Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 3: saying thank you

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: ' Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

There is always a wonderful lesson to be found in researching the meaning of the words of Christ. The original Greek is so rich and multilayered that even a brief study enhances our understanding of Jesus' intent. So it is with the word translated as "when". As I read this, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. 

The word translated as "when" is hotan and is used to indicate a little more than just "when". This particular word is used to mean "when you pray, and I am assuming that you will pray." This is the same word Jesus used when he said, "when you fast". Hotan. "When you fast, and I am assuming you will fast." 

Sometimes I forget that Jesus was not just talking to make a lovely sermon. He had a very limited time on earth, an outrageous amount to teach His disciples, and every word had to count. Jesus was not just talking about prayer to check that off His heavenly list of "things to teach disciples". He was talking to them about prayer because He expected them to pray, and to pray in the way He was teaching. It's important to remember that He also expects us, you and me, to pray in this way, too.

The word translated as "pray" is proseuchomai. Interestingly, it is always translated as "pray". There's no deep layer. It simply means pray. So what is prayer? I turned to an online dictionary and found this definition. "A solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God, an earnest hope or wish." We will learn over the next few days (okay, over the next few weeks) that prayer is so much more than a series of requests. Prayer is a conversation between us and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This speaking with God is nothing short of a miraculous privilege, and one we do well to appreciate and take seriously.

There is a two-word prayer that I pray on a daily basis, usually throughout the day, and it is a good starting point for learning to pray. "Thank you." I try to thank God for everything from the air that I breathe to the eggs my chickens lay to the times when my horses exit their stalls without leaving me more to clean up (to put it delicately). It has been a recent goal of mine to thank God for everything He has given me, and I have found that it is very nearly impossible. I am blessed beyond measure and the more I thank Him, the more I find reason to thank Him. 

As we go along in these lessons on prayer, I hope to offer some suggestions to make our prayer lives a little more lively. For today, let's spend our prayer time thanking God for all the gifts He has given us. Don't just say, "Thank you for everything." Let's recall every family member, every friend, every person God has placed in our lives and thank Him for them. Thank Him for what they mean to us, the lessons we have learned from them. Go from room to room in our homes, thanking Him for every specific tangible thing He has given us. As we go about our day, let's thank Him for our work, our ability to move freely, to shop where we want, the money we spend, the freedoms we enjoy, the leaders He has given us (whether we like them or not). While we are thanking, let's not forget to thank Him for the adversity He has allowed, for how He has used it, what He will do from it.

 This is not the day to use the thank you's for thinking of more requests. This is the day to say "thank you" for what we have without asking for anything more. If we do it, it will change us in an amazing way. Start now. Thank you, Lord for...

"Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 KJV