18 February 2019Matthew 6:9-15
'Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.' (v. 9-10)
Psalm: Psalm 76:1-6
This week’s readings are from Matthew’s great collection of the teachings of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. The three great themes in this chapter correspond to the three essential practices of devout Jewish believers: giving (back in verse 2), praying and fasting. Jesus doesn’t question any of these, but gives them renewed urgency: the kingdom of heaven is at hand and the people of the kingdom are to get ready.
We all know the value of prayer, it’s the life-blood of Christian faith. Yet which of us finds it easy to pray? Even the disciples found it hard. Luke records them imploring Jesus: “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). If Jesus’ close companions struggled with prayer, why are we surprised when we do? Yet Jesus’ teaching is so profound in its simplicity. It’s memorable and practical, combining deeply felt adoration with acknowledgment of practical needs. It rightly has a central place in our worship. Meditating on each phrase can be a great starting point for our own exploration of prayer.
But do we realise what we are praying for when we say Your kingdom come …? And what does it mean to pray for "God’s will to be done, on earth as well as in heaven"? It’s good to remember that the word 'heaven' doesn’t imply here an other-worldly paradise beyond death. It describes a place where God’s will is taken seriously, where God is honoured in all aspects of life – a place like church is called to be.
In yesterday's notes, we caught a glimpse of what heaven looks like. A place where the poor and hungry are welcome, where outsiders, misfits and people persecuted for all kinds of reasons are called to be blessed. Where those with nothing find all they need, and those who have placed all their faith in their own happiness find it’s deserted them. This is the kingdom that’s coming, the kingdom we pray for. Are we prepared to put heart and soul into praying for this kingdom to come in our communities, our churches, our lives?
Spend a few moments dwelling with these words: “Your will be done”. Allow yourself to wonder what difference this prayer should make to your priorities, thoughts and actions?