Posted by: Pauline | March 3, 2013

Scriptures for Sunday March 10

Psalm 25

Someone looking at Psalm 25 as a model for prayer might be puzzled as to why David seems to jump from one thought to another with little logical flow. That is because the organization of the psalm is not by its content but by the first letter of each verse.

Psalm 25 is written as an acrostic, with each verse starting with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (Other acrostic psalms are 9, 10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145.) It doesn’t quite follow the pattern exactly however, leaving out two letters and using other letters twice. This was not uncommon, as it was difficult to write an acrostic psalm.

There are certainly themes, however – ideas that must have been important to David because he keeps coming back to them. He puts his trust in God; he asks not to be ashamed; he asks for guidance and instruction; he confesses his sin; he asks to be delivered from his troubles.

No matter what is going on in our lives, we can probably find a part of David’s prayer that matches our current circumstances – telling God our troubles, asking for direction, remembering what He has done for us, asking for forgiveness, and expressing our confidence in God.

Matthew 6:1-8

There is much disagreement in our society today about the role of public prayer. Some people oppose public prayers, such as at school functions or public meetings, not only because one person’s prayer may be objectionable to someone of a different religious background, but also because they think Jesus taught that prayer should be private, based on this passage.

The context of the passage, however, shows that Jesus was talking about religious behavior – including fasting and giving to the poor, not just prayer – done with the goal of being praised by other people. If that is someone’s goal, then that is what the person gets out of it – people’s approval, but not God’s.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his followers – who would have been familiar with not only Jesus’ teachings on prayer but his own example als0 – commonly joined together for prayer. Examples may be found in Acts 1, 4, and 12.

Public prayer does have certain challenges, however. It is easy to lose one’s focus on God and be thinking about what people are thinking of how one is praying. One may begin to “pray” with more thought on how one’s words affect the human hearers rather than what God thinks. Even without the show-off attitude Jesus was condemning, one may fail to have the humble, heartfelt communication with God that is the heart of prayer.

Luke 18:9-14

This parable illustrates the absolute necessity for humility in prayer. There is nothing more toxic to one’s relationship with God than pride, a sense of being good enough and not needing to ask for God’s help, much less His forgiveness.

The Jews of Jesus’ day admired the Pharisees, who were strict in their adherence to a code of behavior that they believed pleased God. The tax collectors, on the other hand, were despised collaborators with the Roman occupation. (For a sense of how they would have been perceived, think of how we today view those who collaborated with the Nazis rather than fighting them.)

It would have been difficult for Jesus’ hearers to think of a tax collector being accepted by God while a Pharisee was not. But that was Jesus’ point – only by recognizing ourselves as unworthy sinners and asking for God’s mercy can we be forgiven and accepted by Him.

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