Reflection for Sunday 10th December 2017

Matthew 6:5-14

IMG_0471 (2)Everyone prays. The prayers we pray are what form our lives. They express our faith as we walk in the world. They express our inner voice. Prayed to God they are the foundation of our hope and breathe our knowledge of God, coming from the heart, coming from our forgiven centre. In them we know God.

I see God as being involved intimately in every moment of creation engaging with all prayer. My understanding of God is that he has placed my future in my hands and we are fully in his hands. I believe this because of the framing of the prayer Jesus teaches. Some say God, by his nature, is unchanging and unmoving. I think he is more than this. God by his very nature is beyond what we can conceive. I believe this from my reading of scripture. I see God as engaging evil in a way that allows us to choose good and defeat it. It is his will that we are one as he is One and that we love one another. He turns the outcomes of our failing into opportunities for good, for us to turn to better ways, for salvation. If we fall he picks us up. Yes we experience loss and pain but God brings good out of it. God suffers on the cross.

I see our universe as a forgiven universe, where the revelation of the cross is the revelation of God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I see this as always having been so, though having been shown to us at the right time. God gets his hands dirty from the beginning forming us from the dust of the earth, he is changed and moved by our condition and our asking yet remains God.

The author, Tozer in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, sees the rule of God in the world as like a ship bound for a harbour. The passengers on the ship live their lives on board but the ship carries them to their destination. The lives of those on the ship are free but the course the ship sets is in the hands of its pilot. Prayer opens us up to seeing the course of God’s rule, his guiding and the way things are and our inclusion in God’s rule.

Jesus’ prayer is from its first words inclusive, universal, and welcomes us in to a relationship with God, our Father. This is the reward of seeking intimacy with God. Jesus would have prayed the eighteen blessings, three times a day as a good Jew. This prayer is said standing up and declares the faith of Israel in God’s character as God’s people. Jesus lived that prayer, and reveals its truth to Israel.

Jesus calls us to the universal Father- the Father of all not just the father of Israel. It puts in our hearts and causes us to express the desire that his people, all people, will bring glory to his name in their lives and in their praise, here on earth as it is in Heaven. Heaven is where God dwells, beyond the horizon, in unapproachable light. The prayer is a call for us to stand assured in God’s presence which is as close as a breath on the earth. Here. Now. In God’s presence, we know only love for God and for our neighbour. We love our enemies.

From this high place, we are brought down to earth seamlessly in to the reality of daily existence. As, I believe, our futures are open in the hands of God, so we ask God for our daily bread, what we need now; the food we need. This is not certain. For many it is the focus of their day. God asks us to involve him in our need to eat. Many have little to eat and dirty water to drink through no fault of their own.

We ask, as God loves us to ask. God knows our prayers before we ask, no moment is not known to him. This prayer for food forms our choice throughout the day and opens us up to thanksgiving and trust. Sometimes we will know abundance and sometimes want, but God is with us in our needs, in our asking and in our receiving. Food for our bodies can’t be taken for granted and its availability can make us complacent or doubt God’s goodness. God cares. In sharing our needs with our loving Father we are opened up to the needs of others. We become the way of kindness. We invite God into our longing.

IMG_1200Blessed are you Lord God who is our provider. May the ground yield its fullness and may we share together in its bounty as we steward wisely the earth you have given us.

Next, we ask God to forgive us the debt of wrong choices we have made. We, in speaking the prayer, declare our forgiveness of others who have wronged us. It is the practice of the church to examine our consciences before praying the prayer Jesus teaches.

The prayer prompts us to declare our forgiveness of others and opens us up to receive the forgiveness God gives by grace. Our forgiveness is entirely by grace, not dependent on us or a form of words. Our faith in Jesus is our forgiveness. Faith in Jesus sets us free from sin. We need God to work through our words of forgiveness to deepen our knowledge of the forgiveness we have received even while we were still bound by sin. We become forgiving as he is forgiving; as we understand others and forgive we come to know that God understands us too and forgives us.

An interpretation of Jesus’ words can be, As we forgive others in this moment, having examined our consciences, forgive us our trespasses and debts or, Forgiving God as we forgive others reassure our hearts that we are known by you and forgiven. It is a work of God’s grace to reveal to us the depth of the forgiveness we have received and for us to participate in sharing this gift.

