Monday, March 2, 2015
Checks before you set off
Plenty of people “putting themselves forward” in the competition to become Lord Sugar’s apprentice or business partner in the BBC1 show The Apprentice. Sometimes it’s the ones who are just too full-on who fall foul of Lord Sugar and his advisors, and end up hearing the catchline words: “You’re fired!”
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.
CHECK FIRST – it’s advice found in most if not every instruction leaflet. It’s common sense in much of everyday life. Check your recipe and ingredients before you do a bake. Check your diary before you get into the day. Check the traffic before you head for the motorway.
The context of this passage, which has at its centre the Lord’s Prayer, is the importance of checking your heart before you pray. We read this familiar passage and what registers with us are the known-by-heart words of Jesus’s prayer outline – so we skip over the verses before and after. But if we take the before and after comments and look at them as a whole, an important teaching emerges that is our theme for this week.
The headline is right at the top and it is about “not practising our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” There are four more specific checks that we’ll look at later, but for now the overview is about how we enter in – our attitude.
Who is this about? Is it about God our Father, coming to Him humbly through Jesus and seeking His kingdom order and His right way? We need to ask ourselves.
What are we carrying? Many things we carry simply need to be put down. Anything about us and our need to assert ourselves or prove something needs to go.
Why are we coming — this particularly applies to prayer meetings or worship services where there is open prayer. The biggest hazard to prayer unity is often those who love to pray out loud… who like the sound of their voice too much and who pray the same phrases every time.
The warning about not “making a performance out of it” (as The Message translates it) is a solemn warning against something that is all too common. As we become more aware of the Holy Spirit, and therefore you could say, more spiritual, there is the danger of spiritual pride and putting on an act which is really about putting forward our own misguided sense of credentials and entitlement. That kind of attitude might belongs on BBC1 The Apprentice (possibly — although Lord Sugar often bursts that particular balloon when candidates get too ‘up themselves’ even for Him).
But that ‘superspiritual’ attitude is a killer of humble, submitted, Spirit-led agreement prayer. The Holy Spirit doesn’t do personal agendas and ‘prayer speeches’ and it jars the whole prayer initiative when these occur.
When there is a mountain of difficulty to be moved – a tough faith issue – we need to pray as a group, listen to God as we do and keep it very together, without discordant notes – the prayer of agreement we encounter later in Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 18:18-19).
Lord, help me to get the prayer habit and connect with You willingly and often – but not full of my thoughts and opinions, but resonating with Yours. Help me to hold lightly my ideas about the solutions to other people’s situations, and simply seek Yours so that I can agree with You and say “Your will be done” – Amen.