Friday, May 27, 2005

The Lord’s Prayer as a Call to Intimacy

As is true of all scripture, the Holy Spirit packed several levels of meaning into the Lord’s Prayer. In addition to their literal meanings, each petition asks for something that brings or keep us in intimate relationship with God.

Our father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. To “hallow” is to reverence or highly esteem, and God’s “name,” in the biblical understanding, is His essence or nature. This petition therefore asks that we properly appreciate God’s awesome nature, that we better understand the other party to our relationship.

Your kingdom come, your will be done. By asking that His “kingdom come,” we ask that we be as fully submitted to God as a loyal subject is to his monarch. By asking that His “will be done,” we ask for help organizing our affairs and actions according to the Father’s general precepts and in carrying out whatever specific tasks He gives us. Both requests ask God to help us align ourselves with Him.

Give us this day our daily bread. This asks for help in looking to God, not other sources, to fulfill our needs, so that we depend on God in the spirit of Matthew 6:33.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. This asks for an incentive to, and help in, reflecting God’s extraordinarily gracious nature as we interact with others. We are asking to incorporate an aspect of God's nature in our own behavior, in the same way that children take on their parents’ mannerisms and long married spouses come to share common characteristics.

Do not lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. By this petition we ask God to protect us from anything that interferes with our relationship with Him, so that nothing gets between us and Him.

In sum, each petition asks for something that increases or maintains our intimacy with God, something that brings or keeps us in close relationship with Him.

(Images about prayer were posted September 17, 17a, and 17b; October 8 and 17, November 13 and 19, 2004 and May 27, 2005.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Our Daily Bread—Savoring it.

The same amount of food will provide more satiation if it is chewed thoroughly rather than gulped down. The extra chewing allows us to more fully savor its texture and better satisfys our hunger.

The same is true of the daily bread God provides, regardless of its form (food, shelter, clothing, fellowship, work, etc.). We get much more out of it if we take the time to consider what God has given us, to mentally and prayerfully “chew on” those good things, rather than wolfing them down and moving onto whatever next comes to mind.

That is particularly true of the subtle, but very rich, blessings we only partially enjoy if we don’t give them extra consideration. Perhaps that’s why scripture tells us over and over to give thanks to God—it forces us to consider the many blessings He provides everyday, and increases our appreciation of them. See Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:17; I Thessalonians 5:18.

Is that easy? Not always, but it helps deal with those situations where God, in his infinitely superior wisdom, provides less than we, from our far more limited perspective, feel we need. If we look gratefully at what God has provided we are less likely to miss the things he hasn’t. Either way, we’ll have what we have, so we’re better off appreciating them to the fullest. Maybe that’s the way to “be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11.

(Other images about savoring God’s blessings were posted on May 16, 20, July 7, and 15, 2005.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Our Daily Bread—It's Not Junk Food

The petition that God “give us this day our daily bread” asks for such an infinite variety of things that it’s impossible to exhaustively define “daily bread.” But the concept can be given some meaning by considering what it does not refer to; one way to do that is by contrasting bread with junk food.

Bread is good, although it is not terribly exciting in and of itself. But it fills us and keeps us filled, and although it doesn’t give us the sugar rush that accompanies a doughnut or candy, its energy stays with us. In short, bread is good, solid, if somewhat ordinary, food that gives us what we need to live and work.

Junk food, in contrast, is about flavor, not function. The idea is to titillate the taste buds now, with little concern for sustaining us. Indeed, it usually has a negative effect, both through the crash that quickly follows its consumption and the ways it degrades our health over time. As good as it may taste, you cannot live (for long) on junk food.

So what Jesus tells us to pray for are those things that we need for life, as ordinary as they may seem, not the things that temporarily satisfy but do not further the purposes He has for us. Those other things may be OK in limited amounts, but that is not what our Lord tells us to seek after.

(Images about savoring God’s blessings were posted May 16 and 20, July 7, and 15, 2005.
Other images about prayer were posted September 17, 17.1, 17.2, October 8 and 17, November 13 and 19, 2004 and May 27, 2005)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fruitful Christians are Like Baseball Gloves

Fruitful Christians are like baseball gloves. The Holy Spirit works in them like Neatsfoot oil, making them sufficiently pliable to deal with the fast balls that come their way. They are made more supple by repeated use, becoming more flexible the more God uses them.

(Images about conforming/yielding to God were posted September 12a, 18a, 18b, 18d, and 23; October 3 and 3a, November 6; and 21, December 8, 12, and 15, 2004 and January 10d, February 18, May 11, June 18 and 27; August 21 and 27; and October 3, 2005.
Images about the process of growing/maturing in our walk with God were posted October 3a and 17, 2004; June 11 and 18; July 20, August 21 and 27; and October 3 2005.)