Lord, teach us to pray 1

Matt 6:5-15 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Prayer is not mysterious. Prayer is a conversation, as with a friend.

And yet, prayer is very mysterious. It is a conversation with the creator of the universe. What power! But what intimacy and tender loving care!

Prayer changes things, unlike worrying, which does nothing positive. Praying is trusting God to act. Trusting God to act in our best interest, which includes his saying no to some of our requests. Praying opens up time and space for God to reveal his will to us, to guide us, to love us. I find in hindsight, sometimes I’m glad I didn’t get what I asked for, that God in his wisdom (greater than mine!) said no.

Paul wrote to the Philippians 4:6-7 Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

God is always available, always cares, and always listens. God delights in his creation, in you. God cherishes time spent with you. God is generous and gives what you need. If he doesn’t give you the million dollars you asked for, it’s because you don’t need them!

We tell God our requests. We remember that he cares. We know he is powerful. We thank him for his faithfulness.

Today, we will read from the Gospel written by Matthew. Jesus preached a massive sermon – it covers chapters 5,6 & 7 in Matthew. It is commonly referred as the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s bit comes from chapter 6 – the middle of the sermon.

Jesus opposes 2 kinds of prayers – those who stand on street corners for show and those who babble on endlessly. We can view the Lord’s Prayer as given words to pray – the Jewish people in Jesus’ day recited prayers all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that and a good deal right, as long as we don’t say the words mindlessly, which is the danger in memorizing prayers.  Then it becomes babble. But if we recite the Lord’s Prayer as prayer, when we want those things we pray – the coming of the kingdom, and our daily bread – then it is helpful in learning how to pray. It is a good model.

God knows what we need before we pray. God doesn’t know what we will say, but he knows our needs! Not what we think we need. God has a different perspective on our needs than we do, a larger, infinite and wiser perspective.

Today’s little section to be explored: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Our – means we live in community, we are not first and foremost individuals in God’s eyes

Father – indicates a family relationship; we are sons and daughters through Jesus, who is Son of God. Abba; Daddy. To call God “Father” in prayer is to receive God’s love, to know his power and to seek to embody his will.

In heaven – the German words for heaven and sky are the same. So it was in Jesus’ day. Heaven wasn’t a place far away. Heaven is here, now, God is in us, among us, as well as everywhere else. That is still where heaven is today.

Hallowed be – make holy, be honoured, be glorified, be sanctified, be made real

Your name – back in Jesus’ days, without police checks, internet, or record keeping, one’s name is one’s reputation, one’s character. It is who God is: Yahweh.

In this statement, “Hallowed be your name,” Jesus is asking God to make his name holy. We do not – we cannot! In praying this, we are asking God to keep up his reputation of being loving and righteous. We are asking God to be and act in ways that bring honour and glory to himself. (ex. Ezek 36:22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.”)

Who do we want to rule over us? God who is good and loves us? Or something less perfect?

Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Joshua, or Y’shua, meaning “Yahweh saves.” In everything Jesus does, the saving character of God is revealed. It is the deepest passion of Jesus to reveal the nature and character of God. This is why Jesus died on the cross. John 12:27-28 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

Jesus is God, God is Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, God died. God died for your sins. God took them away from you and paid the price so justice was served. Death separates the sin from the sinner.

In “The Shack,” the father, Mack, was willing to stand in for his children so they would not have to go to hell. That is what God did for everyone. As Christians, we believe this and we accept this gift and rejoice!

…and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us.” Jesus is now with us always, in our hearts, in our lives, everywhere. Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, when we accept this gift, it is ours to keep. This is the choice to make.

Sign 6: Do You See?

John, Chapter 9 (all of it)

The disciples ask why the man is blind – they want to place blame. Jesus says it’s nobody’s fault. So that means that bad things happen for no reason, not because that person or his parents are sinners and are getting punished. The reason why he is blind is so that God can demonstrate that God exists and is involved in human lives. God through Jesus gives sight to the blind. Undisputed. Therefore, God exists. Everyone in the story agrees that only God can make the blind see. This blind man saw. Therefore, the only conclusion that can logically berawn is that God exists and that Jesus is from God/is God.

