|Volume 18 Number 4 April 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Inevitably there will come in one’s life what we might call a showstopper, an event that is so overpowering that it can neither be ignored nor set aside. Life as one knows it comes to the proverbial screeching halt. Nothing else can happen or interfere until the showstopper is acknowledged and appropriately addressed. We are talking about a crisis in a person’s life that eclipses every other untoward situation previously experienced. If it hasn’t happened yet in your life, it will.
In those prolonged, slow-motion moments, maybe encompassing days, weeks, months or even years, every familiar thing in one’s life is subjected to analysis and to evaluation. This is the time when a person reluctantly facing personal tragedy begins to involuntarily sort out in his or her mind the things in this life that really do not matter from what really matters. Some things are so temporal and fickle that honestly, they never really mattered. On the other hand, it becomes increasingly clear that some things have always mattered, they do matter, they will matter tomorrow, they will matter a hundred years from now, and they will matter eternally.
Of course, what has always mattered and what will always matter are things spiritual and eternal in nature in contrast to everything in this physical universe (Matthew 16:26). Especially as one contemplates Judgment (Hebrews 9:27) and the eternal disposition of his or her soul, it becomes obvious that only spiritual things really matter (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-15).
Spiritual awareness and recognition of the frailty of the human existence (James 4:13-16) is the new reality. Actually, though, irrespective of whether previously realized, reality has always been the same, but we may have been desensitized to it amidst worldly pleasures, human philosophies and other earthly distractions. The true reason for human habitation on this world is the opportunity to make preparation to meet God (Amos 4:12).
During the time intervening between the present and when we may pass away or the Lord returns again, each of us needs “to seek first the kingdom God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Spiritual treasures banked in heaven need to characterize our pursuits. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV). Christian service, complemented by faithful Christian living, must become the thrust of our lives as Christians. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time…” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Do you really listen to the words when prayer is led publicly? Public prayer is such a unique opportunity coupled with a huge responsibility! Prayer is communication with God Almighty! As such, we must never approach prayer lightly or flippantly. An observation that frightens me is “prayer preaching.” “Prayer preaching” is essentially a public prayer that becomes a sermon geared at the listeners instead of for the Creator. While it is true that those who we are leading in prayer must be considered, those listeners are not the focus of public prayer. Sadly, public prayer is often led by men who have never been trained or taught how to pray. Even those men who traveled daily and knew Jesus intimately needed training in prayer, as did John’s disciples (Luke 11:1). As Christian men, our desire should still be, “Lord teach us to pray…” Consider Matthew 6:9-13 as our Lord did just that. How should we pray?
Firstly, prayer involves an invocation. “Our Father which art in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9a). This invocation or summons is very personal and intimate. Prayer is not a casual conversation with a mere acquaintance, but rather it is an intimate conversation with our Heavenly Father. Paul reminded the brethren at Rome that God had sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts and that they could “cry out ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). “‘Abba’ is an Aramaic term used by a child to address his father. It is less familiar than ‘Daddy,’ but it is more intimate than ‘Father’” (Crain 214).
Secondly, prayer involves adoration. “…Hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9b). Prayer should open up great dimensions of reverence, awe, appreciation, honor and worship. Really knowing God and understanding His awesome nature and character drives us to our knees, especially when we communicate to Him through prayer. It is quite frightening to hear some of the arrogant phrases that one can hear in the name of public prayer. We are truly treading on “Holy ground” (Exodus 3:5) when we pray! The Psalmist proclaimed the reality, “…holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9b). I love how the NKJV renders Psalm 111:9, “holy and awesome is his name.” Scary indeed is the way God’s name is often used in our world today. His name is to be honored, revered, loved and respected!
Thirdly, prayer involves submission. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Often, prayer for many is nothing more than a glorified “grocery list” of wants and desires – much like a spoiled child would write a “Christmas list.” Our will must conform to God’s will in order for prayer to be what God expects. As the late denominational missionary to India correctly wrote, “And shall I pray to change Thy will, my Father, until it accord to mine? But no, Lord, no; that shall never be. Rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.” There is much more to the will of God than my selfish desires and childish fantasies. God knows what I need, what I want and even what is best for me! God’s will is always best.
Fourthly, prayer involves petition. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Notice carefully that the item in this petition is something we need to survive. This request entails five parts: The Substance – “bread,” which represents the very basic food for existence (Job 23:12). The Source – “God,” Who is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17). The Supplication – “give,” which recognizes our inability to survive without God’s benevolent hand (Matthew 6:33). The Seekers – “us,” which signifies those who belong to the Master (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). The Schedule – “daily,” which points to the constant reliance and dependence of our feeble humanity upon our Creator.
Fifthly, prayer includes confession. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Pride and arrogance are definite roadblocks in communicating to God! Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:10ff); which one was justified before God? Although we are to come “boldly to the throne of Grace” (Hebrews 4:6), this boldness is due to what Jesus has done, not what we have done (Hebrews 4:14ff). Because all things are “open” and known to God (Hebrews 4:13), we cannot fool Him into thinking we are better than we are. “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10a).
Lastly, prayer involves exaltation. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). It is an amazing reality that God, as High and Holy as He is, will lend His ear to listen to a low and minuscule creature as mankind. Jesus closed His prayer to the Father in the same manner in which He began, with respect, reverence and honor.
God is awesome and prayer is our blessed opportunity to communicate with Him. However, our prayers will go no higher than the clouds if we fail to approach prayer on God’s terms. There is no person on earth that automatically knows how to pray. Prayer, like all worship, is contingent upon God revealing to us how to accomplish that specific act. Prayer is too important and much too sacred for us to not learn the lesson that Jesus taught. Not “Prayer Preaching,” but rather pleading, exalting and adoring the Creator of heaven and earth is what communication with God is all about. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Crain, Sellers S. Truth for Today- Matthew 1-13. Searcy: Resource, 2010.