Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Luke 11:2-4 -- On the Lessons of Prayer

"And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
Luke 11:2-4

This is a passage where Christ is teaching his disciples how to pray, and I think it probably has something to teach all of us.

Right away, the fact that Christ teaches us to call Heavenly Father "Father" is significant, reminding us of who we are as children of God, and our divine potential.  It is also a sign of respect, continued with the next phrase.  We're encouraged to put God's will at the top of our priority list.  Both of these things, knowing our own potential and doing as God asks, go hand in hand because only God can show us how to live up to our potential and to become so much more than we currently are.

I like the "Give us day by day our daily bread." line because it reminds us to focus on each day, similar to Matthew 6:34 ("Take no thought for the morrow") or the lesson of giving Manna to the Israelites, who could only gather enough for a day and not store it.  Like the parable of the ten virgins, we have to have oil in our lamps, symbolic of being spiritually prepared.  There are some spiritual and physical things that we can do ahead of time or that last, and others that we need to maintain daily.  We can get baptized, store food, or buy plane tickets for a future date, but we can't store up prayer, repentance, church attendance, or exercise, or loan those things to other people.  Our constant reliance on God and our need to keep practicing and working at improving ourselves are both important lessons.

The last verse reminds us that we need to forgive others as God forgives us, and also to beware temptation, and to stay away from it rather than trying to get as close to the edge as we can without falling.  I think we too often enjoy tempting fate and getting into dangerous situations without adequately understanding the consequences.  God encourages us to not ask to be led into those situations, but that we should desire to stay away from them instead.  Joseph and David from the scriptures were both faced with situations that could compromise their integrity, Joseph with Potiphar's wife, and David with Uriah's wife.  Joseph ran away, and David ran in the other direction.  Let's steer clear the best we can, and when we do face temptations in life, let's make sure we get God's help to get out again fast before we choose to harm ourselves and others... and let's remember that other people make mistakes too, and give them the same leeway that we give ourselves in believing that they can be good people despite past errors.

Today let's remember the lessons that Christ teaches us here in this simple prayer: obedience and divine potential, practice and preparation, temptation and forgiveness.  Let's pray similarly, and learn even more from God.

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