Only 57 Words! And Small Phrases
December 3, 2022
Matthew 6:5, the words of our Lord begins with a small phrase containing a BIG meaning. You've got to be careful with small phrases in the Bible for they are easy to pass over in search of something we imagine will be more "meaty." Have you ever passed over John 11:35 lightly on your way to Lazarus's soon to be emptied tomb which touches our mortality with hope? John 11:35 simply says, "Jesus wept." A small phrase, but here is a verse that will outdistance our best efforts to conquer it.
Matthew 6:5 begins: "And when you pray..." Notice Jesus did not say, "If you pray." He did not admonish his disciples with, "You ought to pray." Jesus just assumes prayer in the lives of his followers. Is that a safe assumption on Jesus' part concerning his disciples today? Jesus cannot imagine his people not praying anymore than he can imagine an eagle not soaring on the wind currents high above the mountain valley. It comes with the "feathers!" Have you discovered that?
Jesus' concern is not with whether his disciples pray, but how they pray. According to Luke 11:1-4 this was also the concern of his disciples. It was a concern that developed from hanging around with Jesus. Have you noticed that if you hang around with Jesus long enough, he starts to rub off on you? That's Biblical!
According to Luke, one of the disciples said to him (one day), "Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1). So Jesus taught them. He taught them in 57 Greek words. How'd you like to hear a sermon with only 57 words? The Christian Church refers to this prayer as, The "Lord's Prayer," or the "Our Father." When we pray the Lord's Prayer we pray for what the Father wants; for what others need. To love God and love others by loving and following Jesus.
When the disciples asked Jesus to "teach them how to pray", they were looking for more than something to recite. They wanted to know how to pray, not just what to pray. Emergency prayers happen to all of us, and God hears these prayers,"Help!" or, "Oh, God help me". God understands. He is not the Great Speech Teacher in the sky grading our prayers on a "curve" established by Jesus, but as a model for prayer. The Lord's Prayer helps us put first things first in our daily prayers. First things first, and remember that He listens.
The Lord's Prayer is submission, not just petition. We are accustomed to thinking of prayer as asking God for something, but the Lord's Prayer invites us to rethink and expand our prayer horizons. People think they are asking God for something. They are not. They are offering God something, enlistment, (they are offering themselves.)
How does this work? "Our Father," the beginning. Father is a type of relationship God wants us to have with him, and for anyone whose relationship to their earthly father has been damaging. I must add we must think "Father" in the best and Biblical sense of the word. God is not to be measured against earthly fatherhood, but earthly fatherhood against God. It is amazing that we are given the right by Christ to call God "Abba" translated "Daddy." This is the type of relationship God, the Father wants to enlist us in with Himself. Mark says that Jesus, who always represented the Father's heart, "took the children in his arms" (Mark 10:16)
"Our Father which art in Heaven.." Heaven is our home; it's where the Father lives and he has room for us (John 14:2).
"Hallowed be thy name." There are no blemishes, inconsistencies or shadows in God's character. He will never treat us wrong, and he is to have top place in the world and in our hearts. "The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with "ALL" your heart.
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." To pray this part of the Prayer is to enlist in bringing the kingdom of God, God's will to earth. The will and kingdom of God is transferred to earth and out into the world through our hearts. It is the outworking of loving God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength. Fleshed out is the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
The second part of the Lord's Prayer teaches us how to pray for ourselves. We are to pray for daily bread, for forgiveness and for deliverance from evil. All human life is there in those three petitions. Notice the plural pronouns: "OUR daily bread;" "forgive US as we forgive others, and "lead US into temptation, but deliver US from evil," (literally, the evil One).
Bread represents all we need for the sustaining of our lives, and enlists us to see to it that others are cared for in the same manner as we want to be cared for. "He who gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack," Exodus 16:18
"Forgives us..." Disciples never get to the point where they do not need daily, hourly forgiveness: And what we cry out for we need to grant others, for they also need the peace of forgiveness, God's and ours. Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody's else's skin.
"Prayer is warfare". The Devil's got a "Hit list" and our names are on it. We cannot successfully take on this battle alone. We need God, and we need to walk a wide circle around those things that can give the Devil opportunity in our lives and bring us down. We need to warn each other and pray for each other, and we need to expand the US beyond the perimeters of the church. The Church needs to be the moral conscience of society, first of all by the way we live. The Prayer enlists us against evil.
"Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Do I hear an Amen?
I hope you have or will commit the Lord's Prayer to memory, recite it often, and live it daily. Say it or sing it. And remember that your Father, God, hears you and loves you.
Until next time,