Nothing is as misunderstood as prayer, among some Christians today. Most people cannot separate Christian practice from Jewish religion. The Jews used prayer as a method to obtain God’s mercy. However, for those wallowing in desperation, there may still not be anything wrong with seeking God’s mercy.
But when a person becomes a true Christian, the focus changes completely, so that prayer becomes a tool to link up with God’s will. The reason is that, unlike Jewish worshipers, a Christian becomes God’s own child, just as Jesus was God’s Son. Unless linked up to God, just as Jesus was; that person would still be of this world, even though claiming to be God’s Child.
The concerns of God’s children become linked to God’s concerns. This was clarified by Jesus before implementing what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Jesus then went ahead and provided what I consider to be a model for prayer, as recommended for Christians. Apparently, that prayer carries little to do with a person’s wishes. It is as if the person grants God a license to do God’s own will, in one’s life? At the end of that Prayer the petitioner declares: “For thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen” (Matthew 5:13b) (KJV).
The analysis of this prayer shows that God becomes sovereign in one’s life. Those coming to God, accordingly, have to surrender everything, in order to be controlled by God’s will, more than their own personal wishes. As stated, the so-called Lord’s Prayer is a model, guiding the person who prays.
This, therefore, cannot be the Lord’s Prayer. But a prayer model designed to guide those desiring God’s Kingdom. While recommending it to Christians, Jesus may, or may not have always used it Himself, as Jesus was also God.
The occupation of a Christian is to establish God’s Kingdom, in one’s life, just as Jesus’ occupation focused on the establishment of God’s Kingdom, on earth as was in Heaven. As can be seen in Jesus’ parables and other methods of His interaction with people, it was as if Jesus’ breath was sustained by the applications of God’s Kingdom.
Whenever, Jesus spoke, He would direct any conversation with anyone, to link it up with God’s Kingdom. This can clearly be seen right through the four gospel books. Jesus maintained the fact that He and His Father were one (John 10:30). As Jesus spoke, it was His father speaking. See [Christians love Heaven while God loves this world]
Principally, the value of Jesus ought to be the value of a Christian. The words of Jesus healed people in their variety of ailments. Jesus also attended to those hooked in sinful conducts, changing their lives for the better. This was basically the effects of God’s Kingdom, intended to provide positive results to humanity. Apparently, there is no need to focus on the negativity of the cross, but the aspect of positivity of the value of God’s Kingdom?
Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane caused Him to surrender to God’s will, rather than His own will. As a physical human being, obviously, He could not have desired to go through the traumatic experiences of the cross. Jesus prayed often. There is no doubt that the reason for His prayers intended to keep Him focused to His mission. Otherwise, the desires of the flesh would have side-tracked Him.
Jesus, who carried the same physical body as us, gave Christians the model with which to frame their prayers. In order not to be side-tracked by the desires of the flesh, a Christian needs to be guided by the prayer model as provided by Jesus.
Therefore, the petition for ‘daily bread’ refers to God’s Word, in accordance with Jesus’ response to the tempter: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4) (ESV).
The daily Bread can therefore, not be focusing on the daily meal, for a person who focuses on God’s Kingdom. This is just as Jesus also declared: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33) (ESV).
Anyone committing him/herself to pray for the physical bread would have sidetracked him/herself from the principles of God’s Kingdom. The reason is that the Master of our existence declared that we should seek first God’s Kingdom, ahead of everything else.
Just to show the practicality of this, Jesus performed miracles to feed thousands, without physical resources. This was another way of proving that in God’s Kingdom nothing lacks. On instructing the rich young man to sell everything, Jesus intended to demonstrate that the value of God’s Kingdom encompassed the riches that the young man was obsessed with (Matthew 19:21-22).
Obviously, the desires of the flesh were a major hindrance to the rich young man who did not have any idea of what the provisions of God’s Kingdom entailed. Had he understood, as to be guided by the prayer model, the young men would have complied accordingly.
