Here’s a blog post about prayer that I wrote a few years ago. It ‘fits’ what Jesus says in Matthew 6:5-6, so I thought I’d share it again.
My pastor read an interesting verse in our service last night. I Corinthians 4:20. It says “. . . the kingdom of God is not a matter of TALK but of POWER.” The verse fit perfectly with his sermon . . . which was the third in a series entitled “The Kingdom.” The sermon was based on Matthew 11 and was (obviously) about God’s power.
But the verse also fit perfectly with what God has been talking to me about recently. I’ve been in the book of Matthew for the past 18 months. (That’s not so bad. I spent 5 1/2 YEARS in Psalms before that. What can I say? I’m analytical!) And every time I turn around (so to speak), Jesus is verbally going at it with the religious leaders. (And it seems to me that Jesus is usually the instigator!)
What I keep seeing in this book is that these ‘religious’ people REALLY get under Jesus’ skin. He calls them out for what they are (according to Him: hypocrites, snakes, white-washed tombs, etc.) and He doesn’t cut them any slack.
Today I was reading in Matthew 15 where Jesus is explaining that breaking a rule (eating with unwashed hands, according to the religious leaders of His day) is not what makes you unclean (unholy, not right with God). He says that we’re unclean based on our heart . . . the hidden us . . . the us no one can see except God. And He says that what is in our hidden heart (thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, etc.) will become evident on the outside. Our outward actions will eventually reveal our inward heart. (That’s my simplistic interpretation, anyway.)
So I started thinking about application for me today. The ‘religious’ rules are different now. In my world, we’re not so much concerned with the ritual of washing our hands before we eat (not for religion’s sake anyway . . . maybe for our health!). But what if I see someone bowing their head in public before they begin their meal? Do I automatically judge them as righteous? Close to God? Good Christian people? Okay, so what if someone doesn’t bow their head and pray? Do I assume they’re unrighteous? Estranged from God? Ungrateful?
And what about me? When I bow my head before a meal is it: (1) so that those around me will think of me as ‘religious,’ right with God, a good Christian; (2) so that God will see me and remember how ‘good’ I’ve been and how grateful I am and add another gold star beside my name; (3) because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do as a Christian to set a good Christian example? Or is it (4) an automatic response at this particular instant in time of a grateful heart that’s been carrying on a silent conversation with its Creator all day long?
There have been multiple times when I’ve done each one of these. And there are those times when I don’t do any of them . . . I just start eating!!! But I think what God has been trying to tell me (again!) through my recent study of Matthew, is that anything other than number four puts me in the ‘religious’ category in His book . . . . . . and based on Jesus’ run-ins in Matthew, that’s not a good place to be.
There’s a fine (and INVISIBLE) line between DOING ‘good’ things (RELIGIOUS!) and BEING ‘good’ (REAL!) from the heart out.
And I think the more REAL I am, the less RELIGIOUS TALKing I’ll do and the more of God’s POWER will be evident in the way I live my life.