Sunday’s Scripture ~ Revelation 2:12-17.
Devotion Focus ~ Matthew 6:5-15.
At the heart of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Jesus takes care to teach on prayer, providing clear and specific instructions that shape both the disciple’s practice of prayer and the disciple’s heart that offers the prayer.
First – prayer is not an attention-seeking behavior. Prayer is a behavior for seeking the holy, which is accomplished in humility rather than in show.
Second – prayer is to be done in secret. Secret comes from the Greek word kruptos meaning ‘concealed so as to not be made known.’ And yet our God says through prayer in secret God will make the concealed known – God will make Godself known to the one that draws away in prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 10:26, “So have no fear of (coming persecutions); for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.” This uncovering – this revealing and making known – displays the power of Almighty God.
Third – prayer is not a floor exercise of thesaurus-al and syntax-ical gymnastics. (Neither should that last sentence have been, if I am honest!) In prayer, speak plainly. As Jesus reminds us, God already knows what we need before we ask.
Fourth – prepared now to pray, we are to pray this way:
- Name God and our relationship with God – Father, our Father
- Articulate our understanding of God’s preferred future – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
- Ask our petitions – which recognize God as the wellspring of our resources and our redemption – Give us this day our daily bread / forgive us our trespasses
So be it – which is the translation of the word Amen.
This prescription for prayer is quite purposeful. It serves as a guide and as an accountability check. Here Jesus speaks plainly to us about how we should prepare for prayer, offer our prayer, and speak plainly to God in prayer. If we get off track, Jesus’ words are once again our plumb line so that we can come back into proper alignment with God.
The United Methodist Book of Discipline, in a similar fashion, articulates our process – dare I say method!? – a for carrying out our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In a way, this particular prescription serves as a United Methodist plumb line to both guide and align – check and balance – that we are attending to the work of God before us in ways that are becoming of the gospel as well as embodying our United Methodist history, theology, and polity.
We make disciples as we:
Proclaim the gospel, seek, welcome, and gather persons into the body of Christ;
Lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ;
Nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing;
Send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the gospel; and
Continue the mission of seeking, welcoming, and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
(¶122 BOD 2016).
Take note that it says what we are to do, but not always how we are to do it. I find this to be both liberating and infuriating. This is our invitation to discernment with God’s Holy Spirit. God has set us this task and by assessing and accessing individual and collective skills, disciple-making will occur. What sets this process into motion is our making ourselves available to be used by God – is our response to God’s Spirit stirring our hearts and then committing to do something about it.
I am also comforted that disciple-making occurs without us, even, at times, in spite of us if we are really in a spiritually-mutinous season. This truth does not mean that we should not try. This truth means that while we are invited to join God’s work that accomplishing God’s work is not solely dependent on us.
God is moving. God is speaking. God is saving. You. Me. All. I believe deeply that everything we do as the Church is about and should promote the Kingdom. If it is about and does promote the Kingdom, then we will and should keep doing it to the health and growth of God’s reign on earth. If it doesn’t, then we need to stop it or modify it until it does. Because friends – because Church – the Kingdom has had to wait long enough.
Prayer: “Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere; open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!”* Amen.
*”Open My Eyes That I May See,” The United Methodist Hymnal 454.