Read Matthew 6
We like to celebrate and make a big deal of blessing the shoeboxes that we send overseas as a part of Operation Christmas Child.
We like to make connections with people whom we are praying will come to know God through Christ Jesus when we help with a box of food.
We loved to deliver Tuesday lunches and love during the summer. That was a COVID casualty this year but I expect it to return.
In all these things we announced we were doing them but never sought to boast about our giving or embarrass the recipient. We did not do these things to make us feel good about ourselves. We did them because God placed these things on our hearts.
You have heard me talk before about the vending machine and being transactional. We are meant to lead people to transformation. That means that it is not about the stuff. We don’t sing “Victory in Food Boxes, oh how I love them.”
And we sure don’t boast about how great we are when we help someone. Then sings my soul, my glory for all to see, how great I art, how great I art.
OK, this is 2020, this is tongue-in-cheek. I’m making fun of what we would look like if we were that way.
We want to be people of mercy and compassion and love and caring but at the same time, we don’t want to be duped by the con of the day. We are stewards of what God has entrusted to us.
God has granted us a sound mind. Let’s use it when we want to help people.
Sometimes when I visit people in the hospital or nursing homes—something that I think will resume sooner than later—I take a picture or ask the person to same something on a video. Many wish they could visit. Not all can but all would like the connection.
When I take food, I don’t take a picture or a video. It feels like showing off. I have something. You need something. Look at me. How great I art, how great I art.
Let’s take that thinking to our public prayers. Don’t long to have the fanciest words. Seek genuine communication with your Lord.
Don’t make yourself the center of attention. Lead people to the Father.
Many of us are called upon to pray publicly. This should be about serving God not garnering compliments for ourselves and poetic style or meter. Public prayer is service to God. Others are trusting you to be genuine.
Sometimes I am led to words that seem poetic. Sometimes I am prompted to write a prayer in the middle of the week. Sometimes I post it, but always, my thoughts and words and the desire of my heart must be genuine. That goes for when I am by myself or leading a group in prayer.
Be real when you pray. Be real when you lead the prayer for others.
Prayer, especially public prayer, is not a time to belittle anyone. O Lord, we come to you again and pray for Betty who is making terrible decisions with her life. We hope that she doesn’t kill someone when she is driving drunk and we fervently pray that she doesn’t get AIDS because of her promiscuity.
Whether we say it or not, we are saying: Look at me God, I am way better than these other people. Yeah, I’ve got some sins but nothing like these people.
God, aren’t you thankful to have people like me!
Here’s the thing with prayer. We don’t trade places with God. We don’t’ become the center of the prayer. We don’t cast dispersion upon others.
God sees the heart. When we pray in secret, it is sometimes easier but when we lead others in prayer, just be humble and genuine but approach the Throne of Grace with confidence.
God wants you to come to him in prayer. He wants you to lead the prayer when needed. He wants this communion with you and with all of us to be as real as it can be.
We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God so none of us will be extoling our own virtues, but we are all children of God and should be excited to talk to our Father whom we know through our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
This is also the part of this gospel where Jesus models a prayer for us. Let us pray as he taught us to pray. As we do this, note that Jesus makes an extra comment on forgiveness. When we say forgive us as we forgive others, we are not making a request to be forgiven in spite of our lack of forgiveness but affirming that we have and will forgive with the grace and mercy given to us.
We are not saying, Lord, I know that I have been half-hearted in my forgiveness so give me the same. We affirm that we have put our Master’s words into practice, at least as far as forgiveness goes.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
We add to this that yours is the kingdom and the power forever and ever. Amen.