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On April 26, 2016, The Guardian reported that the Church of England published a short prayer for the EU Referendum:

God of truth, give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum with honesty and openness. Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion and discernment to those who vote, that our nation may prosper and that with all the peoples of Europe we may work for peace and the common good; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

The article says that the prayer was carefully worded to maintain neutrality.

However, the Right Reverend David Hamid, the Anglican Suffragan Bishop in Europe, told The Guardian he hopes Remain wins because a number of his congregants are British expats living and working on the Continent. He also thinks remaining in the EU secures peace.

The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, also supports Remain because he prefers the status quo; it is easier, he says, for countries to work together.

Apparently, so do those placing EU Referendum bets with Ladbrokes. On May 21, Matthew Shaddick (‘Shadsy’ at PoliticalBetting.com) wrote an article for The Spectator discussing the bets placed recently on the referendum’s outcome. Shaddick is Ladbrokes’ head of political odds. He says:

Bookies have seen a very substantial swing toward Remain over the last few days. The odds on the UK staying in Europe have collapsed from 1/3 last week to 1/5 today. This shows that the chances of Brexit are now at a new low of just 21 per cent compared to the giddy heights of 40 per cent at the end of 2015.

On balance, the polls have probably been better for Remain recently, but there’s still a lot of variance, with some surveys still showing Leave ahead. However, the betting public can only see one result: with more than nine pounds out of every ten wagered at Ladbrokes over the last month being staked on a Remain victory.

Conventional wisdom and history tells us that bookies are not often wrong. Shaddick reminds us that they got the results of both the 2014 Scottish Referendum and 2015 UK election results correct.

He concludes:

On the Referendum, I’ve gone for a bet on Remain winning with between 55 per cent and 60 per cent of the vote, but if the odds for Leave get any bigger that might become the value bet.

No doubt he has seen the results of a huge poll of 22,000 voters, published in The Independent on May 18 and to be released in full later this month. The Independent says:

The outcome of the EU referendum vote is on a knife edge with little more than one month to go, according to one of the largest surveys to date.

… Remain has a narrow lead of 43 to 40.5 per cent, according to new data from the British Election Survey.

But the advantage is wiped out among voters who say they are very likely to vote – giving Leave the victory by 45 per cent to 44.5 per cent.

We have one month left until voting takes place on Thursday, June 23. Meanwhile, the name calling on the Remain side is ramping up. As James Delingpole, journalist and Leave supporter who is in Brexit: The Movie, put it for The Spectator:

… if I were an undecided wondering where to place my X, I think the thing that would swing it for me would be the marked difference in tone between the two camps — with the Remainers coming across as shrill, prickly and bitter, and the Brexiters surprisingly sunny, relaxed and optimistic.

This isn’t what you might have expected at the start of the campaign. Really, it makes no sense. When you’re the odds-on favourite with the weight of the global elite behind you — Obama, Lagarde, Goldman Sachs, the BBC, Ed Balls — you ought to be able to afford to be magnanimous, jolly and decent. It’s the anti-EU rebels, the spoilers, the malcontents, you’d imagine would be most afflicted by rage, spite and peevishness.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. Yes, there has been some vicious factional backbiting between the different Brexit camps, I can’t deny that. The tone of their campaigning, though, has been almost weirdly upbeat: Boris larking about with Cornish pasties and angle-grinders; Gove batting off Marr with his effortless good cheer; Farage with his pint-and-fags common touch; Martin Durkin with his insightful, inspirational and often very funny crowd-funded documentary Brexit: the Movie.

He’s right. I certainly won’t be discussing it offline anymore. Once was enough. Everyone — bar one, thanks to Brexit: The Movie — I know is for Remain. If Leave wins, I’ll never hear the end of it, until five years from now, when we turn our nation into a hybrid of Switzerland and post-war Germany.

It seems to me that the Remain people are fearful Leave might just squeak through. We can but see.

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 17:14-20

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[a] and it[b] came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.[c] 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”[d]

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Each of the synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — record this great healing miracle.

I wrote about Luke’s version (Luke 9:37-43) in 2014. That post addresses the variations in the three accounts. Mark’s, the most detailed, is included in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

It is worth recalling that Matthew 10:5-15 records that Jesus had already invested in the twelve apostles the gift of healing, the ability to perform creative miracles with the same power as His own.

