Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day 13: Matthew 6:1-15; Psalm 13 - How Should We Pray?

Today's Reading: Matthew 6:1-15; Psalm 13

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How Should We Pray?

 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 evil. - Matthew 6:9-13, ESV

Some things can be so familiar and yet we still don't understand them. The Lord's Prayer, as this prayer from Jesus has come to be known, has been memorized, recited and prayed more often than almost any other passage of Scripture. Yet, do we see what Jesus is teaching us here. When Jesus says, "Pray then like this," He is not asking us to memorize and continually repeat the words of this prayer. He is giving us a pattern for how we should pray, and, by extension, for how we should live.

The first half of this short prayer is focused entirely on God - on the honor of His name, on the coming of His kingdom, on the fulfillment of His will. In this, Jesus shows us that prayer is first and foremost about God, just as life is first and foremost about God. We must seek first, in prayer and in life, the reverence of God and the furtherance of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Once we have our priorities properly focused on God and His name, kingdom and will, we then turn to our needs. But notice that our needs are primarily spiritual in nature. Jesus teaches us to ask for our daily bread- which could mean basic physical needs or our daily spiritual nourishment- but then the majority of our prayer for our needs is focused on forgiveness and temptation. Our greatest needs are to have our sins forgiven, to be willing to forgive others and to be protected from temptation and evil.

Jesus' perspective in this prayer is the eternal one and thus the correct one: God is most important and our greatest need is for a life aligned with, united to and committed to glorifying Him. So, pray like this!

Prayer based on Psalm 13: How long, O Lord?

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?    How long will you hide your face from me?

Heavenly Father, I know too well those seasons of life when You seem very distance, when Your presence seems cold and shrouded and faint. Sometimes it does seem like Your face is hidden and I know that You are the One my soul most needs.

How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Lord, I have known those times when I felt absolutely cast down and crushed by my enemy, eaten up with guilt and shame, feeling helpless to conquer my sin and live in obedience, wracked with doubt or spiritual apathy. There are other times, like right now, when I look around at my culture and I wonder where You are, how You can let things be so disturbing, so evil, so troubled. I weep for "the land of my sojourn" and I cry out to You for her.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

Father, please answer the pleas of Your people for the mercy we need. Deliver Your people from slavery to sin, addiction, worldliness, selfishness. Don't let our enemy rejoice over us and don't let Your church grow any weaker or more compromised than she already is. Come to our rescue and strengthen us in the face of our enemies. 

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

I do trust in You. I do rejoice in Your salvation. I do give thanks for Your kindness and generosity to me and to Your people. You have been so generous and so kind and so good, so let me rest in Your care and let me trust in Your wisdom, power and goodness, now and always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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