How to pray?

Today’s Bible readings are: Psalm 40; Isaiah 38.1–8, 21-22; Matthew 16.13–28.

The impulse toward self-preservation is no bad thing. It plays its part in the prayer of Psalm 40 and of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. God answers Hezekiah’s pray and, we presume, hears the Psalmist’s too. For Peter, in Matthew 16, however, it is different. He wants the life of his friend and Lord to be  spared, so he cries out in protest at Jesus’ passion prediction, and for this he is rebuked. ‘Get behind me, Satan’ says Jesus. Peter becomes a tempter, a Satan, to Jesus by imploring Jesus to avoid the cross.

Prayer is difficult. Naturally, we pray for the preservation of our loved ones, for the success of our projects and for our own good health. Often these prayers make a difference (Hezekiah’s seems to change God’s mind!) Yet what really matters in prayer is not that we get what we want but that we perceive what God is doing and embrace it. This kind of praying moves beyond mere self-preservation to a kind of participation in the unfolding will of God. This kind of praying moves us beyond ourselves and our own little worlds to the world at large. There we discover a God who cares about poverty, global-warming, ecology and politics. We discover a God who cares about the plight of the planet and its people and we hear God’s call to follow Jesus, be the church, and live so as to make a difference.

Your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Amen.

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