The events in this passage took place shortly after Jesus, Peter, James and John descended from the mountain following the Transfiguration.

Here was a desperate man who knelt before Jesus, addressing Him as Lord, asking for His mercy towards his epileptic son (verses 14, 15). Not only was the boy epileptic but he also had a demon which prevented him from controlling his seizures and instead sent him into fire or water, causing him to risk injury or death.

The father was understandably aggrieved, all the more so because this was happening to his son, his heir. Luke’s version further clarifies the boy’s status as ‘only child’, making his state of mind and body even more desperate. Mark’s version adds that the boy is mute, so he had no way of communicating verbally.

The father’s despair is heightened because the disciples could not heal the lad (verse 16). Nine apostles would have been at the scene until Jesus and the other three arrived. Note that a large crowd was watching. Mark’s version says they were arguing. John MacArthur explains:

The other gospel writers tell us more about this crowd. Mark tells us it included scribes, Jewish legal experts, just the normal run-of-the-mill gang of people that populated the northern Galilee area. And also the nine other disciples who weren’t there at the Mount of Transfiguration. So you have the disciples, the scribes and the multitude of people. And they’re there to wait and to meet Jesus and the three who come down from the mountain.

The highly charged atmosphere brought a rebuke from Jesus (verse 17). Our two commentators differ on to whom he addressed his remark about a ‘faithless and twisted generation’. MacArthur says it was to the disciples in whom He had invested powerful healing gifts that they could not execute:

The whole generation was faithless and perverse, but He generalizes off of the specific and who were the specific ones who weren’t exercising faith? The disciples. It was the particular inability of the disciples from which He generalizes to the whole inability of the generation in which they lived, because the scribes standing there, they didn’t believe either. And the other nine disciples, they couldn’t pull it off. And the father himself was weak in faith.

Matthew Henry, on the other hand, surmises that Jesus was not addressing the disciples here but the crowd (emphases mine):

This is not spoken to the disciples, but to the people, and perhaps especially to the scribes, who are mentioned in Mark 9:14, and who, as it should seem, insulted over the disciples, because they had now met with a case that was too hard for them. Christ himself could not do many mighty works among a people in whom unbelief reigned. It was here owing to the faithlessness of this generation, that they could not obtain those blessings from God, which otherwise they might have had as it was owing to the weakness of the disciples’ faith, that they could not do those works for God, which otherwise they might have done. They were faithless and perverse. Note, Those that are faithless will be perverse and perverseness is sin in its worst colours. Faith is compliance with God, unbelief is opposition and contradiction to God. Israel of old was perverse, because faithless (Psalm 95:9), forward, for in them is no faith, Deuteronomy 32:20.

Then He asked, ‘How long am I to be with you?’ Henry explains:

Two things he upbraids them with. (1.) His presence with them so long “How long shall I be with you? Will you always need my bodily presence, and never come to such maturity as to be fit to be left, the people to the conduct of the disciples, and the disciples to the conduct of the Spirit and of their commission? Must the child be always carried, and will it never learn to go alone?” (2.) His patience with them so long How long shall I suffer you? Note, [1.] The faithlessness and perverseness of those who enjoy the means of grace are a great grief to the Lord Jesus. Thus did he suffer the manners of Israel of old, Acts 13:18. [2.] The longer Christ has borne with a perverse and faithless people, the more he is displeased with their perverseness and unbelief and he is God, and not man, else he would not suffer so long, nor bear so much, as he doth.

MacArthur adds that Jesus was looking forward to returning to God the Father:

You can see Him starting to get anxious to go back to the Father, can’t you? He sort of senses the end, how long do I have to endure this? You see, His contemporaries were disastrous failures and even His own disciples were continually having to learn the same lessons over and over and over and over. I mean, just look at the crowd. The crowd is thrill-seeking, they don’t really believe fully. The scribes, they’re gloating. Oh, you can know it, they’re gloating over the inability of the nine disciples to heal this young boy. I mean, they’re really happy they can’t do it. And the father is struggling with faith. And the disciples had failed to exercise the faith they needed to heal the young boy, even though they had the promise and the power. And so, to some degree, the whole bunch of them were faithless and twisted and diverted from trust in God. And Jesus says, thirty-three years is about all of this I can take.

