Devotional Thoughts Matthew 6:7-21
January 26, – February 1, 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases” (Matthew 6:7).
Two new bikes fresh from the wrapping paper of Christmas leaned against the park picnic table. Sitting on top of the table the bike’s owners Mike and Tommy discussed their presents. “I wasn’t sure I was going to get a bike for Christmas,” Mike confessed. “I kept asking my dad if I could have a bike at least once a week. I think he finally bought me the bike so that I’d stop asking him about it.” “Boy, I’m glad I didn’t have to do that,” observed Tom. “I knew my dad wanted me to have a bike. All I had to do was ask him once. After that I simply thanked him for getting me a bike. I really wasn’t surprised when I saw it next to the tree on Christmas morning.”
The term “empty phrases,” can mean any number of things. It could refer to words we repeat by rote. Some Christians believe that the Lord’s Prayer is an “empty phrase.” One empty phrase that most Christians have used at one time or another is a nagging phrase—a request we repeat over and over. It seems that we believe if we make our request often enough that God will finally be forced to answer our prayer. There’s little faith and even less love in such a perspective.
God loves us and wants us to have the very best. We don’t have to nag and repeat our empty phrases. We can follow Paul’s advice to, “Have no anxiety about anything, but let your requests be made known with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6). Saying, “Thank you,” is never an empty phrase!
Wonderful Lord, we give you thanks and praise for your abundant goodness. You give us our daily bread and much more. Amen.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).
If the Lord knows what we need before we pray, then why pray? Why not just trust that God will provide and concern ourselves with other things?
Pepe Hernandez watched his twelve year-old son, Raul, carry several boxes out of the garage and place them in the driveway. The two of them were taking advantage of the warm spring day to clean out the garage. They worked well together. Raul came to some boxes in the corner and tried to lift them, but they were way too heavy for him. He pushed and shoved and tried to slide them out of the garage to no avail. Pepe watched and waited. Eventually Raul gave up, turned to his father and said, “Dad, could you help me?” Pepe was immediately at his son’s side. “I was waiting for you to ask for help,” Pepe said, “I wanted you to realize that there were some things that were too big for you, but that I’ll be there whenever you need me.” Together they moved the boxes into the driveway.
God will provide for our needs whether we pray or not. Prayer, though, reminds of who we are and who God is. We are God’s children who have been given significant talents and abilities, but we are not all powerful. God is our parent who adores us and who is powerful. It is important for us to acknowledge that we are not God, that we have needs that we cannot meet and that we need God in our lives. Together we can accomplish great things.
Mighty Lord, forgive us when we forget that we can’t do it all by ourselves. Move in and through us and use our talents, words and actions to honor you. Amen.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).
Martin Luther writes, in his explanation to the Lord’s Prayer, “God’s name is indeed holy in itself; but we pray in this petition that it may be holy among us also.”
Many Christians pray for the arrival of God’s kingdom like we do for world peace. In our prayers we visualize the troops being withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and peace treaties being signed. We pray for terrorism to end, North Korea to become an open democracy and peace to finally breakout between Israel and Palestine. We rarely think to pray for peace between our neighbors and co-workers or easing the strained relationships that we have with some family members.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are praying that God’s desires become our desires. God’s name is holy among us when we open our lives to the molding and shaping action of the Holy Spirit—sometimes called sanctification—and when our words and actions communicate and demonstrate God’s love and grace.
Watch out! God may answer our prayers and when God does our lives will be transformed.
Holy God, We want to live our lives so that we do not desecrate your name in any way. When people hear our words and see our actions may they see you, and may they come to worship you. Amen.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Marty grudgingly put down the game controller and with a sulk and a stoop obeyed his father’s request to take out the garbage. Lisa humphed and stomped off to her room to clean it as directed by her mother. Myron edged this speedometer five miles over the speed limit in mild protest against the posted speeds. Veronica, with twenty items in her shopping cart, snuck in to the express lane with the sign, “15 Items or Less.”
Something in humankind’s DNA causes us to rebel when we have to submit to the will of another. It doesn’t make any difference to whom we have to submit—it could be parents, spouse, teacher, government, police officer or a lifeguard. We even rebel against God. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Certainly we would hope that our leaders would follow God’s will when they pass legislation—that laws might promote peace, justice and prosperity for all. We hope that Islamic terrorists would bow down to God and cease their senseless killing. Bosses who are kinder and gentler may be included in our prayer for God’s will to be done along with principals and teachers.
