Gospel of Matthew 6
“Take care not to perform your religious duties in public in order to be seen by others; if you do, your Father who is in heaven has no reward for you. 2 Therefore, when you do acts of charity, do not have a trumpet blown in front of you, as hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. There, I tell you, is their reward!
3 But, when you do acts of charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 So that your charity may be secret; and your Father, who sees what is in secret, will recompense you. 5 And, when you pray, you are not to behave as hypocrites do. They like to pray standing in the synagogues and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. There, I tell you, is their reward!”
6 But, when you pray, go into your own room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who dwells in secret; and your Father, who sees what is secret, will recompense you. 7 When praying, do not repeat the same words over and over again, as is done by the Gentiles, who think that by using many words they will obtain a hearing. 8 Do not imitate them; for God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.
9 You, therefore, should pray like this: ‘Our Father, who 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, forever. Amen.’
14 For, if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also; 15 But, if you do not forgive others their trespasses, not even your Father will forgive your trespasses.
Exploring the Prayer of Jesus
To continue reading Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, please click on page 2 below.
The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life takes a fresh and non-dogmatic look at the Lord’s Prayer to reveal new perspectives on the esoteric teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is an SBNR book for Progressive Christians, Unitarians, Agnostics, & all spiritual seekers interested in discovering a more joyful and fulfilling life…
Henry David Thoreau, tucked away in his Walden cabin, famously said that most of us lead lives of quiet desperation. That was in 1845. Today, things are not so quiet. Anxiety and depression are regular rites of passage from which millions never graduate. Civility meanwhile has long been dropped from our national discourse. It’s a sad indictment of a country where so many pride themselves in a Christian heritage. We have the highest levels of church attendance in the world. Almost eighty percent of us say that we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, where is our joy? Where is our vitality? Where is our peace of mind?
The Son comes to complete our happiness in this life,1 yet it’s clear not many are receiving “the good news”. Instead, we are sold a gospel that forsakes the living hour for a future heavenly reward: a spiritual reckoning that asks for little and receives even less in return. Simply accept Jesus Christ as your savior, we are told, and you’ll be hanging out with the good Lord for eternity. If it were only so easy.2
Jesus of Nazareth didn’t teach the idler’s path to God. He said that because much has been given us, much is expected.3 He described the kingdom of heaven as a place that doesn’t suffer fools.4 And he asked that his followers become as perfect as their Father in heaven5 ––a seemingly impossible task, if it were not for the fact that all things are possible with the help of God.6
The first step toward perfection, according to Jesus, is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.7 The mind gets short shrift from many Christians today. We forget that Jesus amazed people with both his miracles and his wits.8 All who listened to him marveled at his intelligence and his answers. He was a man, we are told, whose wisdom grew as he grew in years. Only after reaching maturity did his intellect surpass that of the legendary King Solomon.9
Clear thinking is essential for Christians because Jesus asks that we decide for ourselves what is right.10 Making those correct choices requires intelligence and learning, as well as faith and a loving heart. God did not bless us with extraordinary minds, whose complexity dwarfs that of any computer, only to have us park them in storage. Instead, we are called to develop our logic and reason—to transform our minds into Christ’s “winnowing fans.” So that the chaff might be removed from the wheat11 the dead teachings from the living Word.