Despite all of this, Jesus displayed His infinite mercy and instructed that the boy be brought to Him. His enduring compassion once again outweighed His frustration with sinful man. He rebuked the demon which immediately left the boy. Jesus instantly healed him (verse 18). He fully healed him at that moment.

The disciples approached Jesus privately to ask why they could not do the same thing (verse 19). He replied that it was because of their little faith (verse 20).

Then He employed two literary devices well known to the ancient Jews about faith: ‘like a grain of mustard seed’ and moving mountains. MacArthur explains both:

Most people misinterpret that mustard seed. The principle of the mustard seed is not that it’s little, no. The principle of the mustard seed is that it is little and it does what? It grows. You remember that principle? It’s in Matthew 13, sure you remember it. Verse 31, another parable He put forth unto them saying, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field which indeed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree so the birds of air come and lodge in the branches of it.” And what you’ve got in the mustard seed is something that starts very, very small and grows very large

Please, it is not saying that if you have little tiny faith the size of a grain of mustard seed that you could say mountain be removed. It’s not talking about literal mountains. It’s talking about mountains of difficulty. It’s figurative. In fact, when the Jews…by the way, this was a rather common Jewish phrasewhen the Jews talked about removing mountains, they used it in reference to the ability to get past difficulties, or to remove difficulties. One writer says, “A great teacher who could really expound and interpret Scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties was known as an uprooter or a pulverizer of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a mountain. What He meant was, if you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved and even the hardest task can be accomplished.”

So, what do we do? MacArthur tells us:

I believe there are many things that God desires for you to experience in your life that God desires to accomplish in your life that are available to you through the exercise of His divine power. But that power will never be tapped until you have the faith that starts small. And when it meets with resistance and when you don’t see it happen, the faith doesn’t die small, it gets larger and larger and larger. And you continue persistently in prayer …

He wants you to persist in prayer because that’s the extension of your faith. You see, if you just said, “God, I want this…” (snap) you’ve got it…you’d never learn the strength in your faith. You’d never be ready for the trial, would you? And so the Lord asks us to persist and persist

And listen to me very carefully then, the antidote to little faith is what? Prayer…persistent prayer. Listen, James says it, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man…what?…availeth much. Effectual dedicated fervent passionate continuous persistent prayer gets results. You may never know the full promise of God. You may never know the full blessedness of God. You may never know the full rewards that…of all that God wants to bestow upon you until you learn persistent prayer.

Some undergoing constant or continuing personal trials might scoff. However, if they pray the way MacArthur advises while they are waiting for resolution or relief, God will grant the wherewithal and comfort to withstand despair.

I know a few people in the offline world who have undergone a lot during their lives. One woman in particular has experienced the deaths of three close family members: her only sibling — a brother — in her childhood, later her husband and, two years later, a beloved son. However, through it all, her faith has grown and grown to the size of a mustard tree.

Bottom line: let’s stop moaning. Let’s start praying.

In closing, some manuscripts have a verse 21, wherein Jesus says that this particular demon could only be got rid of through fasting and praying. MacArthur says:

The terms “and fasting” are not there in the original text. Someone added them. Matthew 2:19 says this is not a time for fasting when the bridegroom is present. And verse 21 isn’t even in the best manuscripts of Matthew, it’s borrowed from Mark’s account but it is at the end of Mark’s account. The story does end with this statement. So somebody, some scribe thought it capped off Matthew’s account so he pulled it over and put it here. And that’s fine in a sense because it is the ending of the story in Mark 9:29 and what the Lord says in the end is this kind goes not out except by prayer.

Henry’s commentary says that fasting sharpens prayer:

Fasting and prayer are proper means for the bringing down of Satan’s power against us, and the fetching in of divine power to our assistance. Fasting is of use to put an edge upon prayer it is an evidence and instance of humiliation which is necessary in prayer, and is a means of mortifying some corrupt habits, and of disposing the body to serve the soul in prayer. When the devil’s interest in the soul is confirmed by the temper and constitution of the body, fasting must be joined with prayer, to keep under the body.

