Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

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Teach us to Pray

Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray … [Liturgy]

JugglingWhen I was 18 years old I decided that I wanted to learn how to juggle. I didn’t know anyone who juggled, so I had to teach myself. I bought a set of juggling bean-bags and got to work practicing. It took me a couple of weeks to get it (mostly) right.

 About a year later I came across a book called “Juggling for the Complete Klutz.” On a whim I picked it up and almost right from the first sentence was dumbfounded. In this wise little tome was outlined in excruciating detail all the mistakes I had made in learning to juggle. It was almost like someone had watched me try to learn and then wrote a book about how NOT to do it!

 Yet I wasn’t hurt. My reaction was one of regret. If only I had this book sooner I could have learned to juggle in no time at all! (Now I can teach anyone everything they need to know to be a competent juggler in about 10 minutes).

 There is a hard way to do things … going it alone … the school of hard knocks … trial and error … learning from our mistakes (lots and lots of mistakes). Sure you will get there eventually, but it may not be all that fun, you will probably quit at least a couple of times, and you will likely be bruised and battered when you arrive.

 But then there is the easy way … learning at the feet of one who has already mastered … following in the footsteps of one who knows better, who has already been there … heeding the advice of the one who is already wise. Not only will you get there, but you will do it sooner, and with more insight than you could have gained on your own.

 Prayer is just such a skill. It doesn’t come naturally. It is something we must learn. And we can do it the hard way … on our own … or we can do it the Lord’s way … and with His help and understanding.

 The disciples understood this when they asked the Lord to teach them how to pray. It is hard to learn how to do well. And so the Master showed them. He gave them the Lord’s Prayer, and with it, the very keys to understanding the kingdom of God!

 The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that contains more wisdom and insight than you or I alone could ever come up with. It is a prayer that comes from the very heart of God … a prayer that seeks the heart of the Father.

 It is a prayer that takes minutes to learn, but a lifetime to understand. But then again, shouldn’t prayer be a life-long pursuit? Isn’t it time you stopped trying to do it yourself? Isn’t it time that prayer became less of a struggle and a burden for you? Isn’t it time to give up your old ways of stopping and starting, trying and failing, and really learn to pray from the Lord Himself. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own … not when there is someone willing to instruct you.

As Martin Luther said “This is surely the great advantage the Lord’s Prayer has over all other prayers which we may compose ourselves. For in them conscience might ever be in doubt and say: I have prayed, but who knows how it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the proper proportions and manner? Therefore no nobler prayer can be found on earth than the Lord’s Prayer, which we pray daily; for it has the clear testimony that God loves to hear. We should not surrender it for all the riches of the world.”

 And so Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray …

praying handsOur Father who art in heaven, hallowed be 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Holy To The Lord

presentation of JesusWhen the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord     [Luke 2:22-24]

It is sometimes from the seemingly smallest and most insignificant scenes in the life of a person that some of the greatest and life-altering truths can be found. The beginnings of Jesus’ life are no different, except maybe that the life such scenes tend to alter is not His for living through it as our own for being privy to it.

 Consider, for example, the day when Mary took her young infant son (his age still only measured in weeks) up to the temple for the very routine purpose of making sacrifices for herself and little Jesus. It was something mothers and newborns had been doing for centuries. It was something that took place every single day – several times a day.

 The sacrifices served as a reminder that the spilling of blood made a person unclean. And life can sometimes be a pretty bloody affair. Even the good moments. Further, life belonged to God. It was He that gave it, He that delivered it up out of Egypt, by striking down Pharoah with the dreaded ten plagues. Plagues that ended with the death of the firstborn of all those opposed to God.

 Women and their 40 day-old babies had been offering these sacrifices every single day of every single year ever since the Exodus, to connect themselves again with the history of Israel and promises of God. They fulfilled these obligations in order to remain a part of that covenant community.

 And yet look at the deeper truth being played out in this every-day scene. For the mother is no ordinary mother, for this firstborn Son belongs to God Himself. And even though the price is paid, His life cannot be bought back from God. His life will be wholly devoted to the Lord. He himself will be the sacrifice that buys back firstborn Israel once and for all time.

 In the impending passover death of this precious Lamb of God, and his subsequent resurrection death will be forever passed over. His blood will write a new covenant with God’s people, marking their homes so that sin, death, and the devil will never have a fixed place within again!

 In the life of this true Son of Israel, this “One who is Holy to the Lord”, God’s people will finally be brought out of the wilderness of sin and doubt, and delivered safely through the waters of Baptism into the awaiting promised land.

 It certainly doesn’t look like much. Just a mother and her baby, fulfilling their routine obligations. But That Mother and That Baby are doing it not just for themselves, they are doing it for you and me.  This shedding of this Son’s blood will make people clean, and bring life even from death, that we too might be Holy to the Lord!