IMG_1202Blessed are you Lord God who forgives. Open our eyes Lord, to your forgiveness as we forgive others as Jesus taught us.

God in his goodness knows all things. There is nothing that happens to us that is not held in the knowledge of God. This is beyond our understanding and in this truth our choices are not predetermined. He places, as I believe, the future in our hands but being God, he knows all futures and being God, he has planned goodness in all our choices. God is good all the time. So, we pray in the time of trial we will not fail.

God does not tempt anyone. The word “lead” that we pray in English does not carry the whole meaning. Maybe, “do not let us” completes its meaning. Do not let us fall in the time of trial, carries the meaning better for me. Do not let us fall into temptation in the time of trial is a prayer that acknowledges our weakness and that we might fall. We know our weaknesses, our tendency to pride and arrogance, to self-righteousness. We pray that in all our troubles, in all circumstances, our eyes are open to the goodness God has planned for us. We want to see God’s name lifted high on earth as it is in heaven. In the prayer, our hearts are prepared for the troubles and trials, and in us asking God that these will not cause us to fall, our expectation is formed that our eyes will be opened and we are trusting God to answer our need and for strength to persevere.

IMG_1202Blessed are you Lord God who is our guide. Teach us your ways and show us how in our choices we might worship you.

Finally, the prayer Jesus taught acknowledges that evil is an enemy. There is an evil malignant presence in creation. The powers and principalities act in every manner possible to rob us of our present blessing and separate us from the goodness of God. We ask for God’s deliverance in an uncertain and dangerous world. Today might be our last.

Blessed are you lord God who redeems us from our enemy. Deliver us from oppression physical, mental and spiritual that we may love you and you alone with all we are.

The prayer Jesus teaches leads me to an understanding of my walk in this world. I am in God’s rule, prepared from eternity to enjoy God, secure in his love and to know him in intimacy as Father. The prayer that Jesus taught forms me. It forms the people he knows from the beginning.

My world may feel like a wilderness. The wilderness is a tough environment, an external threat to our wellbeing. The western way is to internalise the wilderness and take it as a metaphor, sometimes making its experience a virtue.

Jesus teaches us to pray that we will not be lead into temptation in times of trial. He warns us that each day will have its troubles. In his prayer, we pray for our daily bread. Nothing is certain but we are told not to worry. This is a call to trust. It is a call to faith in the to and fro of chance and time, in being the victim of biology, history or geography. Our inner land is one of faith. Faith in God, faith that we are loved: to believe in the God who is love, compassion, mercy, steadfastness and justice. This is our task. This is where our prayer begins. It’s the real world.

IMG_1203Our Father in heaven loves us and is worthy to be praised.  We are to know the unity of the Holy Spirit and be as he is, One in loving all.

The dark night of the soul is to find yourself in a prison, deprived of daylight and on meagre rations. Your physical reality is that your horizon is the bars of your cell and you crave darkness to hide the awfulness of your plight. It’s outside circumstances battling with the inner world. The struggle is with the temptation to despair. It’s a questioning and deepening of faith in the reality within. It’s holding on to love despite everything.

In my opinion, all suffering stinks and is never good. Ultimately there is no pain, there are no tears nor is there suffering in the presence of God. Suffering is the work of the evil one and we are to call him and his works evil. Suffering is evil. Suffering may deepen our faith but that does not mean that faith is deepened by suffering. It is the presence of God in each moment of suffering that deepens faith, it’s being humble, accepting where we have done wrong, forgiving the wrongs others do to us and walking in new life. The truth is, in my experience, faith is more often shipwrecked by suffering than strengthened. To be detached and wifty-wafty about suffering is perverse in my estimation and anything that says otherwise sounds like a fairy tail to me. The reality of creation is that the creator, God, is humble and we get to choose life. Death exists but is not inevitable. We have a choice.

I think we need to be sickened and angered by suffering, not complacent and accepting because it really is not nice and pretending it is, and is somehow God’s will, is nuts. Jesus teaches us to pray, in the time of trial, do not abandon us and deliver us from evil. We place ourselves in God’s hands. He does not teach us in the prayer to be thankful for trials or excuse evil. Jesus does not teach a philosophy of suffering but gets his hands dirty and confronts it and strengthens us for the troubles of the day.

 

 

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