Next time: Matthew 17:22-23

5fingerprayer4A huge hat tip to my reader Karina Susanto, who republished The Five Finger Prayer three years ago.

(Photo credit: Karina Susanto)

The Five Finger Prayer, used by both Catholics and Protestants, is a great method for young and old alike.

We begin by praying for those closest to us, progressing to those in leadership and authority over us. As our ring finger is our weakest finger, we pray for those who need strength or health. By the time we get to praying for ourselves, the petitions we have raised for other people in our lives and in the world help us to word our own requests to the Lord more clearly.

Karina’s post has the full explanation — short and easy to understand. Please read it. This prayer is a keeper.

https://churchmousec.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/adoration-of-the-shepherds-1622-752px-gerard_van_honthorst_001.jpg?w=436&h=348One of the Gospel readings this year for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services is from St Luke’s Gospel.

You can read more about Luke 2 in these posts:

The Christmas story according to St Luke

The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

The painting above dates from 1622.  It is called Adoration of the ShepherdsGerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst, a Dutch Golden Age painter, studied in Italy and took his influences from Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, as you can see from the way the light plays on the Holy Family and the shepherds.

You can read more about Honthorst here.

This Christmas season has brought with it a number of news stories, including the British cinema ban of a 45-second Nativity advertisement, ‘Christmas starts with the power of Love’. This follows the ban of an advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer a few months ago.

The news has also given us several special prayer intentions for Christmas, especially the persecution of Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Persecution.org has many articles about our brothers and sisters who will experience a less than happy day.

ChristianExaminer reports that Indonesia has closed 1,000 churches since the country’s ‘religious harmony’ law was passed in 2006. Churches have been the subject of attack by Muslim extremists. In order to rebuild them or to build brand new churches, Christians must obtain a permit, which involves collecting 60 signatures from non-Christians as well as permission from local authorities. No one should be surprised to find that such permits are rarely granted. Banda Aceh has only three churches now. All 29 churches in the province of West Java have been forcibly closed.

Brunei, the country on the island of Borneo, has banned Christmas. The Telegraph reports that the Sultan of Brunei has declared that celebrating the birth of Christ is dangerous to the faith of Muslims. (Two-thirds of people living in Brunei are Muslim.) Christmas carols and decorations are forbidden. Although communities can supposedly arrange Christmas celebrations, they must notify their local authority first. The Telegraph reminds us that, last year, the Sultan introduced Sharia criminal law with all its horrors. Those who wish to show their disapproval can refuse to stay or book events at the Sultan’s Dorchester Collection of hotels, which include the Dorchester in London, Le Meurice in Paris, the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Il Principe in Milan.

One of my readers, Christian author Edmond Sanganyado, spent the early part of his life angry at God for misfortunes which had beset his family.

Now he is grace filled. Conversion came a few months after he came top in his high school class. He was so angry, though, that he was in severe physical pain. This is what happened between graduation and conversion (emphases mine):

My brother’s friend bought me a gift to celebrate that rather normal achievement. A dictionary and a Christian booklet. I chose to read the dictionary than the Christian book. To make matters worse, the Christian book had the most horrible cover I had ever s[ee]n. After my General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level exams, I set myself to read every book I could lay my hands on. Except that Christian booklet.

Even medical scientists have proven anger is one of the most dangerous emotions, it is more deadly than cancer. As anger welled my inside like a volcano on the brink of an eruption, so did my health degenerate. At one time I had a headache which so excruciating that when I wanted to check if I had a fever, I touched my pillow thinking it was my head. My stomach gave in, and I had to walk around with a packet of anti-acids. One of my high school teachers had an encyclopedia of human diseases, I studied it and carried out a self-diagnosis. I probably had depression.

The day following New Year in 2002, I hit an all time low. No book in my library could provide the escape I needed, not even the dictionary. I was in pain and I was in emotional turmoil. On my table lay the Christian booklet with its horrible cover. I picked up, not because I wanted to hear what the author talked about, rather to escape the painful reality called my life.

I flipped through the pages of the book, it was like looking at a mirror. I was only seventeen, but I saw for the first time that God was love

Only His grace could save me, and it did.

