GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 22)

The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus.  Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament.  The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus in all he was and was to do came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it. In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43).  Separating the counterfeit from the Real.

The gauntlet is down, and the standard is set now threefold:
First, righteousness must be greater than the religious leaders (5:20); Secondly, a life of perfection which is like God the Father (5:48), and now, third, righteous acts not to be seen by men (6:1).

Jesus now instructs His followers in the practical outworkings of being a disciple.  First, in how we give and care for others (last week).  Now in how we pray.  Not as babbling empty words to impress others, but privately and behind closed doors.  Now to the substance of HOW to PRAY.  Matthew 6:9a.  “This then is how you should pray.”

Matthew 6:9-13.  “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ “

First, there is an invocation, and then six petitions.  The invocation:
1.  OUR Father – He is Ours.  Note this is not a prayer or model for everyone.  It is not a general plea by the masses.  It is a believer, a disciple, a follower, who says “our.”  This is not the privilege of everyone.  It is for those who are followers of Christ.  It shows a relationship, in the theological vernacular, an immanence.  God the Father is near to us, and as we pray, he is attentive to us as his children, he is near, we are connected in Christ.

2.  Our FATHER – He is our Father.  It is not irreverent to draw on our family and created design as God as our Father.  While God is King of all, the great Yahweh of the Old Testament, he is our Father.  There is a family connection.  He is our Father, we are his children, again in Christ.  He is near, and we do not need to be afraid.  Regardless of our human imagery of our human fathers, God the Father is our perfect, our near, our heavenly Father who is always with us, and as said in James 1:17 “and who does not change like shifting shadows.”

3.  Who is in Heaven.  Note that God is both immanent and transcendent.  He is near and far.  He is our Father, but he is in heaven.  He is to be approached with reverence but with confidence, that he knows us, and he hears our prayers.  He is in heaven.  This indicates power and sovereignty.  Not only caring for us as our Father, but control over our affairs, in a way that will (as we see in future weeks) accomplishes his will on earth as it is in heaven.  He hear our prayers.  He invites our prayer and reliance on Him.  Note: As a child I grew up with the picture above, of the old man and his soup and bread.  It touches my heart in a special way, simple and yet reverent. 

This is truly the best of all worlds.  Our God, in whom we are in His family, is near to us, is hearing our prayers, and is far away in heaven, interceding for us in ways that are in our best interests and growth and walk as his children.  What an amazing start to understanding how we are to pray.  Next week we move to the subject of the Holiness of God.  Stay tuned and stay well this week. 

— John Moore

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