Like Jesus, we are asked to sweep away the dictates of the billy-club faithful, the literalists whose passion for scripture12 is but another form of idolatry. The Pharisees and Sadducees may be historical footnotes, but their modern day equivalents litter the airwaves and pulpits of America—preachers of wealth and brimstone who chop up Biblical passages to feed prosperity theologies and end–time prophecy. And who bludgeon the confused with decrees on personal behavior, sexual orientation, and the evils of science. Like the “hypocrite” teachers before them, they turn the kingdom of heaven in our faces—refusing to enter that realm themselves, while barring entrance to those who try to do so.13
Christ comes bringing both love and truth,14 but discerning the truth has never been easy. Jesus’s first followers failed rather dramatically. Instead of pouring his “new wine” into fresh bottles,15 they refused to give up their Old Testament belief system that the Father plays favorites: that the people of Israel were God’s chosen, and that they would soon be rewarded with an earthly kingdom ruled by Christ, the Son of David.16
Jesus didn’t buy into their narrative. He was all about breaking Israel’s religious traditions, not preserving them.17 Rather than toe the Mosaic line, he replaced the law of an “an eye for an eye” with turn the other cheek, and “honor thy father and mother” with honor only thy Father in heaven.18 He revealed the hypocrisy of sin-based laws and punishments.19 And most importantly, Jesus taught that God’s kingdom was no longer a future reward for the race of Abraham; but the divine birthright of all mankind, since the beginning of the world.20 If we had the eyes to see and the faith to believe, Christ would reveal the kingdom of heaven that exists within us21 and around us, right now, at this very moment.22
Jesus’s disciples found this hard to accept. Nothing could persuade them from…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- I have told you all this so that my own joy may be yours, and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:11 [↩]
- Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21 [↩]
- From everyone to whom much has been given much will be expected, and to those whom much has been entrusted the more will be demanded. – Luke 12:48 [↩]
- Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps, but took no oil with them; 4 While the prudent ones, besides taking their lamps, took oil in their jars. 5 As the bridegroom was late in coming, they all became drowsy, and slept. 6 But at midnight a shout was raised: ‘The Bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all the bridesmaids awoke and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the prudent: ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent ones answered: ‘No, for fear that there will not be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell it, and buy for yourselves.’10 But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom came; and the bridesmaids who were ready went in with him to the banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Afterwards the other bridesmaids came. ‘Sir, Sir,’ they said, ‘open the door to us!’12 But the bridegroom answered ‘I tell you, I do not know you. – Matthew 25:1-12 [↩]
- You, then, must become perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48 [↩]
- With men it is impossible, but not with God; for everything is possible with God. – Mark 10:27 [↩]
- And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. – Mark 12:29 [↩]
- And Jesus grew in wisdom as he grew in years, and ‘gained the blessing of God and men. – Luke 2:52 [↩]
- She came from the very ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and here is more than a Solomon! – Luke 11:31 [↩]
- Why do not you decide for yourselves what is right? – Luke 12:57 [↩]
- His winnowing-fan is in his hand, that he may clear his threshing-floor, and store the grain in his barn, but the chaff he will burn with inextinguishable fire. – Luke 3:17 [↩]
- So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked Jesus this question: “How is it that your disciples do not follow the traditions of our ancestors, but eat their food with defiled hands?” 6 His answer was: “It was well said by Isaiah when he prophesied about you hypocrites in the words: ‘This is a people that honor me with their lips, While their hearts are far removed from me; 7 But vainly do they worship me, For they teach but the precepts of men.’ – Mark 7:5-7 [↩]
- But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You turn the key of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you do not go in yourselves, nor yet allow those who try to go in to do so. – Matthew 23:13 [↩]
- And the Word became Man, and dwelt among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the only Son sent from the Father, full of love and truth. – John 1:14 [↩]
- And no one puts new wine into old wine-skins; for, if you do, the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine itself will run out, and the skins be lost. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh skins they insisted on dumping it into the old casks of scripture. – Luke 5:37-39 [↩]
- The crowds that led the way, as well as those that followed behind, kept shouting: “God save the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! God save him from on high! – Matthew 21:9 [↩]
- Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus, and said: 2 “How is it that your disciples break the traditions of our ancestors? For they do not wash their hands when they eat food.” – Matthew 15:1-2 [↩]
- If anyone comes to me and does not hate their father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes and his very life, they can be no disciple of mine. – Luke 14:26 [↩]
- He that among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her. – John 8:4-9 [↩]
- Come, you who are blessed by my Father, enter upon possession of the kingdom prepared for you ever since the beginning of the world. – Matthew 25:34 [↩]
- Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:21 [↩]
- Now is my kingdom, not from hence. – John 18:36 [↩]
Our Father who art in
(Understanding Our Relationship to God)
The Lord’s Prayer begins with an idea that seems easy enough to understand. Jesus wants to establish God as our heavenly Father, and we as his children. What we often fail to notice though is what Jesus doesn’t say—yet what he leaves out is just as important. What Jesus doesn’t say is that we should pray to God as “My Father.” We are taught to address him as “Our Father” because prayer is not about individualism. It is not a private wish factory,1 churning out favors so that we can escape the hardships of life. Its purpose is to bring us together:2 to bring unity to our relationship with God and his creation.3
But why does Jesus describe God as a father figure? Why not “Our Mother” or “Our Creator”? Or why not just say “Our God”? Before trying to answer this, we need to recognize that our lives are defined by our relationships: the good and the bad. The roads we’ve taken have been paved by the arguments, joys, sadness, and desires we’ve shared with our family and friends. These roads though frequently do not lead to Christ or the kingdom of God.4 So Jesus demands that we tear them up.
He challenges us to hate our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, and abandon the life we’ve come to know.5 It’s an alarming request. If a preacher ordered his followers to do that today, we would call him a cult leader or religious crackpot. So what are we to make of this demand?