This is why I write, I write for myself and for those who read and might be in a similar situation.

I know many who are angry at God, like Edmond, mostly for family difficulties and deaths. I pray they come to conversion as Edmond has.

For those who have difficulty praying or understanding prayer, I highly recommend they read his post ‘What Is Prayer, Really?’ Excerpts follow.

If prayer is simply speaking to God, then my words should be an expression of my deepest longings. My prayer is an outpouring of what lies hidden in my heart. I tell God what I believe, knowing God has given me His word and will continue to do so.

… prayer is operationally simply an exchange of words between God and man. In prayer, God reveals His heart through the Holy Spirit. By the same Spirit, we divulge the innermost substances of our heart. It is the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of our heart.

“What is in the deepest end of your heart?”

At the surface, I had a review to write, experiments to do, a family to support, debts to pay and a book to sell. But, there was something else at the bottom of my heart. Prayer was revealing that thing, at the bottom of my heart, before the feet of Jesus Christ.

May be tomorrow it will be something different, but today, I only want to give thanks to God. I want to laugh and jump around celebrating the might and strength and faithfulness of God …

Do not allow the stuff at the surface to rob you an opportunity to pray.

How true that is. So often we are distracted from our daily schedules, thinking only of what we need to accomplish that day. We think, ‘I’ll pray later.’ Sometimes, later never comes. We fall asleep before praising and thanking God for His many blessings.

More of Edmond’s insights are in his books The Secret Place and The Good Shepherd. I wish him all the very best with them as well as in his personal and spiritual life.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 6:7-15

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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I’m using the King James Version today because the prose is more traditional and beautiful than the modern translations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Sermon on the Mount continues. It encompasses Matthew 5 through Matthew 7.

Luke 11 also features the Lord’s Prayer but in a different context. In Luke’s account, the disciples saw Jesus praying and one of them requested (Luke 11:1):

Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.

The disciple was referring to John the Baptist.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus gave instructions to His audience, the disciples — and us — on how to pray.

He tells us not to use the ‘vain repetitions’ of the pagans (verse 7). Modern translations use the word ‘Gentile’. Essentially, the connotation means non-Jew.

Matthew Henry recalls that the Old Testament recounts pagan prayers:

Baal’s priests were hard at it from morning till almost night with their vain repetitions O Baal, hear us O Baal, hear us and vain petitions they were …

Lip-labour in prayer, though ever so well laboured, if that be all, is but lost labour.

John MacArthur cites the pagans of the ancient world:

in the New Testament it says in Acts 19 that for two hours the multitudes stood in theater and screamed “great is Diana of Ephesians, great is Diana of Ephesians, great is Diana of Ephesians.”  They kept saying it over and over for two solid hours. 

Our Lord tells us we have no need to engage in such lost labour, because God our Father knows our needs (verse 8).

Jesus gives the crowd an ancient Jewish prayer, to which He adds only one new line. Henry explains (emphases mine):

Most of the petitions in the Lord’s prayer had been commonly used by the Jews in their devotions, or words to the same effect: but that clause in the fifth petition, As we forgive our debtors, was perfectly new, and therefore our Saviour here shows for what reason he added it, not with any personal reflection upon the peevishness, litigiousness, and ill nature of the men of that generation, though there was cause enough for it, but only from the necessity and importance of the thing itself. God, in forgiving us, has a peculiar respect to our forgiving those that have injured us and therefore, when we pray for pardon, we must mention our making conscience of that duty, not only to remind ourselves of it, but to bind ourselves to it.

Why did our Lord repeat a prayer the Jews already knew?

So many were the corruptions that had crept into this duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer, to show his disciples what must ordinarily be the matter and method of their prayer, which he gives in words that may very well be used as a form as the summary or contents of the several particulars of our prayers.

We do not need to rely solely on what Christians call the Lord’s Prayer, however, as Jesus presents it, it is a perfect prayer for the following reasons.

I am giving but brief extracts from Henry’s commentary below, which is an excellent exposition of what is the world’s best known prayer. I recommend reading it in full.