We can be like the Pharisees who don’t acknowledge that a miracle occurred. They only see that Jesus broke their Sabbath rules and therefore, they conclude that he cannot be the Son of God, that he is a sinner. They can’t imagine that there is a higher calling than obeying all their rules – that healing a blind person takes priority. That love is more important than rules. That doing the right thing and rejoicing over miracles trumps counting your steps. God said to keep the Sabbath holy. Who said that giving sight to the blind doesn’t fit that category? Jesus said God made the Sabath for us, it is a gift that is meant to restore us. Mark 2:27 says “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was a day to take it slower, to listen for God in life. To notice miracles. Not to count your steps and make sure you’re not doing anything you shouldn’t be doing according to human rules. The Sabbath was not about rule keeping, it was about taking a day of rest. A time to reconnect with yourself, with your family, and a time to sit back and take notice of God in your life.

So my word for this year is PAUSE. It is exactly about that – Sabbath keeping – because it’s something I don’t do well. And the challenge is to not beat myself up about it, because it isn’t about keeping rules. It’s about being, and being still. Looking for God in the ordinary events of the day. Noticing everyday miracles. Opening up to the possibility that God loves you and wants the best for you and is actively involved in your life already. Praying to God to helps with that. So at the beginning of this year, to help with pausing, I started a prayer journal. I started writing down some prayers. I try to have a quiet time in the mornings, and sometimes it actually happens. So I sit down and think about what I want God to change in my life and in the lives of other people and I write those things down. I don’t make it a thing I “have to do” so it’s not like the Pharisees “have to do list”. Then I revisit the notes I’ve made and on the opposite page, if something has worked itself out, I write that down too. And more often than not, I realize that prayers are answered. Some sooner, others later, and others not yet, or I haven’t realized that the answer was something other than what I was waiting for. All of this helps me to pause, which helps me to see God in the world. Otherwise, I’d be blind like the Pharisees. They only see the rules, they don’t see God at work. That’s what Jesus was talking about at the end of the story – when they asked, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?” That’s exactly what he was saying.

Sign 5: Jesus Comes in the Middle of the Storm

John 6 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

  • Jesus spent time alone in prayer to recharge. This is important for us as well.
  • The disciples rowing in the storm were already afraid to die before Jesus came to them. It is highly likely that they couldn’t swim.
  • Everyone back then knew for a certainty that walking on water is only something someone divine can do: Jesus walking on the water is a clear sign to them that Jesus is divine, that is, he is God. This sign, therefore, gives clear evidence to those hearing this story that prove that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, with power and authority equal with God the Father
  • Jesus walked on the water to show His disciples that the very thing they feared, the raging sea, was just a set of steps for Him to come to them.
  • Jesus was testing the disciples’ faith once again, they were in a position where there was nothing more they could do themselves to get out of this disaster on the sea.

This is the definitive miracle that caused the disciples to believe in him.

The disciples needed multiple miracles in order to “get it” that Jesus was God and was from God, that he had come to save the world from evil, not from the Romans.

Jesus comes to people in the storms of life. Jesus may not come at the time we think He should, because He knows when we need Him the most. Jesus had waited until the boat was as far from land as possible, when all their hope was gone. Often we fear the difficult experiences of life such as illness, loss of loved ones, and financial hardships only to discover that these experiences can bring Jesus closer to us.

So why didn’t they recognize Jesus? Because they weren’t looking for Him. Had they been waiting by faith, they would have known Him instantly. Instead, they jumped to the false conclusion that he was a ghost. The point is this: fear and faith cannot live in the same heart, because fear often blinds us to God’s presence.

We sometimes say that God is love. In 1 John, he writes that perfect love casts out fear – fear and love can’t co-exist.

1 John 4:17-18 (MSG) God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

1 John 4:18 (NIV) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The fear/love is a spectrum. The more fear you have, the less love is possible. The more love you have, the more you lose the fear. You grow in trusting God that he will be with you in times of trouble. God doesn’t take the trouble away, but walks you through it. Remember the Footprints Poem: “When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”