It’s doubtful that early Christians manufactured this teaching, since it directly opposes the Mosaic law of honoring thy parents. Yet the message seems to clearly contradict Christ’s gospel of love.6 Why are we to love our neighbors as ourselves but then hate our families? Let’s first step back for a moment and consider Jesus’s larger teaching methods. After all, this isn’t the only time in the Gospels that he makes demands that seem outlandish or unrealistic. For example, how many of us are really prepared to sell our possessions and give everything to the poor?7
As a spiritual teacher, Jesus had a keen understanding of human nature and the mind. He knew that most of his followers lived hopelessly one sided lives—their attachments to material things and family always seeking primacy. It is no different with us today. So to break these attachments, Jesus plays a clever psychological game. He demands our exact opposite behavior: in other words, hating our parents (while loving God alone); and abandoning our worldly goods (while earning treasures in heaven).
But we have to remember that this is only a temporary mind game. Jesus doesn’t expect us to turn our backs on our families forever or take vows of abject poverty. His hope is that these harsh commands will serve as an internal baptism of fire.8 And that as the flames rise up, they will be doused with the living water of the Holy Spirit,9 so that we will emerge from the ashes as harmonious new creations—instinctively knowing what things to render Caesar and what things to render God.10
To bring this new being to term, Jesus couldn’t refer to God simply as an abstraction. He had to make God tangible to us in a very human way—that is, as a parent. He also had to contend with Old Testament scripture. In matters related to “religion,” Jesus knew a lighter touch was needed than that which he used when dealing with our earthly attachments. For example, even though he turns many Mosaic laws on their head, his ministry wouldn’t have gotten very far had he gone around telling Israel to hate the prophets. He also couldn’t ignore the wisdom contained in Jewish scripture.11
So Jesus hit upon an ingenious solution. He told his followers that…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:8 [↩]
- So that sower and reaper rejoice together. – John 4:36 [↩]
- “The harvest,” he said, “is abundant, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Owner of the harvest to send laborers to gather in his harvest.” – Luke 10:2 [↩]
- “Master,” someone asked, “are there but few in the path of salvation?” And Jesus answered: 24 “Strive to go in by the small door. Many, I tell you, will seek to go in, but they will not be able.” – Luke 13: 23–25 [↩]
- “If anyone comes to me and does not hate their father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes and his very life, they can be no disciple of mine.” – Luke 14:26 [↩]
- I give you a new commandment: love one another; love one another as I have loved you. 35 It is by this that everyone will recognize you as my disciples—by your loving one another.” – John 13:34-35 [↩]
- “If you wish to be perfect,” answered Jesus, “go and sell your property, and give to the poor, and you shall have wealth in heaven; then come and follow me.” – Matthew 19:21 [↩]
- “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what more can I wish, if it is already kindled? 50 There is a baptism that I must undergo, and how great is my distress until it is over! – Luke 12:49 [↩]
- You who believe in me, as scripture says, out of your heart shall flow rivers of living water.” – John 7:38 [↩]
- “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. – Matthew 22:21 [↩]
- If you want to enter the life, keep the commandments. – Matthew 19:17 [↩]
Thy kingdom come…
(Understanding God’s Will)
With the second line of The Lord’s Prayer, we arrive at the heart of the matter: God’s kingdom. To understand how Jesus views his Father’s kingdom, we first need to do some–thing that will seem strange. We must take all discussion of “Heaven” off the table. There will be no talk about heaven with a capital “H,” the place we think we’ll go to (if lucky) when we die. We’re just not going to go there.
Why? Because as soon as we see heaven and hell as proper names, as specific places where rewards and punishments are meted out, the acceptance of Christ and all associated good works become petty acts of bribery. The afterlife must remain unknown, because the quality and strength of our faith, as well as the morality of our actions, depends on the mystery. For this reason, Jesus calls us to attend not to the dead1 (who are beyond our reach) but to those who are living and can feel our touch.
It is by nurturing the living God in ourselves and others that we make the Father’s kingdom come.2 But what exactly is this kingdom if it is not what we normally take for heaven? The Gospels provide us with plenty of clues. But also many false leads. We need to be careful when applying our winnowing fans.
