God alone. It is only in the inner sanctuary of your heart that prayerful communication is accomplished. Even group prayer finds its meaningfulness only when private prayer is abounding in the hearts of the participants.
“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:2).
An awareness of God’s blessings creates a corresponding burden of responsibility; to share and participate in the relief of human suffering and injustice; to be advocates for the voiceless and the powerless. For those who live in American affluence with no such sense of awareness, it’s as if they were born into this world standing on third base and think the resulting triple was the result of their own giftedness, hard work, and perseverance. Such arrogance reveals a self-crowned, deified existence; that they are a god of their own making and the creator of their own destiny.
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
While never surprised that individuals will sometimes experience a crisis of faith, I am shocked when prayer is the issue; not receiving the remedy prayed for, or it did not occur in the desired time frame. It’s as illogical as me claiming a crisis of childhood; that I couldn’t believe in my parents because they failed to give me everything I wanted when I wanted it. Staying the course in growth and maturity, I came to realize that my parents, in their mix of granting, denying, delaying, and withholding, were working not for my detriment, but my greater good. If imperfect parents are able to accomplish as much, should not a perfect heavenly Father be trusted all the more. If the litmus test of God’s faithfulness is you receiving from him everything you ask, then your destiny is one of continuing spiritual adolescence and frustration. In both life and faith, just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t mean it’s the wrong answer.