“Do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of” — Ben Franklin . I was praying this morning, thinking about this day. How God made it the basic unit of time. (“there was evening, there was morning, one day”, Genesis 1) I was thinking how satisfying it would be if I could focus my expectations and energies on just the next 24 hours. What would happen if tomorrow I could report to the Lord that today I looked up, didn’t worrry, served others, was generous with my time and my words. And isn’t life, ultimately, just the aggregate of many days? When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I ask Him to give me what I need. I am wondering what life would be like if I gave Him what He deserved . . .just for today.
If the Jesus prayer begins in Adoration (Our Father, Thy Kingdom, Thy will), it moves eventually to Asking (Give us, Forgive us) and I am not sure which takes more faith. Asking is hard for me. It feels selfish. It opens the possibility of rejection. So sometimes, I don’t (unless you count complaining and hoping that the Lord takes the hint). BIG MISTAKE! Yesterday, I was driving home. Traffic was stalled on 281. I needed to change lanes for my exit. Rather that “force my way” into some opening, I put on my blinker. Ok, it’s a mild ask, but still an ask. The result? Some kind soul paused and let me move on. It really does work! “If you being evil know how to give good gifts. . .how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matt.7:11) Keep praying, dear friend. We still have much to learn.
I woke today with anxiety– many things to do, concern for time to do them. I don’t often wonder where the food I need for a particular day will come from. I do often wonder where I will find enough time or energy or wisdom. My sinful tendency is to “internalize” these needs, to find an answer within the very “small circle” of my own abilities. What I don’t naturally do, and never would have without the instruction of Christ, is to ask for help. Maybe I feel guilty asking for more, when He has already given so much. Maybe I don’t know whether I need something or just think I do. Or maybe, I need to learn the Jesus-life of open dependency on God. No secrets, no pride, no anxiety, no “days off” from trusting Him. Who knew that the everyday prayer would teach me everyday trust? More on this tomorrow. . .
I can never tell, when I pray these words, whether the Lord wants me to emphasize thy will (as opposed to my will) or be done (as opposed to just talked about or considered). Perhaps both. Today, I am thinking of the second. I am asking Him to move me to action, to see His will and do something about it. And not only me but the whole human race. (Here the prayer will move back toward the desire for all to hallow his name, for all to do his will.) I wonder what life on this planet would be if we prayed this prayer and He answered with a fresh wave of energy for obedience. Jesus said “my food is to do His will and finish His work” (John 4). Heavenly Father, make me like your son!
How would you describe the activity of Heaven? How do the citizens of that BRIGHT LAND do God’s will? Joyfully? Immediately? Wholeheartedly? Completely? The Puritans used to say that “God loveth adverbs”. ie how we do God’s will is as important as that we do it. Honest, what is your attitude about doing God’s will today? Do you complain? procrastinate? accomplish the bare minimum? When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I sign up for more than doing His will. I surrender myself to doing it in a heavenly way! May this reflections on the words of Christ and our memories of His wholeheartedness inspire all of us as we make our way to a place of worship this morning. What would worship on earth look like if it were patterned after the worship in heaven?
If God is our Father, then we must be children. “Unless you are converted and become as children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, and whoever humbles himself, even as this child, is greatest in the kingdom” (Matt 18:3-4) Praying the Jesus-prayer means that we embrace the joyful dependence of a child. It means we reject any sense of self-sufficiency, every burden of self-reliance. The aspect of childlikeness that Jesus is affirming is humility, says John Piper. ” If my people will humble themselves and pray”. . .either you will be certain that you are adequate for the challenges of life, or you will be certain that He is adequate. When you pray, today, will you be a joyful, confident child?
Have you ever been to a holy place, a place where you felt the need to be silent and respectful? Maybe a cemetery or a sanctuary? William Barclay says that “hallowed be thy name” is often the least understood part of the Lord’s prayer. When Jesus used an adjective (holy) as a verb (let it be regarded as holy), he was teaching me to pray that people (all people, including me) would have a similar reaction of respect and reverence for God (His name). God’s command is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:12) but stillness, much less reverence is, often, NOT what we give Him. Today, ask God for this miracle! Ask Him to open our eyes so that a deep stillness will come over our hearts as we think about the Lord and speak to Him in prayer.
I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jesus wants me to think about Heaven (and teaches me to do so in His prayer) is the encouragement that comes from it. “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger, a traveling through this world of woe, but there’s no sickness, toil or danger in that BRIGHT LAND to which I go.” I wonder what my life could be if I carried an accurate perception of that BRIGHT LAND. Keep praying, dear friends. He is not only teaching us how to pray, He is teaching us how to think.
Whenever we pray “which art in heaven”, the Lord is teaching us to THINK about a PLACE that is very DIFFERENT than where we are. Most of us don’t. It’s easy to get trapped into thinking that where we are and what we feel is “all there is”. Take a minute and try this exercise. What is life like in Heaven? It may feel strange at first. Most of us are so focused on the material world that we barely have a concept of the spiritual. This is NOT what the Lord wants for us. “Set your minds on what is above, not what is on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Praying the Lord’s prayer will help.
The moment we say these words, we realize that we are not alone. The Lord does not teach me to say MY Father, He teaches me to say OUR Father. As I pray, I imagine (not because it is imaginary, but because we are, typically, so strangled with images of our isolation) a great group of people who are praying this prayer, loving this Father, with me. Be strong today. You are not alone. The Lord has a BIG family and we are seeking him together.