Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Lord's Prayer – Jesus

It’s a unique message, but do we realize that when we vocalize it? Perhaps we say the words so often that sometimes we do so without giving them much thought. Were the original hearers appreciative of its value when they heard the God-man utter “The Lord’s Prayer”? Jesus was trying to say something that the Apostles and others within earshot would apply in daily life, something that would be genuine before God. Just how important is it really, to pray correctly? After all, it’s just a few words between Him and me, not really involving anyone else. Are there not other significant worship acts that He cares about more? Jesus does mention a couple of others in close proximity to His instruction on prayer, but He seems to say something common in regard to exercising all three of them. What He says should make me reevaluate how visible my worship should be.

Jesus probably was in his early 30s, at least as a human being, when He found Himself before a large crowd seeking to hear what He’d say about life’s meaning.  He addressed many issues during His long talk (according to Matthew’s account, chapters 5-7), but at around the halfway point, He taught them how to pray. There were two other religious customs He likewise told them to re-examine, implying that they had been doing or thinking incorrectly about these things. Giving to the needy and fasting surround Jesus’ discourse on prayer, so contextually He is trying to let them into His mind regarding three pretty common worship practices. At least two of these – giving and praying – are still routinely followed by believers today, and the third (fasting) is a perhaps more exceptional devotional tool for true believers seeking Him in worship. In all three, Jesus says to either do my worshipping in solitude (giving and praying) or make it not easily detectable to others (fasting). ‘Don’t do it this way, do it thus…’ is Jesus opening for each of the three, indicating there must have been lots of so-called religious people who were showboating when they gave, prayed, and fasted. Yet, Jesus recognized that public praying was a fact of religious life, evident in the words He employs in His prayer-teaching (Matthew 6:9-13). He begins with ‘Our Father’, and similarly uses ‘us and other plural pronouns in the following few verses, signaling that He understood that praying among crowds, perhaps even very large ones, would be appropriate.  But, keep it short and simple, He says. In a nutshell, He says to enthrone Him and ask only for the basic physical and spiritual necessities. God honors that which is offered in humble submission, each of us realizing his position in relation to one another and before Him.

Not many words, but they are sufficient when one’s heart contains the impulses to do what He motivates me toward. Perhaps that’s one of the unspoken messages of Jesus’ teaching before the crowd. If I say a lot of flowery words on Sunday that others applaud, should I wonder if I’ve hit the mark? Jesus might say ‘yes’, if what I do on Monday turns His stomach, meaning I don’t practice the eloquence I verbalized the previous day. Am I really capable of superbly managing my world, the other people with whom I associate, not to mention my own urges? That’s where my prayer-rubber meets the road, so someone says. Perhaps I shouldn’t say more on Sunday than I can deliver in the following six days. Maybe that’s what Jesus was trying to tell me on that mountainside.        

The only resource used for this song story is the bible (New International Version Study Bible, and accompanying notes/charts, General Editor Kenneth Barker, 1985, Zondervan Corporation.)

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