Christ the Teacher

Christ the Teacher

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXVIII: Asking, Seeking, Knocking

Christ is risen!  Yes, He truly is Risen!

Today I will write about Matthew 7:7 – 12.  Verse 7 reads like this, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Orthodox material that I read is quick to point out that the verb tense in this verse (in the Greek) is the present progressive.  A better English translation would be, “Be asking… Be seeking…. Be knocking…. The Orthodox Study Bible adds that we, “…ask in prayer, we seek by learning God’s truth, and we knock by doing God’s will.” 

I like to link this to 1 John 5:15, “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.”  The way I read this, it is saying that our praying IS our receiving!  We have already received it!  Now, before you get excited, we must remember what prayer is, what God’s will is, and what praying in Jesus’ name is. 

From our own very limited perspective, all our prayers are good.  We all pray for good things, or at least we think so while we are praying.  We pray for better jobs, a good house, good weather for the farmers, health for our children, healing for ourselves and those that we know and love.  Yes, we all ask the Lord for things like these while we pray. 

How often do we pray for God’s will to be done?  Or that we would know God’s will in our lives? 

It is interesting to me that some people can rattle off what God’s will is for them at the drop of a hat.  I wonder if that is really the truth.  I suspect there is a high percentage of these folks whose ideas of what God’s will is for them changes with relative ease.  I knew a pastor who hated living in the north and dealing with winter.  He loved to golf.  All of a sudden, he knew it was God’s will that he move to Texas.  And sure enough, he found a church that needed a pastor and that town had a great golf course and he packed his bags and was gone.  He said it was God’s will that he move to this town.  

Was that God’s will for him?  I don’t know.  I can’t say for anyone else because I have a hard enough time with the specifics in my own life.  And truthfully, unless our jobs entail something that is unlawful or immoral, I don’t think God really cares what we do to make a living.  I think we can just rely on what we love to do.  And perhaps just doing what we love is God’s will.

But there is a larger picture, one more general that I find that people often miss.  How do we treat people?  How do we live in the world or even our family?  Yes, there are some passages and texts in the Bible that tell us very specifically what God’s will is for us.  We can look at the Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount.  Just these two items would keep us busy (and humble)!  Not just keeping laws however, which is how many people read them, but in guiding the way in which we live. 

I wonder if there are lot of people, even Christian people, who don’t even pay attention to either of these.  I hear some tell me that I don’t need to bother trying to live the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus was just giving us the goal of the Christian life and not what was required or anything.  If you are able to follow all these rules, when good, but if not, that’s OK because we are not saved by keeping laws, or so the story goes. 

Jesus will tell us point blank in 7:21 that to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, we must DO God’s will.  So, I think finding out God’s will is important.  And it isn’t complicated.  It’s pretty simple actually.  Much of it is either written down or is taught by our Church.  I would like to share this short list of verses that say we are judged according to our works or words.

Proverbs 24:12
Psalm 62:12
Jeremiah 17:10
Matthew 7:21
Matthew 12:36
Matthew 16:27
John 5:29
Acts 10:35
Romans 2:6-10, 13
Romans 14:12
2 Corinthians 5:10
1 John 2:17
1 Peter 1:17

This list is by no means exhaustive.  Rather in my daily reading of Scripture, I pay attention and try to make connections.  These are ones that I have written down over the past few months.

So, the most important thing to ask for is eternal life with the Lord and He does not keep it a secret of how we are to get there and what we must do.  It’s pretty plain and simple, although not necessarily easy.  And when we fail, we will encounter the mercy of God.  Remember in Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father in perfect.”  What this is really saying is that mercy is a sign of the Kingdom.  The perfection of God is mercy.  So, just by practicing mercy, we can travel far and fast in the spiritual life. 

It is an error, a false Gospel, that we can ignore the law, that we can accept Jesus as our Savior and then basically do as we will.  The deceiver Satan sews ideas such as this when we are not diligent and watchful.  When we start thinking like that, it is good to recall the words of Christ Himself in Matthew 7:21.  This, and similar verses like the ones above, should develop within us a certain amount of fear, or wonder and awe, that we should desire to stay close to our Savior.  Yes, we will fail.  We will fall.  Humility becomes an essential ingredient to our living the Gospel and we recognize our failures and our falling and we humbly seek the Lord and His mercy and forgiveness.  We rise again.  We choose narrow path. 