We should remember that the tribes who handed down the story of Jesus believed that a final day of judgment would occur during their own generation.3 That is why the apostles are so despondent after Jesus’s death. They thought he was going to physically deliver Jerusalem from Roman authority, and then rule over an earthly kingdom.4 But Jesus had something different in mind. He wanted his disciples to view the Lord not as a King on High but as a secret spirit living in us all,5 with the power to reveal a kingdom already here.6
Therefore, we must sidestep any reference to the end–time theologies7 that were prevalent during Jesus’s day, and which today have made best–selling authors of those who exploit fears of being left behind. After all, how is it that we will find ourselves raptured into the sky or see Jesus surfing down from the clouds,8 when God’s kingdom, we are told, cannot be witnessed by the eye because it lives within us?9 The answer is, we can’t, and won’t. The gates of heaven are unlocked when our hearts and minds work in unison to discover God’s Word,10 which is alive all around us.
That is why Jesus insists on talking in parables when describing the kingdom: because parables make us think. They don’t dictate hard and fast answers. Jesus, like the river guide, leads us upstream to where the fish are, but insists that we make our own catch. The problem though is that we often feel stranded upriver without a pole!
But Jesus doesn’t actually leave us…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- “Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go yourself and carry far and wide the gospel of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:60 [↩]
- By that in the good ground are meant those who, with a good and honest heart, keep the message and patiently bring forth its fruit. – Luke 8:15 [↩]
- I tell you that even the present generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place. – Mark 13:30 [↩]
- But we were hoping that he was the destined deliverer of Israel. – Luke 24:21 [↩]
- I tell you, as often as you did it to one these my brothers and sisters, however lowly, you did it to me. – Matthew 25:40 [↩]
- If it is by the help of the spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God must already be upon you. – Matthew 12:28 [↩]
- Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the close of the age. – Matthew 24:3 [↩]
- Then will be seen the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. – Mark 13:26 [↩]
- The kingdom of God does not come in a way that admits of observation, 21 Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:20-21 [↩]
- In the Beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God; 3 Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. – John 1:1-4 [↩]
Give us this day…
(Gathering the Moment at Hand)
Up to this point in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has been laying a foundation—one that establishes our relationship to God and his creation. When we recite the beginning of the prayer, we are thus engaging in an act of grounding, reminding ourselves that at the core of our existence we remain rooted in Christ.1
With the foundation complete, Jesus moves on to what many of us think is the business of prayer: asking for things. But as we mentioned in Chapter 2, prayer isn’t about asking for special favors. In fact, it isn’t even about “asking” at all—since, as Jesus says, God already knows what we need before we ask him.2 So what is prayer about? The simplest answer is that it is about gathering and release.
When we think about gathering and Christ, the first image that comes to mind is probably the shepherd. Many of us see Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”3 gathering his lost flock back within the fold of his love. This image is popular because Jesus often used sheep and shepherds as metaphors when he taught. He described those who deliver the gospel of Christ as lambs among wolves,4 and those without Christ’s guidance as sheep without a shepherd.5 He also warned us of embracing false teachers who come in the guise of innocent sheep but have sinister hidden agendas.6
What we don’t usually think about when contemplating gathering is the story of the prodigal son. We talked earlier about how this parable reveals the will of God as a matter of choice. But when we turn our attention to the son, and view the story through his eyes, the parable reveals a different lesson—which is the wonderful thing about parables: like crystals, they reflect new light (insight) as we turn them.
When the young man seeks his inheritance from his father, he doesn’t plead for it. Instead, he speaks with authority: “Father, give me my share of the inheritance.” (A man had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father: ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ So the father divided the property between them. – Luke 15:11-12)) We often overlook that fact. But it is an important one. Because it shows that the son is claiming ownership over something that he believes is rightfully his.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus also speaks with “authority”,7 and says that when we speak in such a way, our Father will dutifully respond. In fact, he claims that God will grant us anything:8 that the dead will rise,9 and mountains move at our command, if we but have the faith of a mustard–seed10 and command it in his name.
This teaching has caused a lot of confusion over the years. Some Christians have taken it at face value and, because of that, acted irresponsibly—such as recklessly barring medical treatment to loved ones (believing that they could heal them through faith alone). Others have disregarded the whole moving mountains thing as just Jesus getting a little carried away with his metaphors. But if we reflect on the teaching a little longer, the true Word begins to emerge.
