There is nothing like security. We like feeling secure—the satisfaction of knowing that all of our needs are met, both now and forever. In fact, it can be quite unsettling when facing a mountain of unknowns and unanswered questions. What shall we eat? Where shall we go? Where shall we work? I can imagine that questions like these were at the forefront of the disciples’ minds as they followed Jesus from town to town. Some could describe it as living life on the edge.
All too often, prayer has been exclusively viewed as a time of petitioning. However, the truth is that petitions are an aspect of prayer, not the only expression. Instead of dialoging with God, some of us are guilty of using prayer to only gripe and ask. We rattle off our lists of wants and desires, complain about the difficulties of life, slap an “amen” at the end and go on about our day. But Jesus has shown us a different way through this template in Matthew 6.
As we approach this new year, my primary prayer for you is that you would be rooted and grounded in the love of God. I hope you experience the joy and security in the fact that God loves you and has already provided you with everything you need to succeed… the truth is that God’s perfect love for you is so vast, so wide, and so deep, that it expels all fear.
Joy is not so much meant for the good times as it is for the tumultuous times. This genuine joy does not deny the existence of pain, heartache, and loss, but it also acknowledges the strength of our God to heal, mend, and restore. Joy must be engaged and actively adopted. The season of Advent is about the arrival of the Savior and the joy he brings to the nations in the midst of our darkest hours.
Here we are at another Advent season—when we commemorate the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. To set the scene biblically, it was a time of great darkness in the earth, and more specifically in the Jewish community. They had been waiting for the arrival of their Savior with the expectation that he would turn the tables of their misfortunes. Exile, captivity, oppression, the pervasive humiliation of second-class status—over time, these feelings compiled to birth… hope.
What do you cherish in your life? Is it your marriage? Is it your family? Perhaps your job, business, friendships, an item you received from someone? Who do you revere or respect? What is considered sacred to you? Can you say that you honor God? Does he hold a special and separate space in your time, heart, and life? Do you respect his input as the ultimate priority over all other feelings and pursuits?
As the residing realm for the Creator of all things, heaven is a place of primacy. This is not just the place where God resides, but also the place where he rules and reigns as Sovereign. Heaven is the place where God legislates, adjudicates, and appropriates resources—not unlike many of the government systems in our earth. So when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he intentionally ascribes Heaven as the address of all things God.
Why did Jesus use the specific word father? He could have used the general description of God. He could have also instructed them to use the formal address of King, or Sovereign, or even Lord. Any of these terms would have been right or acceptable, yet Jesus encourages them to address him as Father. Contrary to modern popular ideals on teaching, Jesus gets right to the point in disclosing what his secret ingredient was to effective prayer—intimacy.
It would seem that today, many people pray without understanding the proper posture, purpose, and potential power that can be released as a result of an effective prayer life. For many, prayer has become a routine and sometimes mindless exercise in which we engage God only when we need help or when we are asking for something. There is so much that is forsaken when we neglect to embrace prayer as the intimate exchange between a Sovereign Father and his beloved children.
In my last devotion, we looked at Peter’s question regarding how often we should forgive those who trespass against us. Like most of us, Peter was most likely attempting to protect himself from people who would take his forgiveness as a vulnerability. While his question was both understandable and valid, there remains a deeper question that we should resolve. Why should we forgive? What is the motivation behind our acts of forgiveness? The answer to this is love.