A group of women at my local church set out to study the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7), chapters five through seven in the gospel of Matthew and several passages dispersed throughout Luke, including the popular Our Father (the Lord's Prayer) and the Beatitudes of Jesus.
We came expectantly. Having heard too much noise from the world around us, we were hopeful for a word from Jesus.
I love the way Dallas Willard puts it in his book The Divine Conspiracy,
Though we are not talking about things one must do to "be Christian" or "go to heaven when we die," we are looking at how people live who stand in the flow of God’s life now.
Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Rather than being tossed to and fro by what society screams at us, we long to bring our weary souls and heavy loads to Jesus, who promises rest and his lighter load.
Walk with me through the Sermon on the Mount.
Imagine that day, when men, women and children gathered along the Sea of Galilee to hear the Teacher. Jesus seated among them, compassion filled his eyes.
He told the crowd who had gathered for this sermon, these are the blessed among us. There’s room for you among them.
He wanted his people to be recognized as salt, full of good flavor, and light, ever ready to push back the darkness.
Recognizing our tendency to think this all might be about following a bunch of rules, Jesus taught us a better way. It’s not about the law, it’s about hearts willing to pursue him with all we are.
Jesus taught his followers to offer up our anger, our wrong relationships, our need for extra assurance and self-proclaimed justice. He assured us, when our hearts are right, we can even love our enemies.
Because God has our hearts.
Once Jesus knew he had the crowd’s attention (and by now he certainly has mine), he began to teach them about prayer.
This is how you should pray, he said (Matthew 6:9a).
Not so everyone would see us praying and be impressed.
Not babbling as some do, speaking quickly and efficiently, marking a to-do item off the list.
Pray for an audience of one.
As we quiet our minds and hearts before God, and dwell with him, let’s look at how Jesus would have us pray.
It was recently that God drew my attention to a certain aspect of this prayer.
Maybe I’d seen it before. Maybe this was the first time.
Either way, God illuminated the fact that Jesus teaches us to pray not for “I” but “us.”
Even when we pray it privately, we pray on behalf of all Christ followers.
(The following highlighted verses are from the NIV, Matthew 6:9-13.)
Our Father in heaven,
He is the one true God, and he is ours. Yours, and mine.
God reigns in heaven, yet surrounds us in spirit. Sense his presence among us.
Hallowed be your name,
Everything about God, even his name, is sacred and holy. In this prayer Jesus taught us, the very first phrase puts us in our proper place.
We are desperately in need of a savior to cover us with his righteousness.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
It is from here, with our spiritual eyes on a holy God, we ask him (already by this point we’re begging),
“Lord, we don’t want anything else but your kingdom, your will. Start right now!”
Give us today our daily bread.
Because he is ours and we are his, we know he will provide. Sometimes we even have the privilege of partnering with him in the provision.
May he show us how we can meet the needs of others.
And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
We live in divisive times and we know forgiveness is hard. But if unforgiveness damages the work Jesus longs to to do on earth, we should willingly hand it over.
Our debts were canceled on the cross, so we can forgive. We know we are a forgiven people.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
There are a million distractions, even good things, that take our focus off Jesus. The evil one would have us doing anything but loving God and loving our neighbor.
and all the people said Amen.
The more we lean into this idea of praying the Lord’s Prayer with Christians all around the world, maybe even praying it individually at the same time as others throughout the day, God begins to give us a glimpse of the love he wants us to have for one another.
Sister, how can I belittle your presence on social media? I prayed for both of us today.
Who am I to think I am right about so much and you are right about so little? God alone is holy and righteous.
Am I really being treated that unfairly when, during my times of prayer, God brings to mind Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer far more than me?
Jesus went on from there, still in the same sermon, to teach his followers more on forgiveness, showing us he also knows it’s hard.
He reminded his followers to do sacred things like praying and fasting and giving alms. These acts of obedience become treasures in heaven.
They are the actions that take our minds off ourselves, turning our hearts to God, and our hands to our neighbors. They show where our treasure lies.
Knowing these things, how can we worry? Ours is a God who knows. A God who sees.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).
There’s no room for judgment, Jesus taught the crowd that day.
We must continuously right our focus. Ask, seek, and knock as we recognize our Father as the giver of good gifts.
The way of Jesus is a narrow way. It leads to life and wisdom.
Jesus finished preaching and the crowd knew, this was the way we could, all together, come to know God.