Advent Daily Devotional


Lenten Devotional 3-20-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 20, 2023

Matthew 6: 9-13

9 ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
10   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
11   Give us this day our daily bread.
12   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one.

So, this is how Jesus says we should pray. Does that mean that only if we say these specific words (and mean them) that we have “prayed” correctly? Is this sort of a rote mantra that get’s God’s attention? Is this what we are supposed to pray in private. Well … no. These are words of are one translation of the full Lord’s Prayer according to Matthew (“for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” is ancient but not original). So, what is Jesus saying here? Jesus is giving us an outline of what we should say to God. We are first to speak of our devotion to God. We are then to seek God’s will. We next ask for what we need. We ask for forgiveness for our failures. We look for protection from the unGodly.

When we pray, we fill out the outline with our own words of devotion, our search for the will of God, a list of what we need (though God knows it), our confession and hope for forgiveness, and our desire for protection from the darkness of the world. Those are God’s concerns according to Jesus and a private, personal prayer that addresses all these is what Jesus teaches.

As an addendum: What is it we do on Sundays? There are many answers, but here is mine. We have one person pray what we call intercessory prayers of prayers of the people. This “out loud” and sometimes “wordy” prayer is part prayer and part liturgy. While spoken by one, it is rephrased and replayed by many. It is an act of worship and is not condemned by Jesus.

Lenten Devotional 3-18-23

March 18, 2023

Matthew 6: 7-8

7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

When I was practicing law, I often attended court to argue motions. Motions are a request for a judge to make a particular ruling in a case abut a particular point of law. Most motions were heard one day a week by the assigned “motions judge”. Typically, the courtroom was full of lawyers that day waiting for their turn to argue their motions. One day I was responding to a motion on one of my cases. My opponent had argued at length about the justice of his request for a ruling in his client’s favor on the legal point. I thought his argument was heaped with empty phrases. Apparently, the judge thought so, too. After my opponent stopped his argument, the judge looked at me and asked me two questions. First question: “Mr. Tindall, do you golf?” “Yes,” I replied. Second question: ‘When someone tells you to pick up your putt, what do you do?” “I pick up the putt, you honor” I answered. “Pick up your putt, Mr. Tindall”, was the judges reply. You see, the judge was telling me that the other lawyer’s argument was so week, it amounted to conceding, I had won outright and did not need to argue or “putt my ball”. Apparently, Jesus was seeing a lot of people thinking they could get God’s attention and “win their request for God’s intervention” by using many empty phrases. But because the words really had no substance, God did not hear them. God knows us.

Lenten Devotional 3-17-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 17, 2023

Matthew 6: 5-6

5 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The first thing about this passage is that it says, “whenever you pray”, not “if you pray”. What that means is clear. We are expected to pray. But when we pray, we are to pray sincerely, not ostentatiously. Jesus says that the reward to those who pray ostentatiously is … well … that they are considered by the hearers to be pious. By their hearers, not God. Jesus prefers private prayer. Why? Because it is sincere. Private prayer is seeking the ear of God to share one’s innermost joys and concerns. It is a time of openness and transparency. It is an opportunity to “get it off your chest”. Ostentatious prayer is all show. It includes one of what we would share privately and so in insincere. Our daily prayers are to be like this.