When it comes right down to it, though, obedience to God’s wills starts with each of us. It begins with our realization that God is God and we are not. It continues when we echo Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, “Not my will but your will be done.” Each day as children of God we strive to be faithfully obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When this happens we become an answer to our prayer, “Your kingdom come …”
Forgiving Lord, we confess that all too often we rebel against you. Forgive us and empower us to faithfully and courageously follow you as subjects in your kingdom. Amen.
Friday, January 30, 2015
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
Life used to be so simple. As children we would push our chairs up to the dinner table and feast on the abundance that was placed before us. If our jeans got a hole in them a new pair would magically appear on our on our bed in a short amount of time. When we were sick care was provided. All we had to do was get a good grade on the math test and try to catch the attention of the boy or girl that we wanted to get to know.
For most of us life has changed. We worry about paying the bills, providing a college education for our kids and fund a retirement plan for ourselves. We nervously watch the gyrations of the stock market and reports on the economy. We rejoice when the price for gas tumbles and groan when it climbs into the stratosphere. The Bible’s instructions to “fear not” and “don’t be anxious about anything,” seem out of our reach. They don’t need to be, however.
God identifies himself as our Father (or parent if you prefer). God wants to be our provider and protector. Humankind was never designed for worry and prolonged stress. We were meant to be trusting and dependent on our creator. The plan was for us to celebrate God’s abundance rather than to worry about the scarcity of things. We can celebrate and be worry free by acknowledging our dependence in the words of this prayer and by trusting and resting in the assurance of God’s love and goodness.
God of Abundance, forgive us when we burden ourselves with unnecessary worry. We are your children, thank you for being our parent. We trust in your provision and protection. Amen.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
“Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven others” (Matthew 6:12).
Somewhere, somehow at some time a rumor started to go around (sometimes spread from the pulpit) that we were praying in this petition that God would for forgive us in the same way that we forgive others. If we didn’t forgive others then God wouldn’t forgive us. If we hesitated to forgive others, then God would hesitate to forgive us. It’s important for us to be clear on this. God’s forgiveness in not based (never has been and never will be) on our ability to forgive others. God’s forgiveness is based solely on the cross of Christ.
When we pray this petition of the Lord’s prayer we are asserting the importance of forgiveness. If we are to live in God’s kingdom and experience an abundant and free life then forgiveness is not an option but rather a necessity. One writer put it this way, “Not forgiving others is like swallowing a potent poison and expecting it to kill someone else.” Withholding forgiveness hurts us more than it does others—in fact they usually don’t even know that we haven’t forgiven them.
The word “forgiveness” means “to let go.” To forgive is to let go of the hurt and the images of revenge. To forgive doesn’t necessarily mean that we forget. It does mean that we stop allowing the past to adversely affect the present. There are times when forgiveness is difficult and we may need to “let go” several times. Whether we forgive once or scores of times forgiveness is always a choice. Forgiveness is a choice that brings freedom and life with it.
Merciful Lord, you have freely forgiven us. We open ourselves to the power of your Spirit that we may have the ability to freely forgive others. Amen.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
“For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20).
Martin Luther has been credited with saying that a person needs to be converted three times. A person’s heart and head first need to be converted and then his or her wallet. This can certainly be seen in the life of many “good” Christians.” People can be diligent in their worship, actively serve on congregational committees, participate in Bible study and still not financially support God’s work through the congregation or the larger church. They may be willing to offer their time and talents to the Lord, but any treasure is theirs.
It is almost impossible to release our death grip on money. From the view of the world, money defines our net worth and our self-worth. Money communicates whether we are a success or a failure. Money is our security—both our emergency fund and our retirement fund. In the world’s culture, money needs to be sought and accumulated.
God’s kingdom offers a radically different view. Our self-worth is defined by our Lord—God so loved the world that God gave us his son. God never calls us to success, God is more concerned with obedience and our richest reward is the praise, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Our security is in God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness, and overwhelming grace—God’s presence and power. Money is only a gift that we have been given to manage. Money is something to share rather than hoard.
We are much richer when we remove money from the “Bank of the World” and deposit it in God’s Treasury. The returns are unimaginably greater.
Precious Lord, give us the power to release our hold on the things of this world—especially money. From our closed fists may we open our hands and receive the gifts that you have for us. Amen.