It is here that we sift and sort through what is really important and we find out what are the essential things to ask of the Lord.  One thing to recall is that in the Lord’s Prayer, the one He commanded us to say, there is not one petition in it that is earthly or temporal (not even daily bread which really refers to Eucharist).  I wonder if it is here that we eventually learn wisdom.  You know as we struggle through life, prayers that are seemingly unanswered, endure some suffering, experience trials, we come to the realization of what is more important.  Yes, it is OK to ask the Lord to heal Gramma’s heart, her physical heart after a heart attack or something.  We should pray for this!  Yet, let us also learn to ask the Lord for strength in bearing suffering.  Ask the Lord to help Gramma in her suffering.  For it is through suffering that the Lord teaches us wisdom, love, and how to truly be compassionate and holy. 

Suffering has much to teach us.  As we grow in faith, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts to the lessons He is trying to teach us through our trials.  Let us seek the Lord merely for Who He is and prostrate ourselves before Him and ask His help to teach us how to love more fully, putting others first, treating them as better than ourselves.  Let us keep knocking that He would open our hearts and teach us the ways of holiness, to set us on the narrow path, and keep us from false teachers.

Those last two items, I will take up next time.  Until then, keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.  The Lord is listening.  Follow Him.  He is leading us to our answers.  Life itself contains many of the answers to our prayers if we but remain watchful and open to seeing.

Peace always.

Dennis the Little

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXVII: Pearls Before Swine

“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you,” Matthew 7:6.

Like any line of Scripture, there are multiple valid interpretations.  Here is one that I like because it causes me to see the pride that lies inside of me.  I am often tempted to speak to others what I know and what I have just learned.  It’s kind of like, “Look at me!  I know what this means.  Just ask me and I’ll tell you the deep, hidden meaning.  See, I’m pretty smart.  I must be close to God.”

If I were honest, this is one reason why I began to write.  Now, hopefully it is not the reason that I continue to write! 

Jesus has given us pearls in this sermon, wonderful teachings that will make a difference in our lives if we do them.  This line is telling me, “Don’t just go around bragging about it, or showing off to your friends what you know, just calmly and simply do them.  Live out what I teach you.  This will be enough.”

And so dear friends, let this be enough for you and for me. 

Peace always.

Dennis the Little

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Imitation of Christ

I have been reading the Imitation of Christ again, slowly, very slowly, during Lent.  I came across this a couple weeks ago and wanted to share it with you for my last article, but I forgot to include it.  So I will put it here, now.

The Fourteenth Chapter


TURN your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of other men, for in judging others a man labors vainly, often makes mistakes, and easily sins; whereas, in judging and taking stock of himself he does something that is always profitable.

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.

If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed so easily by opposition to our opinions. But often something lurks within or happens from without to draw us along with it.
Many, unawares, seek themselves in the things they do. They seem even to enjoy peace of mind when things happen according to their wish and liking, but if otherwise than they desire, they are soon disturbed and saddened. Differences of feeling and opinion often divide friends and acquaintances, even those who are religious and devout.

An old habit is hard to break, and no one is willing to be led farther than he can see.
If you rely more upon your intelligence or industry than upon the virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will hardly, and in any case slowly, become an enlightened man. God wants us to be completely subject to Him and, through ardent love, to rise above all human wisdom.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXVI: Judge Not

Jesus continues His sermon with a few lines about judging others, Matthew 7:1-5.  We will be judged to the same degree that we pass judgment on others.  Now, we know that we shouldn’t judge people, and yet, we do it all the time, don’t we?  Don’t you?  Certainly I do. 

You know the routine.  You see someone during the liturgy who is obviously not paying attention.  You thank God that you are paying attention and are not like this person over there who obviously is not getting anything out of the prayers.  You might even wonder what will be going on in their head when it comes time for Eucharist.  “Yep.  They’ll blow that one too.” 

Or, there’s looking down on someone who is poor, not well educated, or maybe someone is overweight, another person smokes, and we can come up with a pretty long list can’t we?  How many things could we judge our boss about?  Our spouse?  How about high school kids?  Undocumented immigrants?  College students?  Athletes?   The rich?  How about rich athletes that make the headlines due to a crime or other negative reason?  After each of these we can each write a litany of criticisms of each one.  It seems that we judge others almost automatically.

We are guilty.  So now what?  What do we do?  How do we overcome this all too common tendency of ours?

