Scripture text for Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010: Matthew 6:5-7:29
The sermon on the mount is certainly the most famous teaching of Jesus. Many, including Mahatma Gandhi, have found in it great wisdom even when they were not prepared to fully adopt it or commit themselves to Jesus. It is both a description of the manner in which the followers of Jesus are to engage in relationship with their God and others as well as a description of the character that they are to embody. As such, it focuses both on our attitudes and our actions. This first part, our attitudes, is what would have been revolutionary for the original audience, trained as they were in the importance of following the law and its behavioral guidelines, with little attention given to the heart.
The sermon on the mount is interesting, just as a sermon. We can find in it many transferable principles for what makes for a good sermon or teaching today including a clear organizational pattern, use of illustrations drawn from experiences familiar to the audience, memorable phrasing and style, emotional range, and compelling logic.
To take just one portion, notice the profound truths found in the Lord’s Prayer, best understood of course as the prayer Jesus gave US to pray. It begins where every prayer most appropriately begins, with God and his glory. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). As William Barclay puts it, “it is only when God is given his proper place that all others things fall into their proper place.”
And then the prayer moves to God’s agenda, again, properly placed prior to ours! And then the prayer moves to our needs. Here we are reminded that God desires good for his children, even in the midst of what is at times a terribly sinful world. We can come to him with all our requests with confidence that he loves us, is in control of all things, and has our very best interests squarely in view. From here the prayer moves to our persistent and great need for forgiveness, but not stopping there, but instead reminding us that in repenting of our sin and asking God for forgiveness we are at the same time necessarily committing ourselves to seek with God’s help to sin no more and so “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (6:13). Anything short of this commitment calls into question our request for forgiveness.
Yes, it is an incredible prayer. Henry Ward Beecher had this to say about it: “I used to think the Lord’s Prayer was a short prayer; but, as I live long, and see more of life, I believe there is no such thing as getting through it. If a person, in praying that prayer, were to be stopped by every word until they had thoroughly prayed it, it would take them a lifetime.”
These words from Beecher present us with a wonderful and beneficial challenge today, to pray the Lord’s Prayer thoroughly.
Devotion prepared by Dave Timmerman