It’s Monday!!! I hope yore weekend was incredible. Mine was! I had some new experiences and some much needed time for rest and relaxation. I’m excited about the week ahead. I hope you are too!
This week I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having about a part of the greatest sermon ever preached in history: The Sermon on the Mount. In this epic sermon, Jesus touches a bunch of subjects. Of all of the pieces of this sermon, the portion that is most resonating with me these days is prayer.
What if you got a phone call from the White House today and the person on the other line said:
“President Obama invites you to contact him directly with your requests and he will see to it that you get whatever you need based on those requests.”
You’d be blown away, right? You’ve just been told that the President of the United States has invited you to make requests AND has said that he will reply to them. No, it’s even better than that. He isn’t just saying “request, and I’ll look into it.” According to the statement you’ve been given, the President has already said that he is inclined to respond affirmatively to your requests!
The idea that the President would hear and genuinely give consideration to our individual requests is an astonishing one. There are 319 million people in our country. The privilege to submit requests and be confident that they are given real consideration by the uppermost leader of our country is not something we’d take lightly at all. Right?
If we find this Presidential scenario to be unbelievable, then we should be in absolute awe at what Jesus said about prayer during the Sermon on the Mount!
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
- Matthew 7:7-11
What Jesus said here is mind blowing, really. Jesus says in plain language that the almighty God - creator and sustainer of everything - invites us to bring him our requests! Not only this, but Jesus also says that God is inclined to GIVE to us according to our requests!
If you grew up in church with me, then I imagine you’re pretty familiar with this abstract from the Sermon on the Mount. For a lot of us, the power behind these words is a bit lost because we’ve become so accustomed to hearing it. But, this is something we should savor! Prayer is a treasure - an unbelievable gift from God. We are invited to connect directly with him. We are invited to lay our requests before him and we aren’t given a limit!
In Luke 18, Jesus tells his disciples not to feel squeamish about coming to God with persistent requests. Jesus tells a parable about an ungodly judge who acquiesced to persistent requests for justice from a widow under his jurisdiction. Luke says Jesus tells them the story about this widow so they will learn they should “pray and not lose heart.” It is interesting that Jesus uses the same contrasting rhetorical tool here that he used in his teaching about prayer in the Matthew passage above:
“Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”
- Luke 18:6-8
So, we are not only encouraged to make our requests, but also to keep making them until we hear directly from the Almighty in response to them. Again… this is incredible!
I don’t know about you but sometimes I take prayer for granted. Sometimes I catch myself going through motions with it. I repeat cliches. Sometimes I do it mindlessly.
This past weekend I asked myself if I would take an audience with President Obama with the same casual attitude that I approach my open audience before God. I found the implications of that question to be rather alarming. I think I’ve done a lot of under appreciating prayer as something I’m just supposed to do. What Jesus says puts things into perspective, though. Praying is not a ritualistic practice. Prayer is a supreme privilege to be savored and treasured!
- What am I praying about these days?
- Is my communication with God forthright and honest?
- When I pray how is my concentration? Am I more or less engaged than I would be in the presence of a dignitary or world leader?
- How persistent am I in my prayers? Do I make a request and give up if I don’t get a response from God immediately?