Sabbath Thought - Model Prayer
In Matthew 6 Jesus Christ taught His disciples how to pray. Prayer was not unknown to the Jews (or Israel) but public prayer had become a matter of show. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites (v.2) because they wanted to be seen by others as righteous or spiritual rather than focusing on their relationship with God. As Jesus worked with the disciples, they could see that the Pharisees really didn't pray in the right way or for the right reasons. It is a credit to them that they asked Christ how to pray properly.
Jesus predicated His instruction by stating that our personal prayers should be in private (v.5-6). After all, prayer is primarily about a relationship between God and us, so it is personal. In any relationship we do not publically share everything in that relationship. There are times when our relationships (and even our prayers) are public, but relationships are primarily personal by nature - and our prayers should be too.
Jesus went on to instruct the disciples that prayer is not about repeating certain words, special words or expressions (v.7). To do so makes them pointless after a time. Connected to this is the aspect of "sympathetic magic", which is, if I say or do something in a certain way before my god, he has to listen and do what I ask. We owe God everything, not the other way around. We are not to pray like the Pharisees did (v.8), or to copy the use of "traditional prayers" for the reasons mentioned regarding v.7.
Jesus then gave an outline, or a model, prayer to show His disciples a summary of what we should pray about, and the focus and priorities we should have. First off, Christ shows us that we should remember to acknowledge God's sovereignty and holiness (v.9). How do we "hallow" God's name? Hallow means to make something holy or sacred. We cannot make anything holy - only God's presence in something makes it holy. We can acknowledge that something is holy or sacred. We can honor Him, value Him, and reverence Him as He deserves for all that He blesses us with.
Jesus reminds us next to ask for His Kingdom to come (v.10a). Do we long for His Kingdom - for that time of peace and truth? The world is filling with violence, and truth is fluid to the point of being useless. Are we preparing for the time when the events that take place on the earth will reflect the will of God in Heaven (v.10b)? The word "will" in this verse has to do with "a determination or purpose". Do we reflect God's will? Are we determined (with His help) to be in that Kingdom - or will we let the politics, the anger, the selfishness of this world derail us?
Christ then tells us to address our needs - "Give us this day our daily bread." Our wants are different from our needs. We need food to survive, we don't need the most luxurious car to get us where we are going. The western nations are awash in wealth (comparatively in history) and yet we chase more, thinking things fill the spiritual void in our hearts. One positive aspect of the COVID crisis is that it has forced people to analyze what true needs are. How about us - are we prepared to lower our standard of living if it means being in God's Kingdom or not?
Next up is the reminder that as we ask God to "forgive us our debts" we need to remember that He does so "as we forgive our debtors". How forgiving are we, especially consider how much we need to be forgiven? The connection is made with temptation in v.13. God doesn't entice or tempt us with doing wrong, rather the thought is translated better as "keep us from being tempted". This is validated with the request to keep us from "the evil one". Satan can only do what God allows. The world is rejecting God, so He allows Satan to inflict his will on mankind for now. Do we regularly pray for God's protection so we can serve Him?
God's Kingdom is coming (v.13b)! His glory will be established. May it come soon. Prayer is a powerful connection between us and God. We have a special relationship with the Creator of the universe because He wants to be one with us! Think on these things the next time you pray.
I wish you a profitable and value filled Sabbath,
21 August, 2020