Well, since I am no expert, and I do not want to be the blind leading the blind, I’ll keep it very simple.  First, follow the Scripture, “Attend to thyself and diligently guard your soul,” Deuteronomy 4:9.  What does this mean?  Simply that we keep watch over what we do and what is in our hearts to begin with and what we allow inside of ourselves.  Every night before sleep it is helpful to pass over the day and watch yourself as if from a distance.  What did you do?  How did you treat others?  Of course we know what our thoughts were at the time and we can look at those too.  What were we thinking when we said something negative to another person?  Were we looking down on someone?  Conversely, were we putting someone up on a pedestal? 

Over time we can keep vigilant with the goal of allowing this sin into our hearts less and less.  Let us also make a sincere apology to the Lord when we notice ourselves guilty of this practice.  Ask for God’s mercy and pray.  Make mental notes too about who you tend to be more judgmental towards.  When we notice we are judging others, we should pray for them.  Ask the Lord to have mercy on them and help them.  Ask that He help us to see Christ in them and to treat them as Christ.  Over time, our judgment of others will become less and less. 

As we practice and strive to be non-judgmental, non-condemning, we can become more at peace inside.  It is like this: most people (me too) tend to be very patient and forgiving of ourselves but hold others to a higher standard.  Speaking for myself, if I look back with honesty, it is like I was looking at others with an eye to correct them which of course justified my own actions, my own twisted judgments.  It is almost an attitude of me being in charge to point out the flaws of others so that they can live better and draw nearer to the Lord. 

That seems to be the justification anyways.  But I think what is really happening is that the soul knows what the problem is.  However, our ego cannot accept that we are the problem and we look to solve the problem in others.  We see our faults quite clearly but deal with them in other people. So, this must be part of our reorientation as well.  What do we condemn in others?  A step towards inner peace then is to find this fault in ourselves.  Once we can do this, then perhaps, if we are directed by the Lord, we can help our neighbor.  But we must do this inner work first.  Otherwise, we will be the blind leading the blind.  Pray to God that we do not lead others over the cliff, but rather do our inner work first.  Yes, it is painful and at times difficult, but the Lord and the Church can be our guides and offer us help along the way.

Peace always.

Dennis the Little

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXV: Total Abandonment to God, The Little Way

I think it is appropriate to speak of the Little Way of St. Therese at this point, especially after reading the part of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our life, Matthew 6:25-34, but rather seek first the Kingdom of God. 

If you have not read the Story of a Soul by St. Therese, I would highly recommend it.  If you prefer to listen to podcasts on your phone, especially as you drive to work say, you might want to try this first.  This is a link to take you to a series about St. Therese’s life, drawing heavily upon the Story of a Soul, by Fr. Jacques Daley.  You will not be disappointed.  It is wonderful.  And so is the book.  So, if you have been putting it off, please, do not put it off any longer.  This is a wonderful book that has the potential to change your life.  When you do buy the book, I also recommend the latest edition, the third edition.  It is the most up to date and faithful to the original as written by St. Therese. 

St. Therese suffered and loved much.  Yet, through everything was she was convinced of the love and presence of Jesus.  This is also remarkable because she had a very dry spiritual life.  Jesus did not shower her with consolations, or “good feelings” in regards to faith.  Most of her life was spent in the desert.  She often refers to herself as Jesus’ toy or a little ball.  When He didn’t want to play, the little ball was content to sit in the corner and wait.  Which was almost all the time!  Another image of Jesus that she often used was that Jesus was asleep in the boat. 

You may wish to read the two accounts of this in the Gospels.  Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41.  Jesus rebukes the disciples, “Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?” Mark 4:40. 

To be honest, isn’t this me?  I want to rush to Jesus and tell Him to wake up!  “Get up and help me!  Now!  Look at my great problems!  Do something!”

Therese did not do this.  I was thinking about her and the Little Way just before going to prayer recently.  Psalm 112 was one of the Psalms I prayed that evening.  I thought, “What a beautiful prayer.  This reminds me of St. Therese.”  It really did.  Read this Psalm, especially the middle portion:

“For the righteous will never be moved;
He will be remembered for ever.
He is not afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is firm, trusting in the Lord,
His heart is steady, he will not be afraid.”

What a great few verses for Lent!  Anytime for sure, but if we view Lent as a time of growth, as a time in the desert, yes!  This is a time we must surrender all and put all our confidence in the Lord!  Truly, suffering may be assaulting you.  You wonder where Jesus is and why He is not answering your prayer!  Do not be discouraged.  Do not be afraid.  Jesus is with you.  He is by your side.  Yes, He may just be asleep in the boat.  But do not fear, He sleeps so that you will grow in your faith.  This is a great grace!  And the trial you experience has brought you to this moment when you have to choose: Do I trust in Jesus, or do I take matters into my own hands?  Do I go back to Egypt, so to speak, as the Hebrew people wanted to do while Moses was guiding them to the Promised Land? 