Let’s begin our reflections by recalling that…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- By the seed which was sown on the good ground is meant the receivers who hear the message and understand it, yielding a return, sometimes one hundred, sometimes sixty, sometimes thirty fold. – Matthew 13:23 [↩]
- When praying, do not repeat the same words over and over again, as is done by the Gentiles, who think that by using many words they will obtain a hearing. 8 Do not imitate them; for God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8 [↩]
- I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. – John 10:14 [↩]
- Now, go. Remember, I am sending you out as my messengers like lambs among wolves. – Luke 10:3 [↩]
- On getting out of the boat, Jesus saw a great crowd, and his heart was moved at the sight of them, because they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. – Mark 6:34 [↩]
- Beware of false teachers: those who come to you in the guise of sheep, but at heart they are ravenous wolves. – Matthew 7:15 [↩]
- On the next Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority, and not like the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21-22 [↩]
- Whatever you ask for in your prayers will, if you have faith, be granted you.” Matthew 21:22 [↩]
- Even now, I know that God will grant you whatever you ask him.” 23 “Your brother shall rise to life,” said Jesus. – John 11:23 [↩]
- “For, I tell you, if your faith were only like a mustard-seed, you could say to this mountain ‘Move from this place to that!’ and it would be moved; and nothing would be impossible to you. – Matthew 17:20 [↩]
In our meditation on The Laughter of Christ, we talked about how Jesus must have had a great sense of humor. Finding examples of the Nazarene’s humor isn’t easy though when reading the Gospels. Some folks have pointed towards Jesus’s admonition that we shouldn’t worry about the speck in our brother’s eye when we have a beam in our own as one example. But that is a bit of a stretch.
All things considered, Jesus the humorist wasn’t likely a joke teller or smug connoisseur of witty epigrams. He undoubtedly was a satirist: the wielder of that eclectic humor which, to this day, continues to be the most effective way to speak truth to power and expose our petty egoism. Stephen Colbert proved this brilliantly in his now legendary take down of President Bush (and the journalists who cover him) at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Satire is an insiders’ game. Many people don’t get it, while others think that the satirist is actually serious. It would have been the perfect kind of humor for a prophet like Jesus, who loved to teach in enigmatic parables and metaphors, and who wouldn’t reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to just anyone.1 He also of course hated hypocrites,2 who are notoriously the subject of so much satire.
Jesus’s greatest bit of satire comes ironically (or perhaps not so ironically) in the episode we celebrate on Palm Sunday. Jesus we are told comes riding into Jerusalem on an ass, and afterwards, being hungry, gets angry at a fig tree for bearing no fruit, even though it is out of season.
Like those Republicans who think that Stephen Colbert really is a conservative Republican, many of the early Christians who passed down Jesus’s story simply didn’t get it. They interpreted it through their ordinary blinders of Old Testament prophecy, as well as the belief that prayer can literally move mountains or part the Red Sea.
Today, let’s go back and re-read Matthew Chapter 21 and imagine Stephen Colbert (or Mark Twain) riding the ass and berating the fig tree. Palm Sunday will take on a new, and perhaps richer, meaning.
Gain fresh insight into the Lord’s Prayer. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life. The prayer’s hidden teachings will enrich and inspire you. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
- Afterwards his disciples came to him, and said: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” “To you,” answered Jesus, “the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given, but not to them. – Matthew 13:10-12 [↩]
- “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You pay tithes on mint, fennel, and caraway seed, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith. These last you ought to have put into practice, without neglecting the first. You blind guides, to strain out a gnat and to swallow a camel! Woe to you, teachers of law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! – Luke 23:23-25 [↩]
In this final installment of our special series on the Founding Fathers and their thoughts on God, Religion, & the Divine, we move to farmer, politician, and guerilla revolutionary leader Ethan Allen, who perhaps is best known for leading the Green Mountain Boys (and other fighters) in their raid and capture Fort Ticonderoga, a strategic victory which severely hampered communication between the northern and southern units of the British army.
Like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen might be best described as a Progressive Christian Deist who believed reason must take a paramount place in religious activity. The following passage is taken from Section IV of Ethan Allen’s book, Reason: The Only Oracle of Man (1784), and deals with the subject of prayer. In synch with the philosophy of prayer that guides our free book The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily, Allen writes:
Whoever has a just sense of the absolute perfection of God, and of their own imperfection, and natural subjection to his providence, cannot but from thence infer the impropriety of praying or supplicating to God, for this, that, or the other thing; or of remonstrating against his providence: inasmuch, as “known to God are all our wants;” and as we know, that we ourselves are inadequate judges of what would be best for us, all things considered.
To pray for any thing, which we can obtain by the due application of our natural powers, and neglect the means of procuring it, is impertinence and laziness in the abstract; and to pray for that which God in the course of his providence, has put out of our power to obtain, is only murmuring against God, and finding fault with his providence, or acting the inconsiderate part of a child; for example, to pray for more wisdom, understanding, grace or faith; for a more robust constitution, handsomer figure, or more of a gigantic size, would be the same as tolling God, that we are dissatisfied with our inferiority in the order of being; that neither our souls nor bodies suit us; that he has been too sparing of his beneficence; that we want more wisdom, and organs better fitted for show, agility and superiority.
