Matthew 6:5-15 (The Message-Eugene Peterson)
5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” (from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount)
Are you praying? I hope you are following my lead and are setting aside time daily to pray for our Thrive Project. I have set an alarm on my phone for 8:00 a.m. as a reminder for my prayer time. Would you set your alarm for a specific time every morning to pray specifically for this work?
But, how do we know what to pray for? Fortunately, Jesus knew our struggles and has given us models of praying to follow. Notice the one in the scripture lesson for today is a different version of the “Lord’s Prayer.” I think Eugene Peterson does an excellent job of modernizing this prayer for us today. First, pray simply and in the quietness of a still, calm environment. This helps us with distractions and stills the mind and spirit.
Second, we don’t have to even know what exactly to ask for! Isn’t that good news? Just be honest before God and recognize your ultimate need for His presence. And third, recognize that prayer is a beginning point for change in us, not God. We don’t have to convince God by the fervor or veracity of our prayers to do good for us. God loves us, and wants what’s best for us. So, we pray simply: God, you are good and you want good in and from us. Help us. Help us recognize the blessings we already have. Help us discern the ways you may be asking us to modify our behaviors. And finally, help us to see that in the end all will be well because you will make it so. In the meantime, show us the things that are good and right in your eyes for THIS day.
For this Thrive Project, Lord, lead us to find ways to participate in your saving work you are accomplishing in this very place, for the sake of your Kingdom and for the blessing of the world. Amen.