Elsewhere, Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine peals, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46) (ESV).
Having established that Jesus focused on God’s Kingdom, as His Father’s will, on His sojourn on Earth; the dominant question, therefore, is: Which Christian would focus on his/her own will and still declare him/herself Christian? This is a matter of sincerity, as compared with insincerity; truth as compared to falsehood.
In my previous article [The hidden benefits associated with ‘confront’] I dwelt on how confronting negative things helps in bringing about positive change. Such a person might not even need prayer to accomplish those things. Those are simple techniques that all human beings are equipped with. One classic example of those having applied such techniques is the former South African President, the late Nelson Mandela, whose nobility is still junior to Jesus Christ.
Nelson Mandela achieved something commendable for the South Africans and had an impact to the international community. Like many philosophical achievers of the world, Nelson Mandela cannot reach anywhere nearer the principles of God’s Kingdom. To reach that level, Nelson Mandela would have needed to utilize the prayer model, as provided by Jesus.
Those who use the principles of confronting, without utilizing the provisions of the prayer model, somehow, fall short, as the desires of the flesh would overwhelm them. Jesus would not have achieved His fiat, because He was as human as we all are. Of course Jesus was the Son of God in the flesh. But so are those accepting these truths, whom Jesus calls His brothers.
True Christians are God’s Children, just as Jesus was the Son of God. For them to qualify as God’s children, just as Jesus qualified, they need to effectively utilize the provision of the prayer model that guided Jesus, in addition to applying the principles of confronting, as given in my previous [post].
Jesus effectively used the principle of confronting and overcame against all His adversaries, including the tempter, after forty days and forty nights of fasting (Matthew 4:1-11). But, had it not been His utilization of the prayer model, Jesus obviously would have lost the game (Matthew 26:36-45).
The physical nature is quite strong for those surviving in the flesh. To discard physical desires is not easy. The prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane shows that, though being God incarnate, Jesus could hardly overcome flesh’s desires. The physical nature sought to provide Him with excellent reasons why it could not have been necessary to go through the traumatic experiences of the cross.
Any person, with the passion to change the environment for the better, may be on the right track. The deciding component would be fixated at how the person decides; considering the pulls of human nature. For true Christians, the application or no application of the prayer model is the deciding factor.
Commendable things have been achieved by non-Christians, having been able to apply the principles of confronting. Those people’s names are recorded in history books, as people having contributed immensely to the current civilization.
However, as Jesus said of John the Baptist: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11) (ESV).
Bear in mind that John the Baptist did not have the privilege of accessing the prayer model that Jesus recommended. I suppose John the Baptist also prayed, just as all religious people practiced praying at that time. But there is no record that John the Baptist applied the prayer model, as was recommended by Jesus.
The value of a true Christian ought to be understood as carrying the same value that was carried by Jesus, who walked on this earth, yet being God. The denunciation of Jesus during His time is not different from the denunciations of true Christians, today. However, that denunciation is just as good for true Christians, as it was good for Jesus (Matthew 5:10-12).
The major stumbling block, as facing Christians is that of making Christianity a religion, when Christianity is not associated with any religion of this world. Christianity ought to seek to solve problems of humanity, more than seeking to solve problems of self. See [Personal Salvation vs. God’s Kingdom].
For instance, when Jesus instructed His disciples to always wash each other’s feet, (John 13:1-17) some Christians take that to mean ritualistic observance. In other words they become careful, in annually observing foot-washing ceremonies or occasionally doing it, as recommended by their religious leaders.
But, without making a difference in people’s lives, one is not a Christian. The religious practice leads to another extreme of wickedness, thereby invalidating the principles of God’s Kingdom (See Matthew 23: 13, 15). That is very possible, as long as the prayer model provision is ignored and not utilized according to its recommendations. See [Christianity serves to invalidate God’s Kingdom]
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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