But we ought to consider, that “we cannot add one Cubit to our stature,” or alter the construction of our organic frame; and that our mental talents are finite; and that in a vast variety of proportions and disproportions, as our Heavenly Father in his order of nature, and scale of being saw fit; who has nevertheless for the encouragement of intelligent nature ordained, that it shall be capable of improvement, and consequently of enlargement; therefore, “whosoever lacketh wisdom,” instead of “asking it of God,” let him improve what he has, that he may enlarge the original stock; this is all the possible way of gaining in wisdom and knowledge, a competency of which will regulate our faith. But it is too common for great faith and little knowledge to unite in the same person; such persons are beyond the reach of argument and their faith immovable, though it cannot remove mountains.
The only way to procure food, raiment, or the necessaries or conveniences of life, is by natural means; we do not get them by wishing or praying for, but by actual exertion; and the only way to obtain virtue or morality is to practice and habituate ourselves to it, and not to pray to God for it: he has naturally furnished us with talents or faculties suitable for the exercise and enjoyment of religion, and it is our business to improve them aright, or we must suffer the consequences of it. We should conform ourselves to reason, the path of mortal rectitude, and in so doing, we cannot fail of recommending ourselves to God, and to our own consciences. This is all the religion which reason knows or can ever approve of.
Gain fresh insight into the Lord’s Prayer. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life. The prayer’s hidden teachings will enrich and inspire you. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
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Gospel of Matthew 23
Then Jesus speaking to the crowds and to his disciples, said: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees now occupy the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore practice and lay to heart everything that they preach but do not copy their works, for they do not follow what they preach. 4 While they make up heavy loads and pile them on other men’s shoulder’s they decline, themselves, to lift a finger to move them. 5 All their actions are done to attract attention. They widen their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and like to have the place of honor at dinner, and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted in the markets with respect, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by everybody.”
8 “But do not allow yourselves to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master, Christ, and all you are brothers and sisters. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father, for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Nor must you allow yourselves to be called ‘leaders,’ for you have only one leader, the Christ. 11 Those who would be the greatest among you must be your servant. 12 Whoever shall exalt themselves will be humbled, and whoever shall humble themselves will be exalted.”
13 “But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You turn the key of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you do not go in yourselves, nor yet allow those who try to go in to do so. 14 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You destroy widow’s houses, even while pretending to make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.”
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You scour land and sea to make a single convert, and, when he or she is gained, you make them twice as deserving of the pit as you are yourselves. 16 Woe to you, you blind guides! You say, ‘if any swear by the temple, it counts for nothing; but, if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, their oaths are binding’! 17 Fools that you are and blind! Which is the more important? The gold? Or the temple which has given sacredness to the gold?”
18 “You say, too, ‘If any swear by the altar, their oaths count for nothing, but, if anyone swears by the offering placed on it, their oaths are binding’! 19 Blind indeed! Which is the more important? The offering? Or the altar which gives sacredness to the offering? 20 Therefore anyone, swearing by the altar, swears by it and by all that is on it, 21 And anyone, swearing by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it, 22 While anyone, swearing by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits upon it.”
To continue reading Chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew, please click on page 2 below.
The book The Lords Prayer for Daily Life was written in a way that we hope appeals to both teens and adults, each group of readers being able to take certain lessons from it, or simply food for further thought. But what about the child?
The Lord’s Prayer is the kind of prayer that children can learn at a young age, and it far surpasses that old standard: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take–a prayer which makes children think that the Grim Reaper is going to descend upon them in their sleep.
To assist Progressive Christian parents we’ve taken inspiration from the material of The Living Hour book to write some thoughts on how you can teach the Lord’s Prayer to your kids in a meaningful way, so that the act of childhood prayer goes beyond simple recitation. So, if you are asking how to teach the Lord’s Prayer to children, here are our suggestions:
Our Father who art in heaven. Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer by letting us know that we are all in this together. God, the Father, is the father of all people. He is the father of people who we like and who we dislike; people who we agree with and who we disagree with; people who look like us and don’t look like us; people who believe in him and who don’t believe in him. By telling us that our one true Father is in heaven, Jesus is reminding as that we are all Sons and Daughters of God, and that our lives go on forever.