Another Psalm that is quite appropriate today is Psalm 137, the Babylonian exile.  We are in Babylon!  Our existence on this earth is exile.  So many in our nation give themselves to the “American Dream.”  Don’t fall for it!  It is an illusion.  It is an attempt to make our home here on this earth, in this country.  The American Dream says materialism and America is your savior.

No!  Jesus is our Savior!  This is not our home!  Seek first the Kingdom!  Do not trust in princes, (or your money, your job, the government etc.) trust in the Lord.  Yes, He might be asleep, but do not worry.  Our Lenten journey is a journey that should be awakening in us the reality that Heaven is our true home, not this earth as wonderful as it is.  Yes, we can enjoy our time here, this is true, but live as if you are in a tent.  Anything, everything we do here is temporary and is passing away except our love. 

Is Jesus asleep?  He often is.  I used to listen to those who said that if this was my experience of Jesus then there must be something wrong with me or my spiritual life or that I needed to get into a church that experienced Jesus.  If “my” Jesus was asleep, it proved that I was in the wrong place.  I understand better now, because of the Grace of Jesus, but also the intercession of St. Therese and the Blessed Mother.  (And I say Mary because what was her life?  What was her spirituality?  “Let it be done to me according to Your word.”  Yes!  She lived in total abandonment to God too!  And to Jesus her Son!)

If you experience Jesus as asleep, do not be afraid.  Just pray.  Pray in confidence.  Pray in surrender.  Pray in truth.  You could pray the Psalms too!  They are a wonderful way to pray this spirituality. 

There are a number of references in the Psalms to this spirituality of waiting, of Jesus being asleep.  Here are a few Psalms and verses (Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition) that might encourage you.

Psalm 6:3
Psalm 10:1
Psalm 13:1-2
Psalm 119:84
Habakkuk 1:2

There are others, but you get the point, which to me is this: We must wait on the Lord.  There are those out there that say “name it and claim it” or they say if you had faith, real faith, your prayers would be answered.  Well, if these above references are in Scripture, I think the Lord is telling us something different.  He is telling us that He is in charge.  We must do HIS will.  He will not allow us to manipulate Him.  Yes, we might think we know how He should answer our prayers, but He knows what is best for us.  Let us practice this waiting on the Lord.  It is a journey.  It is a deep, deep, spirituality.  It contains a deep truth and a deep peace. 

Please take some time to meditate on these Scriptures and the Little Way of St. Therese.  Look up some things on the Internet about the Little Way.  There is so much. 

Be blessed in your waiting as you continue your journey through Lent. 

Dennis the Little

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXIV: Embracing our True Treasure, Matthew 6:19-34

What is it that you treasure the most in your life?  Most people say their families or their spouse and after that it is their friends.  Some people might even say God, or Jesus, or the Church.  Since I became a Christian and joined the Catholic Church in 1994, I have said all these things.  And in my mind, they are true.  But, if I was really honest, and really brutal with myself, how do I live my life?  How do my actions speak or the money I spend?  What do they say are the most important things in my life?  I think this is a good question to pull up on our radar screens anytime, but especially now that it is Lent, it is most apropos. 

In verse 21, Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart is also.  In verse 24, Jesus gives says: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” What is mammon?  It is riches, however you may define them.  In our materialistic culture, it mostly would have to do with possessions, money, or anything that gains you greater esteem in the eyes of others, or rather, what we think will give us greater esteem in the eyes of others.  These are the things we covet and desire.  Oh, and are they sneaky!  Oh!  How we justify our nights out with our friends or our football Sundays, our hunting weekends, or our shopping sprees, especially the ones we plan out just before school begins in the fall.  “Where is your treasure?” is a very important question to ask ourselves at least weekly if not daily. 

Every day, St. Therese would ask herself if she loved God more than anything or anybody else in her life.  This is what we must ask.  Is there anything that I put above my pursuit and love of God?

One thing that I must be constantly aware of is how much I work and worry.  We are a single income family.  I work three jobs.  I work about 70 hours per week on the average.  In verse 25, Jesus tells me, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.”  At the end of this section, He instructs us to seek first the Kingdom of God, then everything else will fall into place.

What does this tell me?  Well, first, we need to get our priorities straight.  God first.  Then family, friends, job etc.  Then, don’t worry.  Trust God that He will take care of everything.  Now, I wrote this as an “if-then” statement as if when we get the first part correct, then the second one begins or happens.  Well, my experience is that they grow together.  As we get our priorities lined up correctly, there will be an almost automatic response in our level of trust.

