September 15, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ” (Colossians 3.12, 13)
When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray,” they were not prioritizing John’s teaching ministry above Jesus’s ministry teaching. They had chosen to follow Jesus instead of John. John the Baptizer even sent disciples to Jesus saying “Follow Him.” So, what might they have been asking for? I believe they knew and had experienced the power of John’s prayer life. If Jesus was the greater as John became the lesser, then they may have been asking for the instruction that leads to an even greater and more powerful prayer life. Thus, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” And Jesus answered:
“Abba, Father, You who dwell in the heavenly places, hallowed is Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our indebtedness to sin and trespasses as we forgive those whose sin and trespasses against us have left them indebted as well. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One, for Yours alone is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. AMEN.“
Now we know Jesus prayed other prayers and we have scriptural record of them. But, when Jesus prayed this prayer He was speaking as one “clothed in righteousness.” It was all about our attitude in prayer and our attitude about prayer. It is about establishing the foundations of spiritual relationship between human beings and God from the human side of the equation. When Jesus used this paradigm of prayer as the benchmark for effective praying, it was rising up out of His own relationship with God, His Heavenly Father. It influenced all His interactions with people He met in every walk of life. It was His “ground zero” prayer as if to say “The effective walk of a disciple starts here.“
Following that “X” marks the spot literary device so often used in biblical teaching we find that AB X B’A’ formula. The prayer Jesus proposed as the answer to the disciples’ question began and ended with praising God and recognizing His priority. Inside of that we see the compelling request for personal provision (daily bread and wisdom against temptation). What lies at the heart of Jesus’ prayer was the non-negotiable and necessary “right relationship” identification of the community of faith which must exist between God-self-others. Omitting any one of those three elements stripped the community of faith of “kingdom, power and glory” forever. We cannot be a true community of faith if we are a community of one and avoid being a community of “oneness.” We need God and others surrounding us to be a faith community. Equally, others need God and us surrounding them to be a faith community. Paul makes this intimately clear to the community of faith in Colossae as he wrote to them, “Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Even Jesus answer to Peter’s query about “how many times do I have to forgive someone” with “seven times, seventy times, seven times seventy times” makes it abundantly clear about where the true power comes from. It rises out of an attitude of being forgiving as we have been forgiven even when it seems we are not forgivable. And this is a very important element in keeping the community of faith authentic and intact. Why?
Well, because not one of us, save God the Father-Son-Holy Spirit, is perfect. But, we are called to pursue perfection by using our God-given talents, gifts and abilities to build up one another until we attain the full measure and stature of Jesus Christ Himself who is the Head of the Body– the community of faith “we” call The Church. That means we will often speak the “truth” in love and sometimes it will be a harsh truth of undeniable reality regardless of how much we will deny it: seven times, seventy times, seven times seventy times. Is that you? Is that me? Is that us? The answer is “yes” with the prayerful hope of the number growing less and less as we become better disciples. We can hearken back to the word of God repeated in 2 Chronicles 7.14 which says “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” “My people” are the community of faith with Yahweh Elohim as the central focus and locus of power, dominion and glory. The paradigm has already been established. If the people do not put themselves into proper alignment with the will and desire of God, then the hope of life is missed. It isn’t that God is withholding it as much as “the people” miss the mark and thus miss what God has wanted to do all the while.
Paul uses that term “miss the mark” to describe what sin is and does in our lives. In greek, it is hamartia. Often described as the archer’s arrow being mis-aimed, it is also symbolic of not “keeping one’s eye on the prize.” What happens if you are too busy on your cellphone while driving and your exit is coming up? You may be in the wrong lane. Siri’s instructions may be muted or displaced by the conversation you are having via text or a call or scrolling. Suddenly you realize, whether too late or barely in time, this is your exit. Now possible dangerous driving tactics are engaged: you lane dive, you forget to signal, you cut others off without warning, you signal with entitlement demanding everyone else’s obedient submission to your will, you road rage against others and quite probably against God. But, what happens if you keep your eyes on the road, focus on the purpose of your journey and drive friendly (albeit with a call to defensive driving over against offensive driving)? You stay “in the flow” of traffic, watch for the critical signage, appropriate the exit smoothly without inhibiting others and move toward your destination with calmness and confidence. What we don’t want to do in our “journey of faith” is to miss our connection to the seamlessness of the flow of God’s mercy, grace and design for success. Our sin can move us off the mark of that good connection in that proverbial “seven, seventy, seven times seventy” degree and the result of it is frustrating and devastating. There is a better way: recognize, seek forgiveness; repent, be forgiven; receive, be forgiving. It is the way, the truth and the life of the believer in Jesus Christ which not only seeks community in faith, but builds up that community of faith and maintains that community by faith.
The disciples’ query of “Lord, teach us how to pray” was making the right connection to the flow of “Lord, teach us how to live.” What was Jesus’ answer but “When you pray (read live), pray (read live) like this: Abba, our Father who dwells in Heaven, hallowed is Your name….“
“…Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our indebtedness to sin and trespasses as we forgive those whose sin and trespasses against us have left them indebted as well. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One, for Yours alone is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. AMEN.“