In verse 9, Jesus tells us how to begin. ‘Our’, not ‘my’, Father is said because we are acknowledging that God created not only us as individuals, but all of humanity. We are bound together in this commonality:

Intimating, that we must pray, not only alone and for ourselves, but with and for others for we are members one of another, and are called into fellowship with each other.

The word ‘hallowed’ is part of the prayer because of God’s infinite greatness, holiness and majesty:

We give glory to God it may be taken not as a petition, but as an adoration as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God’s holiness is the greatness and glory of all his perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God, and it is very fit he should be first served, and that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from him. Let him have praise of his perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.

We then acknowledge our present, temporal location, which we hope improves through our obedience to God’s will, as well as His heavenly kingdom (verse 10):

that it might be done on earth, in this place of our trial and probation (where our work must be done, or it never will be done), as it is done in heaven, that place of rest and joy. We pray that earth may be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will (this earth, which, through the prevalency of Satan’s will, has become so near akin to hell), and that saints may be made more like the holy angels in their devotion and obedience. We are on earth, blessed be God, not yet under the earth we pray for the living only, not for the dead that have gone down into silence.

We ask for provision of our daily needs — ‘bread’ (verse 11). This is a short yet significant petition because:

Every word here has a lesson in it: (1.) We ask for bread that teaches us sobriety and temperance we ask for bread, not dainties, not superfluities[,] that which is wholesome, though it be not nice. (2.) We ask for our bread that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread out of other people’s mouths, not the bread of deceit (Proverbs 20:17), not the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27), but the bread honestly gotten. (3.) We ask for our daily bread which teaches us not to take thought for the morrow (Matthew 6:34), but constantly to depend upon divine Providence, as those that live from hand to mouth. (4.) We beg of God to give it us, not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread, (5.) We pray, “Give it to us not to me only, but to others in common with me.” This teaches us charity, and a compassionate concern for the poor and needy. It intimates also, that we ought to pray with our families we and our households eat together, and therefore ought to pray together. (6.) We pray that God would give us this day which teaches us to renew the desire of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed as duly as the day comes, we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without meat, as without prayer.

We go on to ask for God’s forgiveness and pray that we forgive each other in the same generous, compassionate manner (verse 12):

This is connected with the former and forgive, intimating, that unless our sins be pardoned, we can have no comfort in life, or the supports of it. Our daily bread does but feed us as lambs for the slaughter, if our sins be not pardoned. It intimates, likewise, that we must pray for daily pardon, as duly as we pray for daily bread ...

Note, Those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against him, must make conscience of forgiving those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord’s prayer. Our duty is to forgive our debtors as to debts of money, we must not be rigorous and severe in exacting them from those that cannot pay them without ruining themselves and their families but this means debt of injury[;] our debtors are those that trespass against us, that smite us (Matthew 5:39,40), and in strictness of law, might be prosecuted for it we must forbear, and forgive, and forget the affronts put upon us, and the wrongs done us and this is a moral qualification for pardon and peace

We conclude by asking to be delivered from temptation and sin (verse 13):

Negatively: … It is not as if God tempted any to sin but, “Lord, do not let Satan loose upon us chain up that roaring lion, for he is subtle and spiteful Lord, do not leave us to ourselves (Psalm 19:13), for we are very weak, Lord

Positively: … “Lord, deliver us from the evil of the world, the corruption that is in the world through lust[,] from the evil of every condition in the world[,] from the evil of death from the sting of death, which is sin: deliver us from ourselves, from our own evil hearts: deliver us from evil men, that they may not be a snare to us, nor we a prey to them.”

The King James Version concludes with the Doxology, not in many of the modern translations:

… these are encouraging: “Thine is the kingdom thou hast the government of the world, and the protection of the saints, thy willing subjects in it ” God gives and saves like a king. “Thine is the power, to maintain and support that kingdom, and to make good all thine engagements to thy people.” Thine is the glory, as the end of all that which is given to, and done for, the saints, in answer to their prayers for their praise waiteth for him. This is matter of comfort and holy confidence in prayer.