But there is also one danger here: It is all too easy to trust in oneself!  When we trust in ourselves too much and not in the Lord, then I think we put a road block in our journey to the Lord.  We don’t put Him first.  We put our work first, our solutions to our problems first, and we put our will first.  Part of putting God first in our lives is to put His will for us front and center.

So many people, even Christian people, tend to think that God wants us to have the abundant life.  And He does!  But all too many people interpret this as having money, having nice cars and nice houses.  A poll done a number of years ago among Christian people noted that 70% of us believed God wanted us to be rich.  My experience is quite different.  We run from suffering and trials.  In fact, many of us believe that when we encounter hardships that it is punishment from God!  I read a recent interview with Pope Francis.  In this interview, he stated that, “one can’t grow without crisis… crisis is part of the life of faith; a faith which doesn’t enter into crisis to grow, remains juvenile.”  This quote was in the following article:

When we encounter hardship it is often a cross given to us, fashioned for us, by Jesus Himself.  We must embrace our crosses.  And here is one reason why we must trust in the Lord rather than trust in ourselves.  We deceive ourselves all too easily.  Many, many books, many books written by the saints, tell us over and over again, “Do not trust yourself.”  Just two examples are The Imitation of Christ and Unseen Warfare.  This theme and exact quote, “Do not trust yourself,” is front and center in chapter one of each book. 

I would recommend that we take some time for meditating on our lives in the next few weeks of Lent.  How do I deal with problems?  Hardships?  Suffering?  What is my response when I receive a cross?  Hmmm.  My initial response is to complain!  Next, I blame someone else.  Then, maybe, sometimes, I’ll relent and do what needs to be done.  I see how I have trusted myself.  Now, that I see my error, I need to change this.  I must seek first the Kingdom, I must trust the Lord and not myself.  I must surrender my heart, soul, and my stubbornness.  I must repent and believe the Gospel. 

To end this article, I am going to give you a list of Bible verses.  You can read them in any order you like except the first two I will give you here: 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”

I ran across this verse in my casual reading and it got me to wonder.  What is the power of God?  We often think of miracles and cures and the like, right?  Well try this on for size from 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”  The power of God is the CROSS!  It is Jesus hanging from His cross.  It is you and me uniting our crosses with His.  It is our suffering and trials, or as Pope Francis said in the above interview I quoted, it is our crises in our lives that mature our faith.  Now that you know this, read St. Paul’s letters again.  He is always talking about the cross.  Today, many will talk about the cross, but it seems that they are speaking about the cross of Christ as a distant thing.  It’s like this, “Jesus suffered.  Jesus carried His cross.  He died on the cross.  He did it for us.  Now we don’t have to.”  That is all true, except the last line.  We do need to carry our crosses as Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 

People sometimes tell me how false my faith is.  They point out the crucifix.  “Jesus isn’t on the cross anymore,” they say.  Hmmm.  I beg to differ.  Start with Matthew 25:31-46.  It’s the final judgment, but it shows us where we encounter the living God: in those who are suffering.  If we believe in the incarnation of Christ, we will see Him in everyone, but especially those who suffer.  Jesus is helping us to carry our crosses.  The shortest, quickest way to encounter Christ is through the cross.  Yes, it signifies suffering, but it is also the sign of our salvation.  It is through the cross that we are saved.  And this is not just the cross of Christ, but we must unite ours with His.

OK, now the list.  Read these.  Pray over these.  May you find Christ in your sufferings and may He comfort you as you take up your cross daily and follow Him.  Oh, and this list isn’t exhaustive.  They are verses that I have picked up over the past two or three months as I have read through the Scriptures. 

1 Corinthians 4:20
1 Corinthians 1:18
Luke 9:23
1 Peter 5:8-9
Acts 14:22
Luke 21:19
Luke 14:33
Philippians 1:29
2 Timothy 1:8
1 Peter 4:13-14
2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Isaiah 30:20
2 Corinthians 1:9
1 Peter 4:1
Hosea 4:3
1 Peter 4:19
2 Timothy 3:12
John 16:33

I would offer  these to you as part of our treasure, our little sufferings that bring us to a closer union with Christ, who is our life. 

Peace be with you.

Dennis the Little

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXIII: The Lord’s Prayer

Find the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 or in Luke 11:2-4.  One thing that is important is that the prayers are not the same.  Although many Bibles today write them the same way, Luke’s version is shorter. 

The Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition has Luke’s version like this:

Father, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.

And for Matthew’s version, here:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Matthew’s version should be very recognizable.  Matthew’s version is liturgical.  Already by the time Matthew wrote his gospel, people were praying this prayer in the Liturgy.  And so it has come to us down through the ages. 

I’d like to highlight a couple of footnotes too.  “Our daily bread” can be rendered “our bread of the morrow.”  At the end of Matthew’s version, “evil” should be “the evil one.”  Later texts include “For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.”

Beyond this, from what I have read over the years, there are two things that really stand out to me, that are important to how we typical Christians live our lives.  First, from the stand point of salvation, we live in a nation that is by and large protestant.  The understanding is that it is faith alone that saves us and that if we have faith, God forgives us.  The problem is, Jesus doesn’t say that.

The prayer that Jesus gives us to pray says, “…forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us,” (Luke’s version).  In Matthew’s version, Jesus even points out after He gives the prayer to His disciples that, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Gosh, sounds kind of serious.  And it is!  Our being forgiven is directly tied to our willingness to forgive others!

The other comment I have is about “daily bread.”  This is not the common, ordinary bread that we eat at our dinner table.  No, daily bread is a bad translation.  The Greek word is “epiousios,” which is the supersubstantial bread or “above the essence.”  This bread is not merely material bread for earthly sustenance.  This is the bread for spiritual health and eternal life.  Read John 6 to find out what that bread is!  There is one bread that is used to feed the 5,000 (verses 1-14).  There is another bread later in the chapter to give us eternal life, but the people still sought Him out for that earthly bread (6:26).  In the next verse, Jesus tells them not to labor for this bread, rather the bread that endures to eternal life.  The last part of the chapter is devoted to the Bread of Life: Jesus, Eucharist.

There are many more important points to the most important of prayers.  I have merely highlighted two points that I have read about many times from many different authors and speakers.  Here is a talk (transcript available for you to read if you prefer) by a true expert, Fr. Thomas Hopko:

One final note, and I bring this up because many traditional Christians feel intimidated if they are in a situation where their protestant friends are praying.  They tell me often, “Wow, they can really pray!”  Don’t feel bad.  Don’t feel that your prayers are any less.  The fact is, if we read history and if we read the Bible, this isn’t how it was done in the ancient church.  First of all, as Fr. Tom will tell you in his talk, the Lord’s Prayer is A PRAYER!  It is to be said!  Jesus didn’t say to talk things over with our Father or share our feelings or pray for a new car or boat or a new job.  In fact, there is nothing earthly about the prayer.  All the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer deal with the spiritual life and our responsibilities in the spiritual life.  And all our other prayers have to agree with the Lord’s Prayer because it is the foundation of how Jesus says we should pray (Matthew 5:9, “Pray then like this…”).

It is interesting to note Acts 2:42 also.  It says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” 

Gosh, that sounds a lot like a traditional church today, doesn’t it?  We gather for Liturgy, we follow the teachings of the Apostles, there are specific liturgical prayers, and we break bread (Eucharist).  Yes, some Bibles say “prayers” here.  I think they know what is going on, but this is not correct.  The Greek says, “THE prayers.”  The ancient and early followers of Christ prayed specific prayers.  There was a prayer book (Psalms) and there were specific prayers that were said at liturgy.  This is not to say that people couldn’t use their own words to pray.  Of course not.  But let’s be careful and let’s be honest.  I have had many people tell me that my prayer books are worthless.  “Prayer must come from the heart, YOUR heart,” they say.  Excuse me.  But there are no better prayers than the Psalms.  The Psalms are the prayer book that God gives to us.  It would be a good idea to pray them.  And yes, they do touch the heart and after some time, they will instruct your heart and become the prayers of your heart.  Then you will be praying to and worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth.  The prayers of your heart will truly be lining up with Jesus and the Lord’s Prayer. 

In closing, please pray about this.  Listen to or read Fr. Tom’s talk.  Take prayer seriously this Lent.  Grow in prayer by praying the Psalms or using your prayer book daily.  This would be a better approach to prayer than “winging it.”  The danger of winging it in prayer is that you end up praying for YOUR OWN WILL!  We Catholics and Orthodox have nothing to be ashamed about when we pray prayers written on a page of a book.  These prayers have stood the test of time, they are often the prayers of saints, and many of them are prayers from God Himself. 

Thanks for visiting my blog.  I am praying for you!!

Peace be with you.

Dennis the Little