March 21

“Pray then in this way . . .”

Scripture: Matthew 6: 9-15

9″This, then, is how you should pray:
   ” ‘Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
 10 your kingdom come,
   your will be done
      on earth as it is in heaven.
 11 Give us today our daily bread.
 12 Forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 13 And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Reader: This is the word of the Lord.   Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
Right after Jesus talked about the importance of praying, he gave us an example of how to do it. Notice the careful choice of words. He begins, “Our Father in heaven…” He makes a point of reminding us of whose we are at the same time reminding us of the existence of another world we cannot see. (The Bible is the one book that presumes, other dimensions and worlds outside the four dimensions we live in.) Perhaps it would be wise to think a little more carefully than we sometimes do in how we begin prayers. It might be that “God, we ask you to…” may not be the most thoughtful, reverent way to address our Creator. Our words belie our shallow understanding of the One we address. “God” is not meant as a punctuation mark. Notice the way Jesus addresses his Father in John 17. He is always mindful of who he is and who his Father is. The truth is, we live in a culture that has a very casual, dare I say shallow(?), view of God. In our worship, we give priority to being casual, late (it doesn’t matter), comfortable and relaxed. Those are the characteristics of what we want in our relationship with God. Our prayers often reflect a similar attitude in the words we use. Just listen to the opening words of our praying as contrasted to Jesus’ words here as he was teaching the disciples as to how to pray. It may be that we should pay a little closer attention to this prayer and learn from what Jesus said. Certainly there are times when a prayer is as short and urgent as “Help, Lord!”  Though Jesus is our friend, he is also our coming King, our constant Intercessor, our victorious Warrior, our compassionate Redeemer, our holy Savior, which does not make us equal! In his prayers, Jesus was always very aware of the Father/Son relationship. That kind of awareness is perhaps something we can tune our hearts to in our prayers. As you pray this week, notice how you begin your prayers. You are talking to the Creator of the universe and of all that was, is, and is to come . . . and he has revealed himself to you. Listen as well as talk.

Music: “The Lord’s Prayer”   Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, forgive us for those times we pray without thinking of the One to whom we are talking; for those times when we babble, lost in our words and our little world, oblivious to your grand design; for those times when we tell you how to solve our problems and how to be God; and for those times when we are disrespectful and arrogant in our prayers as we seek to be clever or earthy. Teach us to pray as your dear Son prayed, for it is in his name that we offer this prayer. Amen. ―Dan Sharp

Book Recommendation: A Diary of Private Prayer,  John Baillie, Scribner’s