And, let us not forget ‘Amen’:

Lastly, To all this we are taught to affix our Amen, so be it. God’s Amen is a grant his fiat is, it shall be so our Amen is only a summary desire our fiat is, let it be so: it is in the token of our desire and assurance to be heard, that we say Amen. Amen refers to every petition going before, and thus, in compassion to our infirmities, we are taught to knit up the whole in one word, and so to gather up, in the general, what we have lost and let slip in the particulars. It is good to conclude religious duties with some warmth and vigour, that we may go from them with a sweet savour upon our spirits. It was of old the practice of good people to say, Amen, audibly at the end of every prayer, and it is a commendable practice, provided it be done with understanding, as the apostle directs (1 Corinthians 14:16), and uprightly, with life and liveliness, and inward expressions, answerable to that outward expression of desire and confidence.

Our Lord concluded His lesson in prayer with the exhortation to forgive others so that God will show us the same mercy (verse 14), because if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us (verse 15).

It is worth remembering Matthew 6:6, included in the Lectionary:

But when 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.

John MacArthur says:

And I believe if you pray in those terms, the end of verse 6 says, “He will reward you.”  He will reward you.  You know, E. L. Moody once said, that he got so many blessings from God that one day he prayed a very short prayer.  This was it, “Stop God, Amen.”  That was it.  Too much, too much.  Maybe that day would come when we might say stop God, because we’re drowning in His blessing if we learn how to pray as Jesus teaches here. 

MacArthur also gives us the origin of the word ‘barbarian’:

when the Greeks spoke the Greek word wanted to speak of one who was not cultured, they used the word barbaros because all of the uncultured people with foreign languages were unintelligible to them and it sounded like all they were say was bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar.  And so barbaros became the word for barbarian.

Interesting!

Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer with renewed fervour now that we know more about its petitions!

Next time: Matthew 6:22-23

Friday’s postconfession introduced Pastor Barney, a medically retired Lutheran minister.

His current ministry focus is on rural pastors in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Barney’s posts are not only thought-provoking but witty — recommended reading.

One of his posts deals with pastors new to churches in rural areas. In it, he also addresses the problems they face, particularly if they are fresh out of seminary.

To those of us sitting in the pews, Barney says that a pastor’s life is far from easy. The graphic comes from his post, ‘A Country Parson’. Excerpts follow.

Barney has a list of rules for those of us who go to church and complain about those who lead our walk in Christ. In addition to praying for them, he suggests ten great ways we can be generous (emphases in the original):

1. They are not the last pastor you had, who may have been a saint or an idiot!

2. Your budget is small, but your hearts are large! – money is not everything, you have beef, pork[,] eggs[,] chicken they too are tax-deductible.

6. Invite them out for coffee, to the farm or ranch!

7. Buy them season’s tickets to all High School sporting Events, give them invitations to all significant events.

9. Relax, teach them; it takes time, but they’ll change with love and care – If not[,] you’ve left them better ready for rural ministry.

And what follows are the first five of Barney’s 11 survival rules for rural clergy. (The post actually starts with this section, but as most of my readers are laypeople, it seemed fitting for me to prioritise generosity towards the pastor.)

1. You know all that wonderful stuff they taught you in seminary? – Forget it!

2. You know all those wonderful liberal  ideals you think are oh so important? – listen first – talk later!

3. That idea you are going to change the way these folk think and live – Toss it out!

4. Don’t charge in gung ho to change long-established traditions no matter how politically and theologically correct you know they are! Most of your seminary professors and Bishops have not done real ministry in real congregations in years – if ever!

5. Do go to all High School sports, Grade School programs, graduations, County fairs, Rodeos, 4H and FFA are big out here!

Any pastors from the rural Pacific Northwest who are interested in a private conversation with Barney can contact him via his blog.

Yesterday’s post explained the reasons and history behind spiritual discipline during Lent.

Below are some suggestions for Lent for those who would like to do something a bit different.

When I was younger, I used to give up desserts in addition to observing Friday (and Ash Wednesday) fasts. A few years ago, I tried eating only one meal a day. As I was no longer working in town, there was no reason why it couldn’t be done. Since then, I’ve kept this up, rarely eating after dinner.

The ketogenic diet — high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate — has helped greatly in this regard.

