Tuesday 09 August 2016

Bible Book:

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (vv. 5-8)

Matthew 6:5-8 Tuesday 9 August 2016

Psalm: Psalm 131


Standing to pray was normal Jewish practice: one of Judaism'sbest known prayers is called the 'Amidah' (the 'standing'). Like yesterday's passage, standing and praying inpublic is likened to being a hypocrite, a reminder of theplay-actor who stands in the theatre and gives a soliloquy. Jesuscontrasts this behaviour with the virtue of going into a "room andshut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret"'. The Greekword for room is 'tameion',which refers to a private room wheretime could be spent with friends. We may find an echo here of thewords of Isaiah 26:20, "Come, my people, enter yourchambers, and shut your doors behind you".

Jesus does not only give guidance for the location of ourindividual prayers, he also comments on the content of our prayers.One of the central aspects of our Christian discipleship is prayer.Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ wecan talk to God in a different way. Rowan Williams comments on thisin his book, Being Christian (SPCK, 2014): "Jesus speaks to God forus, but we speak to God in him. That, in a nutshell, is prayer -letting Jesus pray in you, and beginning that lengthy and oftenvery tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals andhopes are gradually aligned with his eternal actions". In this wayprayer is no longer something we do, but something we are lettingGod do in us. God knows what we need before we ask.

An understandable question then arises, which has been asked incountless generations: if God knows what we need, why do we pray?It is not God who needs our prayer, but it is God who desires ourprayer that we might be orientated to God and God's purposes forour lives and the life of the world. Prayer is not about changingGod, but being willing to allow God to change us. Jesus does notsee prayer as optional, but assumes "when you are praying". Ourprayer life individually and corporately is an essential part ofour discipleship.

To Ponder

  • What dominates the thoughts and words of your prayers?
  • What, for you, is the purpose of prayer?
  • If you find praying a struggle, what might help you to work onthis with God? 
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