Hallowed be thy name. You know how when someone calls you by your name, it is like they think they know you? Well, Jesus doesn’t tell us God’s name in the Lord’s Prayer because God is so big we can never know all of him. Jesus can describe God’s name, though. He calls it hallowed. The word “hallowed” comes from the word “holy,” which comes from the word “whole”. Jesus wants us to see us and God always together as a whole being. We are not separate. We are one.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Jesus teaches us in the Bible that the kingdom of God is within us and all around us right now. The problem is that we often don’t see it. Because we don’t see his kingdom, we end up making a lot of bad choices. When we make good choices though we are doing the will of God. We are making his kingdom come alive inside of us and in other people. That is why we should always try hard to make good choices and love each other.
On earth as it is in heaven. When people die they go to heaven, but when they live they go to heaven too. It is just that on earth, heaven (like the kingdom) is pretty hard to see sometimes. People hurt each other and do bad things. We get angry when we don’t get what we want or when people are not nice to us. But Jesus wants us to know that if we can just let those bad feelings go and forgive people, the world can be a pretty wonderful place.
Give us this day our daily bread. We all need food to live, right? Well, in this part of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also is talking about something that we need to live. But he is not talking about food. When Jesus taught he liked to use symbols. You know, like a smile is a symbol that you are happy. Jesus is using bread as a symbol of our experiences. Every day we have new experiences. These experiences can make us happy, sad, angry, or whatever. But we need them all, even if we don’t like them all. Because every experience helps us grow.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We all makes mistakes. Sometimes we hurt the feelings of other people and don’t even know it. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus calls these things that we do wrong “trespasses”. When we trespass the most important thing is to understand what we’ve done. Then to ask for forgiveness. If you forgive other people, then they are more likely to forgive you. It is no good to stay angry at someone. It doesn’t feel good to be angry. When we get angry we just hurt ourselves. So, just forgive people, and you’ll feel a whole lot better. You will also feel a lot better when they forgive you, too.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. When we talk to God, sometimes we are tempted to ask him for things we don’t need. We pray to him for special favors. But with this line of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is telling us that God is not our private wish factory. God already knows what we need, so we shouldn’t be tempted to pray for stuff. We can though pray for him to protect us all from harm; to protect us from doing things that hurt ourselves and other people–that is what deliver us from evil means.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen. Jesus ends the prayer with some great news. He tells us that God, our Father, has a great kingdom, has great power, and has great glory. It must be great because it lasts forever and ever. Why is this such great news? Because God shares all of this with his children. That means us! We can share in his kingdom, his power, and his glory, if we pray a lot, forgive a lot, love a lot, and treat others like we want to be treated.
If Jesus were a Zen teacher what might he say? Click on Zen to find out.
The Lord’s Prayer is a short prayer but one that is layered with meaning. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life to begin discovering the prayer’s hidden meanings. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
In an earlier posting, we lent our moral support to the progressive ministry of St. Marys Church, South Brisbane in their dispute with the Roman Catholic Church. The issue that seems to be receiving the most debate (and disagreement) among Progressive Christians is Fr. Peter Kennedy’s placing of a Buddhist statue inside the church.
A few have stated that this is the equivalent of promoting idolatry, something which no Christian can tolerate. First, we should set the record straight and recognize that the statue in question was not of Buddha but a Buddhist monk praying. But even if it were of Buddha, this shouldn’t really matter. Gautama Buddha did not profess to be God but a man, and he is not deified by Buddhists.
If having iconography or statues within a place of worship is equivalent to idol worship, then we Christians are (as they say) guiltier than sin. Statues of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints fill thousands of churches, and cross jewelry adorns the bodies of millions. Yet most Christians are no guiltier of idol worship than most Buddhists.
In our meditation on How We Worship, we mentioned how rituals only point towards divine truths. They are not spiritual canisters that contain power in and of themselves. The same goes for religious iconography like statues: be they statues of Jesus Christ or Gautama Buddha. Religious followers are expected to use them as visual reference points to help them turn inward toward a communion with their own inner divinity.
In other words, when the Buddhist monk kneels down in prayer, he (like the Christian) is seeking God’s Kingdom with reverence and humility. And that is something Progressive Christians should not only support but welcome into our churches–recalling Jesus’s words that those who are not against us are with us (Mark 9:40).
Gospel of Mark 11
When they had almost reached Jerusalem, as far as Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent on two of his disciples. 2 “Go to the village facing you,” he said; “and, as soon as you get there, you will find a foal tethered, which no one has ever ridden; untie it, and bring it. 3 And, if anyone says to you: ‘Why are you doing that?’ say: ‘The Master wants it, and will be sure to send it back here at once.’”
