"Lord, Teach Us How to Pray"
The Lord's Prayer
One of the most famous times of teaching from Jesus written in the Gospels is the Sermon on the Mount. During this teaching, Jesus instructs His listeners that when you pray, that is have a conversation with the Living God, you should not do so like the hypocrites. They are people who say one thing with their mouth, but their actions are very different and therefore send off mixed messages.
Matthew 6:5-6 "They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be sen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Why all the secrecy? When we are talking to God, he is not impressed with our head knowledge or our list of good deeds or our church attendance record. He intimately knows the motives of our hearts, and when we enter into honest conversation with Him, He wants you to begin by being honest with yourself. Look in the mirror. You know who you really are inside and when you are alone with no one watching, that is the person with whom God desires audience.
Matthew 6:9 "Pray like this, 'Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name."
First things first. You must acknowledge who He is and in so doing, you place yourself in the seat of submission. You are the clay, He is the Potter. To be "hallowed" is knowing that something is sacred, holy, concecrated, highly valued and deserving of great respect. We confirming to our hearts where the Lord resides; in heaven. He is not bound to the physical laws of this mortal planet or by our calendars and timetables.
"Thy kingdom come, Thy will by done on earth as it is in heaven."
Before you utter a request on your own behalf, you acknowledge that no matter what, it is God's purposes and for His glory that we do anything. It is stating our faith that no matter what we discern from our circumstances, that God is most definitely on His throne and is working all things for His good. He is the Creator, He is the Savior and we willingly submit to Him.
"Give us this day, our daily bread."
We are to feed daily on God's word which is bread. Not cake, for special occasions, but our diet for spiritual health. We feed on His will which is revealed to us in the discipline of consistent prayer. How can you have a relationship with someone you never talk to?
"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
We can't be forgiving if we haven't tasted how sweet the grace of being forgiven ourselves. 1 John 4:19 tells us that we love because He first loved us. We don't know what these virtues look like without first observing and receiving them from Him. We are to first move on and forgive ourselves beause 2 Corinthians 5:17 assures us that if anyone is in Christ, that is calls Him Lord and lives to honor Him, he is a new creation. The old man is gone and a new life has begun. There is no time to maintain old regrets. Leave them at the foot of the cross.
Here' the kicker. How many times must we forgive? I suppose the obvious answer to this one is how many times must we ask for forgiveness? Look around and you will see this world is in awful need of abundant amounts of forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 tells us that when Peter asked Jesus how many time should we forgive, he ventured a guess. Seven times? In human terms, that sounds reasonable. Ah, but Jesus asks for more. "I tell you, not seven time, but seventy times seven!"
Isn't that a lot of forgiving? How many times must we be stepped on and never complain? Did Jesus really mean for us to keep track of each offense done to us? No. Matthew 5:39 instructs us not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. That's crazy, right? Are Christians meant to be doormats?
Boil it down to the original purpose of why we are on planet earth. We are here to know and glorify God and bring as many people as we can to Jesus so they may have eternal life too. If an evil person with hateful motives is bent on causing you harm, by "offering the other cheek" so to speak, you stop they dead in their tracks because it is the opposite reaction of anyone who is being attacked. It forces them to wonder why. Do not misunderstand. If you are in danger or being abused, Jesus is not asking you to sit and take it. Of course, get yourself someplace safe and put up boundaries. What is being taught here is an attitude of the heart. We are to have compassion on an evil person as lost and needing Jesus, just like we were when we needed forgiveness.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
God will test us to mature us in our faith, He will not use evil to suit His purposes. However, in praying that he 'lead us not into temptation,' we are acknowledging that we are fraile people, subject to motives which are mostly self serving. We would steal, murder, commit adultery, and more if given the right circumstances. We are asking God for His divine protection from such vulnerability and our dependence on the providential help that comes from God alone.
Back up a few verses to the beginning of Matthew, chapter 5. Here we find another famous portion of Jesus teaching, known as "The Beatitudes." This is Latin for blessedness. It is a list of characteristics of people willing to be "worked on" by God Himself and the reward that comes from such submission to His will.
The follower of Christ has some inner changes that are evident in how they carry themselves in the world. They seem to react to situations differently than that of the general public and have characteristics that many would call virtues that are admirable and speak of integrity. Believers would call this the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 lists these as "love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodnes, faithfulness, patience and self-control." Usually, it is a rare individual where these come naturally. We must choose to exercise them, moment by moment.
The word Blessed also means happy. The Beatitudes speak of situation that at face value are anything but producers of joy, but in deeper search, we come to discover that checking our "rights and priorities" at the door does have its benefits.
Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It is only those who recognize that it is by grace we are saved, not by merit. We look in the mirror and know who we really are at our core and find that we are spiritually in poverty. There is no good in us. We bring nothing to the table and are dependant on God. Humility soon follows, for it is quite sobering to be at someone's mercy. But this is not a stance of pity but of celebration that we have been rescued! When we operate in this sense of dependence on God, He is promising that it is with this childlike acceptance that we inherit all of God's kingdom.
Din is not about breaking the rules, but breaking God's heart. We are meant to reflect Jesus and exchange our past as a sinner for a future as a forgiven child of God. Grace keeps us from pretending that we are okay while giving us the courage to know that we are deeply loved.
Matthew 5: 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "
Misery is a result of our sin-saturated world. There are many things to mourn. Death of a loved one, our own spiritual poverty. Loss of material goods. Opportunities missed. Love not returned. Betrayal by someone we trusted. Physical harm. Being lied to. The miserable list goes on and on. Worldly sorrow brings hatred, anger and a vengeful spirit. Godly sorrow leads to a searching heart, a removal of things that pull us away from God, a reverence for a holy God, a zeal to seek His plan and to allow God to be our defender and seek justice in His way and His timing.
Pastor David Harris said that "if we took accountability instead of blame shifting, perhaps we would feel the blessing of comfort instead of drowning in self condemnation." Judas and Peter each betrayed Jesus on the night he was arrested and had two very different reactions to their poor choices. Judas betrayed Jesus for monetary gain and tried to fix the situation himself. He eventually gave up and committed suicide. Peter betrayed Jesus by denying that he even knew Him, three times! He faced the truth of his spiritual poverty, ran TO Jesus instead of away from him, with the confidence of the waiting forgiveness, and went on to be the Rock on which the church was built, as Jesus told him in Matthew 16:18. As Peter poured his sorrow out in tears, God was able to pour his grace into the void. Judas' suicide closed the door of opportunity for God to meet him in that circumstance.
Matthew 5: 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
We need to first realize that meekness is not weakness. It is not passivity, avoidance of conflict or shyness. Meekness is having the ability to act or having the justification on their side, and choosing not to exercise it. It is an internal attitude that is seen externally as you relate to others, evidence that God's Spirit resides within us. We live in an ego driven world and meek people rarely get anywhere! They seem to lack courage, slang calls them 'whimps,' and seems to imply stagnation with no movement. This is so far from God's truth. When Jeus was standing before Pilate during his trial, He had every right to state his case and give angels charge to come down and save Him, but in meekness, he chose not to exercise His divine authority in that moment because the work on the cross was so much better.
Don't let what you do define who you are. Let your meekness be harnessed and used by the Holy Spirit. Like the verse before it, mourning is emotional, meekness is relational. It is actually a counterpart of being spiritual poverty. It is only when you have the grace and salvation of God that you can stand meek and graceful and let God do HIs thing and get the glory.
Imagine the Navy Seals or Marines. Are those guys 'whimps?' No way! They are the most amazingly strong, trained men and women I am happy to have on our side. They do, however, answer and submit to a superior officer. Power under control and function with a sense of unity. God promises this kind of meekness will 'inherit the earth.' What a prize. What does that mean? This person will be able to participate in the kingdom of God that is coming, while reaping the abundance and favor of physical earth now. Weak people actually try to pull the biggest power plays, overcomensating for their insecurities or woefully codependant on someone else.
Matthew 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
When you are hungry, your entire focus is on food. You can smell it, your mouth start salivating in anticipation of devouring it, and you imagine the most delicious ingredients. Here, God is saying if your focus is on righteousness and striving in every opportunity with that goal, your efforts will not be in vain. Even as we physically grow into adulthood, we never stop feeding. So it is with God's Word. We need to daily salivate for it for spiritual nourishment and will never be disappointed with our investment. God is able and willing to supply our every need above and beyond anything we can imagine.
Matthew 5: 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
To be merciful, will cost. It is fueled with emotional energy and a willingness to step inside someone else's mess. It is distinct from grace and deals with a partnership in the human condition. We know what someone is going through because we've been there too. Mercy is bestowed physically in charity. Seeing the hurt and acting upon it. It is donating clothes to Goodwill, feeding the homeless, giving support to those battling terminal illness. It is intentional and using discernment before we just act. Becoming involved is the right thing to do and we are willing to be the "hands and feet" of Christ.
