Today’s sermon continues in the Sermon on the Mount, and we have progressed to the 6th chapter of Matthew, and the passage many call the Lord’s Prayer. It is probably one of the most familiar passages, with the obligatory memorization of it as a child.
But the sad thing i missed for so many years is how practical, how appropriate, and how logical that prayer is:
- Recognize who God is – my father
- Recognize where God is – in heaven
- Recognize what God is – hallowed, holy
- Recognize his plan – his kingdom will come to earth
- Recognize why his plan will occurr – because it is already happening in heaven.
- Recognize that God has a plan – his will be done
- Ask for physical daily needs – food, shelter, provision – today
- Ask for spiritual daily need – forgiveness
- Ask for God’s help – that we can forgive others
- Ask for God’s leadership – not into temptations
- Ask for God’s power and provision – deliver us from evil
- Resolve why this will happen – because God is the reason – his is the kingdom, his is the glory and his is the power – forever.
These last 2 years God has taught us to ask for our needs – for providing the food for our table, the money to pay bills, the job to earn money. And he has shown us how when we ask he will respond.
Forgiveness has been an issue to overcome… I have wanted often to hold on to incidents, words, experiences that have been traumatic, painful, and sucked the life out of my spirit. But I also realize how vividly clear it is to forgive others, and move on. Years ago i did a study of several passages on forgiveness, and learned that it was a common practice during Jesus time for Roman jailors to shackle dying or dead prisoners to the most hard core prisoners… often looking face to face for days. This is what unforgiveness looks like – it shackes the circumstance to you, holds you down, and it stinks. It stinks badly.
Forgiveness has been a lesson that I often thought i had gotten right, when a new wave of memories, thoughts, pain from injustices crept in, causing new anger, fresh waves of pain, and a new sense of injustice. But that is where the lord’s prayer comes back to life… if we recognize God is all powerful, has a plan, is holy, loves us enough to call us his children, and he filters everything he allows in our lives to occur. If this is true, He is using these circumstances to mold us, shape us, build up spiritual muscle, and release us from our tight control freak grip on our lives. OMG, I am such a control freak, and it needs not be true of me. If the lord’s prayer is cautiously read there are things I must do – Acknowledge the holyness of God, acknowledge he has a plan, that plan is already in force in heaven, and we must seek him for daily provisions, seek his leadership for navigating this sin scarred terraine, and open our hands to release anything that might shackle our feet, hands, mind. It is our obligation to open our hearts and our hands, and iti s God’s to provide and lead.
So prayer is a powerful place… a quiet conversation with the creator of all, the one who loves us so much and yearns to give us answers.
I must tell you that our church has taken the summer off all activities to pray, to seek the leadership of God, and to draw closer to God. There have been two corporate prayer meetings so far, and they are powerful. Saturday was our second prayer meeting. I was tired from a day at the art business, sitting in the sun, and felt weary, but eager to see what would happen with this evening. We gathered, listened to music, sung, prayed corporately, and then we were asked to pair up with someone other than our spouse…. By the time i got out of the pew there were only 2 women left to pray with… and that was good. The challenge was to wait quietly and then pray for the other person or people in your group, making the prayer a blessing, and promise from god, words of encouragement, or request for specific healing.
“So Barb, what is your need tonight? How can we pray?” Hmm, I know there is so much to ask for, but the one thought that hangs on my heart is related to the idea of forgiveness, and overcoming the past – ‘Well, God has done so much for me, and i want to continue to thank him for his work in my life, but the one thing i need is healing from the emotional scars of the toxic experiences of my past. I need to stop filtering life through toxic lenses… Iam holding the verses in Isaiah 43 seriously – “Remember ye not the former things, nor consider the things of old. now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.” and i want that new thing. I want the freedom to love and respect people in my life without questioning their motives, words, judging their actions just because they remind me of someone in the toxic past.” So we prayed, and i honestly believe this work will happen….
But the real privelege of prayer was one of the other gals in the group, who confessed her desperate need to be healed from the sins and scars of her past. My request made her cry because apaprently she was right at the same point of wanting life to be made new, of pain and scars to be healed, and of the courage to follow the lord, laying down the patterns of sin of the past. We prayed as a group,sensing that her heart and her desires were deeply painfully sincere. She said she felt like large weights were lifted from her shoulders. My prayer is that each day she will continue to look to God for her strength to move beyond what had happened, an that life would be new again, vibrant, and she would remain hungry for God in her life.
this is what i love… the need we have for community – for others that can walk along side us, and pray us through times of struggle. For hugs, and laughter shared when times are blessings, and for that iron that sharpens iron experience of other christians sharpening the faith in me by their love, their prayers, their willingness to gather, to care, to listen.