4 The two disciples went, and, finding a foal tethered outside a door in the street, they untied it. 5 Some of the by-standers said to them: “What are you doing, untying the foal?” 6 And the two disciples answered as Jesus had told them; and they allowed them to go. 7 Then they brought the foal to Jesus, and, when they had laid their cloaks on it, he seated himself upon it.
8 Many of the people spread their cloaks on the road, while some strewed boughs which they had cut from the fields; 9 And those who led the way, as well as those who followed, kept shouting: “‘God save him! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! ‘God save him from on high!’”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple courts; and, after looking round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. 12 The next day, after they had left Bethany, Jesus became hungry; 13 And, noticing a fig-tree at a distance in leaf, he went to it to see if by any chance he could find something on it; but, on coming up to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 So, addressing the tree, he exclaimed: “May no man ever again eat of your fruit!” And his disciples heard what he said.
15 They came to Jerusalem. Jesus went into the temple courts, and began to drive out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of the pigeon-dealers, 16 And would not allow anyone to carry anything across the temple courts.
To continue reading Chapter 11 of the Gospel of Mark and discover what Jesus calls his house of prayer, please click on page 2 below.
The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life is an SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) book based on the belief that reason and faith must walk hand in hand. It is the perfect book for exploring your own spirituality, as well as teaching the Lord’s Prayer to others. It will challenge your preconceptions and help you acquire new perspectives on The Lord’s Prayer, Christianity, and a life of faith, while also encouraging you to ask new questions and seek fresh answers within the context of your own experience. The book is split into two parts: the Living Hour commentary and the New Century Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). You can purchase the hardcover or ebook versions safely and securely with PayPal or a credit card via the following links.
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About The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life
The Living Hour is a modern meditation on the Lord’s Prayer. It is written for progressive Christians, Unitarians, the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious), and people of all faiths. In teaching the Lord’s Prayer, the Living Hour takes you below the surface meaning of Jesus’s words and his larger teachings to discover fresh interpretations of the metaphors and parables contained in the Gospels.
The book’s SBNR commentary is richly supported by over 200 Gospel book citations and is seasoned with contemporary cultural, psychological, and literary references. The work is thus perfect for discussion groups and progressive Bible study classes. You can also read the Lord’s Prayer book online by clicking on the following chapters.
Part 1: Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Our Father who art in heaven
Understand our relationship to God
Chapter 2: Hallowed be thy name
Understanding God’s identity
Chapter 3: Thy kingdom come
Understanding God’s kingdom
Chapter 4: Thy will be done
Understanding God’s will
Chapter 5: On earth, as it is in heaven
Understanding God’s divide
Chapter 6: Give us this day
Gathering the moment at hand
Chapter 7: Our daily bread
Gathering our inheritance
Chapter 8: And forgive us our trespasses
Removing our hindrances
Chapter 9: As we forgive those who trespass against us
Removing our hindrances
Chapter 10: And lead us not into temptation
Removing our hindrances (Part II)
Chapter 11: But deliver us from evil
Overcoming our ego
Chapter 12: For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever, amen.
Understanding God Time
The New Century Gospels
All great religious manuscripts and scripture (be they Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc.) have transcendent and important things to teach us. The Gospel books of the New Testament are unique among such works in that they are so often talked about but so rarely read in their entirety.
The Living Hour: The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life includes the New Century Gospels. This is a contemporary version of the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which uses the “Twentieth Century New Testament” as its primary resource. Subsequent edits were made after careful consideration of the King James’ Bible and the current forms of modern English usage. The resulting text brings the story and teachings of Jesus to life for all readers, regardless of their faith.
Teaching the Lord’s Prayer to large groups? Contact us for a special discount of the paperback edition.
It really is a shame that we no longer teach Latin in our schools, for Latin has a grace, beauty, and music that English has a difficult time rivaling. This is not to say that Latin is better than English, only that each language has different strong points; and gracefulness is one area where Latin usually triumphs.
The following is a Latin translation of The Lord’s Prayer , the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him how to pray, the prayer which is the Rosetta Stone for understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We suggest that it be read it out loud for full appreciation.
PATER noster, qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut
et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo.
Gain fresh insight into the Lord’s Prayer & how God is with us today. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life. The prayer’s hidden teachings will enrich and inspire you. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour Book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
If you would like to read The Lord’s Prayer in a German translation, please go to: The Lord’s Prayer in German.