Mercy is also bestowed spiritually with forgiveness. The one who forgives absorbs the debt. We often thing that forgiveness condones the wrong, but that is not acurate. There is a saying that a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it. Refusing to forgive, actually only hurts you. It keeps you bound to the hurt and not at all how God would have you live. When you show mercy, God will be merciful to you as well. It simplifies our life by not keeping a list of what's been done to us, but freely giving it back to God to deal with.
There is a parable in the Bible in Matthew 18:23-35 about a servant that was unable to pay a debt he owed to his master. The master had mercy and forgave the debt. But when that same servant went out, he was not merciful to someone that owed him money! God has cancelled our large sin debt in his death on the cross. How much more should we show mercy and heap coals of kindnes upon our enemies head so they might know our Jesus too?
Matthew 6:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Pure of heart means that there is no difference between what we value inside and how we act on the outside. Our behavior matches our character. Purity is something unmixed or uncompromised. A good word picture for this is imagine mixing a batch of chocolate brownies. You add egg, flour, cocoa, and let's say . . . dog feces. What?? That is so gross! Once you mix that in there, nothing is going to help those brownies. They are thouroughly ruined and need to be thrown out. So it is with purity. One bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.
Jesus did not come into this world to make people perfect, he came to make people new. We have a heart condition that is affecting our entire being and rotting it from within. Our emotions, intellect and will all need to be sold out to God at our salvation. Only in Him can we get a fresh start at purity and bake some awesome brownies. We live with that relational honesty and live transparently so that others can see that we experience all the heartache this world dishes out, but with God, it never destroys us. Being held accountable keeps our life focues on the proper perspective and therefore, we will see God operating all around us. Once you see that, you will have reason to celebrate!
Matthew 6:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
A peacemaker is different than a peace keeper. Once who is agreeable for the sake of stopping an argument can compromise a greater goal. A truce is temporary and not fulfilling. True peace is permament and internal. Peace is this world is certainly not going to be the absence of conflict. Anyone can speak to that. This world is tough and heartbreaking. Peace is the presence of Christ that the Bible tells us "passes all understanding." Meaning, you can't explain it away with conventional ideology, but it is real. It is the woman who forgives the serial killer in court for killing her son. There is no reason on this earth she should behave that way. That kind of peace is outside of ourselves and found only in Him.
Peace makers are called sons of God because their spirit is at peace with God. They are able to therefore go out and seek opportunities to actively help others reconcile for the common good, sometimes at their own cost. They are willing to get their hands dirty for God's work. They even run the risk of being misunderstood. Still up for the job? Ironically, a peace maker "fights" for peace. It is going to war with other countries because freedom isn't free. True peace needs to attack the root of the problem. A cease fire is merely a bandaid on a hemmorage. Reconciliation is choosing for the benefit of others for no selfish reward.
If you have noticed by now, the Beatitudes are written in a very specific order. The task gets 'harder' to do and are virutally impossible without God's supernatural intervention working in our lives. You begin with recognizing spiritual poverty and end with getting messy, dirty and misunderstood for the glory of God.
Matthew 5:10 "Blessed are those of you who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
John 16:33 acknowledges that in this world, we will have trouble. (Did you read the hub on Genesis and the beginning? Satan is presently at the helm of the ship and running in straight into the corral reef.) But Christians are to take heart, for Christ has overcome the world. When he didn't stay dead after dying in our place on the cross for our sins, but rose on the third day, he not only paid the wages for sin but proved who's boss. God wins! He is bigger than the bully who is in the world presently, and trust me, his day will come.
To be persecuted is to be mocked, imprisoned, killed, or biased against for trusting in Christ. It is our quiet acceptance that God will envoke quite a reaction from unbelievers and firmly aligning yourself with Jesus will make you an enemy of others by default. We need to give up the martyr complex and realize that they hated Jesus first. Darkness cannot live in light.
"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Say what? They hate you, that's great! Really? Think of it as a barometer. The more like Christ you become, the more you will be hated. That makes turning the other cheek so much more infuriating. You don't engage in their hatred, you love them to the cross. You heap kindness on their undeserving heart. You exercise patience, meekness, faithfullness, charity and send them seething. They can't touch you. You belong to the king. And nothing goes unnoticed by Him, your reward is great in heaven. You aren't the first, you won't be the last.
The passage ends with verses 13-16. "We are the salt of the earth . . . we are the light of the world." We are called to put these things into practice and be salt; preserving that which is rotting and giving taste to the bland. We are light when the darkness has so many stumbling in frustration. We know the answer. Be bold and go share it. Be encouraged, you aren't alone! Jesus is waiting.
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