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Psalm 5

 

Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (ESV)

Our Father...

Tuesday of Pentecost 21

15 October 2013

I am constantly amazed by the number of putative Christians who simply and stubbornly decline to pray the prayer given to His people by the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. They provide the excuse that a prayer delivered by rote will not be accepted by our heavenly Father. Yet, the fact of the Lord Jesus Christ's admonition "When you pray, say, 'Our Father...'" still stands (Lk 11:2). How do you navigate around it? What word or tradition could be used to remove from our vocabulary the words of the prayer delivered by Jesus for us to assail the throne of our dear Father? How could you supplant the specific precept of our Lord with your own ideas of what is good and right in the matter of prayer? In what way is that approach indicative of a submissive faith and confidence in the express words of Jesus, the eternal Word of God incarnate? Jesus specifically warns us against using our own human traditions to displace the express commands of His divine Word (Mk 7:9). Once we start down that path, we will be starting to invent our own religion wholesale. "Our own religion" is hardly the stuff of faith in Christ.

 

The myth of heart-felt, spontaneous prayer has a stubborn life. Yet what is it that Jesus says comes from the human heart? He says, "Out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person" (Mk 7:21-23). What comes from the heart may not necessarily be the holy and pious spiritual ruminations that we expect. Are we not better to learn by heart and pray from our hearts the very words that our Lord wants to hear because He has given them to us? We have the privilege of saying together with our Lord the prayer He has given. Putting His words in our mouths is a faithful thing. If we have turned His prayer into a rote repetition, that is to our own shame. That is our own abuse of His gracious gift. It does not nullify His gift. We cannot invalidate His command, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father...'"

 

How loving and friendly is our Lord that He has condescended not only to invite us to pray, but even to give us the very words which He promises will reach our Father's heart! How could we desire to invent something better? How pious is the unbelief that prefers its own spiritual meanderings to the prayer given to us by God's Son! No, the believer led by his Lord will conform to the shape of prayer given by the Lord. There is no greater piety and no deeper faith. He is our Advocate with the Father, why wouldn't we use the very pleadings with the Judge eternal that He has given us? Let us pray, "Our Father..."

 

Cyprian of Carthage

 

"The evangelical precepts are nothing other than divine teachings. They are the foundations on which hope is built, supports to strengthen faith, nourishments for cheering the heart, rudders for guiding our way, and shields unto salvation. They instruct the submissive minds of believers on earth leading them to heavenly kingdoms. God willed many things to be said and heard by means of His servants, the prophets; but how much greater are those which the Son speaks, to which the Word of God, who was in the prophets, testifies with His own voice. He is not now asking us to prepare the way for His coming, but He Himself is coming and opening and showing us the way, so that we who have before been wandering in the darkness of death, without understanding and quite blind, now being enlightened by the light of grace, might keep the way of life, with the Lord for our ruler and guide.

 

"Among the rest of His salutary admonitions and divine precepts with which He counsels His people for their salvation, He also gave a form of praying. He Himself advised and instructed us what we should pray for. He who made us alive, also taught us to pray, with the same benevolence with which He condescended to give and confer all other things; in order that while we speak to the Father in that prayer and supplication which the Son has taught us, we may be the more easily heard. He had foretold that 'the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth' (Jn 4:23). He fulfilled what He here promised, so that we who by His satisfaction have received the Spirit and truth, may also by His teaching worship truly and spiritually. For what can be a more spiritual prayer than that which was given to us by Christ, by whom also the Holy Spirit was given to us? What praying to the Father can be more truthful than that which was delivered to us from the mouth of His own Son, who is the Truth? So to pray otherwise than He taught is not mere ignorance, but also sin; since He Himself has established, and said, 'You reject the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition' (Mk 7:9).

 

"Let us therefore pray as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a loving and friendly prayer to beseech God with His own Word, to come to His ears with the prayer of Christ. The Father will acknowledge the words of His Son when we pray. Let the One who also dwells within our heart, dwell in our voice. And since we have Him as an Advocate with the Father for our sins (1Jn 2:1), when as sinners we petition Him because of our sins, let us set forth the words of our Advocate. For since He says, that 'whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you' (Jn 16:23), how much more effectively do we obtain what we ask in Christ's name, if we ask for it with His own prayer!"
 
Cyprian of Carthage, On the Lord's Prayer, 1-3 
 
Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

 

For Pastor and Maryann Murray, who are celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary today, that the Lord would confirm His promise to them that only death would part them and that they would share ever greater joy together until that day

 

 

For those who are captive to their own prayers, that that Lord Jesus would free them to deliver the petitions which He has given to the faithful

 

For Pastor Nabil Nour, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength and healing, as he continues to recover from pneumonia
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057