food and forgiveness

Give us the food we need for each day. Forgive us for our sins, just as we have forgiven those who sinned against us. [Matthew 6:11-12 NCV]

Food and forgiveness are separated into two verses.
So we tend to think of them as two different things.
We also get hung up about whether debts or sins should be forgiven.

The truth is that we need both physical and spiritual bread to live.
We need to both receive and give forgiveness to be healthy.
I think that this is our greatest need.

Reconciliation comes from giving and receiving of forgiveness.
This is not to say that God does not want to hear about our physical needs.
Jesus is simply emphasizing our greatest need - giving and receiving forgiveness.

When I think about debt versus sin I think of our need to forgive and be forgiven.
We have a debt of love to each other and when we do not love our neighbor we sin against them.
The definition of sin encapsulates the idea of missing the mark.

In a sense this involves an expectation to hit the mark or pay off a debt.
And the fact is that we can neither hit the mark nor pay off the debt.
It is why we need to give and receive forgiveness.

Lord I forgive. Please forgive me.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

divine will

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. [Matthew 6:10 NIV]

This prayer begs the question about what is the will of God.
I suggest that the phrase "as it is in heaven" might give us part of the answer.
God's will is done in heaven and heaven is not really a place but a dimension.

Consider how Jesus describes this dimension, or kingdom, of heaven in Matthew 13.
He uses parables to illustrate that this kingdom is about things that are:
  • small. He speaks of seed and leaven and their ability to grow into larger things. I think that God's will is all about being faithful in small things.
  • priceless. The merchant in the parable sells all he has to obtain a single pearl. Jesus is that pearl and the Father's will is all about us becoming like His son.
  • hidden. He compares this heavenly kingdom to hidden treasure. This speaks to me about our need to seek God to discover His will.
  • eternal. The last parable speaks of how angels will one day separate the evil from the righteous. Areminder that God's will is about things that last. Like faith, hope and love.
When we ask for God's will to be done we are asking for things that are small, priceless, hidden and eternal to be manifested in our lives. On earth as it is in heaven.

Lord help me to understand your will. Let your kingdom come in me.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

familiar prayers

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. [Matthew 6:9 NIV]

When I think about heaven I think about a dimension rather than a place.
I think of God reigning over a kingdom that is not visible to our eyes.
I know that God hears me because heaven is as close as the air I breathe.
In a sense, we pray asking for the dimension of heaven to break into our dimension.

This verse flashes me back to Moses' first encounter with God at the burning bush.
In that passage we see a picture of what it means to hallow God and His name.
Moses bowed in reverence and awe at the voice of his Creator.
This sense of awe is often missing from my prayers.

Too often I forget who God is and who I am.
Sometimes the familiarity of my life with him gets in the way.
When I pray familiar prayers I am not honoring his name.
In a sense, I might as well be calling him Steve.

I worship you Heavenly Father. Open my eyes today that I might see you.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

the how, not what, of prayer

This, then, is how you should pray   [Matthew 6:9 NIV]

Jesus has just instructed his disciples to not pray publicly like the Pharisees.
And not to chant prayers repetitiously like the pagans.
Odd that so many seem to embrace these no-nos when they pray in church.

The operative word for me in this verse is 'how'.
Most of our focus when we pray the Lord's prayer is 'what' not 'how'.
I think that the emphasis is, and should be, how we pray.

The example prayer that Jesus gives is one that begins and ends with God.
It includes petitions for our needs as well as our desire to forgive.
The prayer asks God to forgive us, deliver us and lead us.

The how of this prayer should include humility and meekness before God.
Our attitude should be one of submission to his kingdom and his will.
The words should not be a recitation of Jesus words but a personalization of them.

I think the words that Christ offers is an invitation to divine intimacy.
They are meant to break us and bring us to our spiritual knees.
When spoken with vulnerability they have the power to change our lives.

Lord, I want to repeat these memorized words with my friends.
Help me to remember that your heart is not what I pray but how I pray.
Teach me to personalize the words of your son when I pray.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

empty prayers

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [Matthew 6:7-8 CEV]

Two phrases pop out at me: "empty phrases" and "many words".

Several times a week I pray the Lord's prayer in a group setting.
I have to consciously slow my self down so that I can think about the words that I am praying.
It is so easy to pray and not think about the words that you are praying.

Jesus helps us by telling us that it is not really about the great words that we speak.
He indicates that prayer is simply sharing our hearts with the Father.
Not really the effective communication of our prayers but simply the actual act of prayer.

He tells us that God already knows what we need when we are not.
God is waiting for us to simply pray and invite Him to help us.
The Father longs for us to simply share our hearts with him.

Lord help me to be real when I pray.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

praying like a hypocrite

When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Pray privately to your Father who is with you. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you. [Matthew 6:5-6 GW]

Again Jesus presses in and lay bare our desire to be seen by others.
Praying to be seen and heard by others who we are wanting to impress.
I have witnessed and participated in this kind of religious seduction.

The desire to be seen is an insidious one.
We are duped into thinking that we are being "spiritual" when we are just being Pharisaical.
Jesus says don't do it.

I once heard that the measure of a person is what they do when no one is looking.
I think that we will pray in secret only if we really believe that God hears us.
Secret prayers bring a reality to bear where it is just us and God - face to face.

Lastly, Jesus said "when you pray".
I think that it is good to be reminded that believers pray - it is in our spiritual DNA.
Praying from our heart, when no one is looking, to an audience of One.

Lord give me a heart to pray when no one is looking.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

nondeductible donations

When you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know about it. [Matthew 6:3 CEV]

This verse reminds me of what Jesus says just a few sentences later in verse 21:
Your heart will always be where your treasure is.
Where and how we give is always an indication of where our heart is.

This year the tax law in America has changed giving a higher standard deduction.
Charities are wondering how it will affect them and donors' desire to give to them.
Will people donate money to them if it they cannot deduct it from their taxes?

In a sense, real charity is all about the things that you cannot deduct on your taxes.
One should not need the enticement of a tax break to support those who need our help.
As Jesus indicates, the issue is not with our heads but with our hearts.

Help us Lord to have hearts filled with compassion for those who need our love and our money.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.