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

A high fat and low carbohydrate way of eating is also very good in treating a variety of physical and mental medical conditions. (Some readers might need to discuss it with their doctor first.) Feeling better helps us to become better ambassadors for Christ:

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Now that I am older and understand it better, sanctification has become more important. Part of this lifelong undertaking includes Bible study.

A few years ago, I was undertaking Bible reading every day during Lent. One year later, I had read it all. Would that I had done so before. These posts of mine explore methods of reading the entirety of Scripture which lend themselves to our busy modern lives:

Why not read the Bible this Lent?

Bible study plan suggestions

You, too, can read the Bible with the Grant Horner system

Update on the Grant Horner Bible Reading System

The Grant Horner Bible Reading System is a success

Prayer is also vital to sanctification — our growth as Christians. However, a question mark remains over certain New Age practices which have migrated into the Church:

Caution on Lenten devotions

The labyrinth: Lenten it isn’t

These suggestions are not to be construed as persuasion to adopt a Lenten discipline. As the Lutheran Pastor Abrahamson said, it is not obligatory nor is it salvific. However, many like to use these 40 days to further their personal sanctification but are not quite sure how to go about it.

I pray that those of us undertaking something special are able to keep a good Lent.

The Hemet (California) Central Church of Christ has a beautiful site called The True Light!

I am privileged to have The True Light‘s author as one of my readers.

Recently, the site published an outstanding prayer to be used in times of crisis. It includes petitions not only for our own households but for the world at large. It is inspired and could be used by any church or home in praying for ourselves and the world.

Please take a few minutes to read the prayer in full.

A brief excerpt follows:

Dear Father, we ask for comfort and peace in both the world and in our personal lives. We ask for the ability to stand firm in our faith, even when persecution may be rising up and testing us. For no matter what happens to us on this earth, we must not lose our faith. For heaven is our home and we live in this hope each day.

Guide our leaders, Lord God of all, that they may see they have turned away from you. For despite all of their efforts at peace and protection, regardless of whatever means of co-operation they may seek from and among other leaders, nothing will be accomplished unless you are at the very center of the process!

We end this prayer now with the note of hope which you have given us in the book of Hebrews, when you said you will never leave us, nor forsake us. Through everything in life, we have the eternal kingdom of heaven as our promise. Let us keep our hearts and minds on Godly things and look ever forward to the time of Christ’s coming!

This must be an outstanding church with an outstanding congregation.

I did tell the site’s author that if every church had a site such as this, there would be many more faithful Christians in the world.

Every post of theirs is a gem and one to treasure. I have added The True Light! to my blogroll and hope that you find it equally edifying. May God bless the site’s author and the Hemet Central Church of Christ’s ministers in their work for His great glory.

My thanks to reader and writer Lleweton who sent me news that Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag — held in a Sudanese prison for so-called apostasy from Islam — is now a free woman.

Legislators from the Republican Party in the United States have managed to persuade Sudan’s courts to liberate this young wife, mother and successful entrepreneur from prison. Ibrahim — despite her Muslim-sounding name — was deserted at a young age by her Islamic father and raised as Ethiopian Orthodox by her Christian mother. At no time was she a Muslim.

When I last wrote on the case on June 17, Oklahoma’s Republican US senator Jim Inhofe led 20 of his peers in asking Secretary of State John Kerry, a Democrat, to grant her and her family asylum in the United States.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is also a Christian and has been an American citizen since 2005.

The Associated Press reports that Congressman Chris Smith would like to see Mariam, Daniel and their two children living in safety in the United States.

The Independent (UK) has a recent photo of an emaciated Ibrahim. With God’s mercy, may she be restored to her former health and beauty.

The Christian Post (CP) reports that Sudan’s appeals court threw the case out for insufficient evidence. Sudan’s state news agency Suna confirms the decision.

The CP adds that Republican Congressmen Trent Franks (Arizona) and Frank Wolf (Virginia) have written as follows:

We request that the U.S. State Department, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, review granting Mrs. Ibrahim Significant Public Benefit Parole, asylum, or refugee status, as appropriate. In short, we urge that every legal means necessary be exhausted to ensure that she and her young children are provided safe haven.

I wholeheartedly agree, particularly as Wani is a longstanding American citizen.

God has heard the prayers of His faithful from around the world and has seen that justice be done.

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