Sep. 14, 2021

Prayer as a KISS: Keep It Simple, Saints

 

Matthew 6:33. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Sometimes one comes to grips with the most basic words that are taken for granted. Prayer, for example. What is it? How complex a “rule of prayer” is needed? What sort of concerns are covered in prayer? Does it really do any good? What is meant by effectual and fervent prayer, and just how righteous does one have to be for coming up with prayer that “availeth much”?

One might struggle with rote prayer, form prayer, or spontaneous prayer - any of which may at times rise only as far as the ceiling, at times the ceiling of a crawl space at best. Yet the best of those - called the Lord’s Prayer - seems to cover all the bases, and is what Jesus taught and said, “Pray thus.”

Then we also realize that God knows what we need before we even ask. In fact, maybe what we think we need (or for that matter what we think someone else needs) may not even be it at all. Yet we have, with self effort, spent a lot of time agonizing over the matter.

Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. Out in the wilderness. On the mountain, or even going “up into the mountain” as He spent all night alone in prayer. It might be considered that He was more in a receptive mode in approaching the Father, than one of laboring over a prayer list of wants. Might it have been more of a communion of His Spirit with that of the Father? It wasn’t about rehashing the frustrations of what never seemed to be answered, the way most of us do when we pray.

Can we think of His prayer as it was in Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives - a matter of surrender of the will? When that happens, it changes everything. Our prayers are not a fight with God, but a willingness to hear His Voice. His sheep hear His Voice, they know Him, they follow Him. See John 10.

The secret of prayer is in the priority of the petitioner aligning his will, surrendering it, to that of the Father. It’s a rather simple concept when viewed by way of Matthew 6:33. But one much resisted.  

Here’s a hint from Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers: 

Seek ye first the kingdom of God.--The context shows that the words point to the "seeking" of prayer, rather than of act, though the latter meaning is, of course, not excluded. What is thus to be sought is "the kingdom of God" (the change from the less personal "kingdom of heaven" is significant), the higher spiritual life in its completeness, for ourselves and for others; and with it we are to seek "His righteousness," that which, being perfect beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, must be His gift to us, and therefore to be sought in prayer. One who seeks for this may well be content to leave all else in his Father's hands. Even without his asking "they shall be added unto him" in such measure as is best for him. Among the few traditional sayings ascribed to our Lord of which we can think as probably an authentic report of His teaching, is one to the same effect quoted by Origen and Clement of Alexandria, "Ask great things, and little things shall be added to you: ask heavenly things, and earthly things shall be added to you.” (Bold emphasis mine)

Seek first His kingdom AND His righteousness. Not only first, but entirely and only! Then all else about which we may be concerned will be added unto us, as we trust that the Father knows when, where, and if what His child desires is to be granted. The first thing that may need to go is that we are concerned, anxious, or troubled about any matter at all!

(The word “righteousness” is one well worth exploring a bit, but not in this writing. It is found in Strong’s Concordance, G1343, “dikaiosynen”, having to do with equity and justification. Sometimes translated “justice”. Readers are encouraged to explore this for themselves.)

Our entire seeking is of the higher spiritual life in its completeness - the purpose for which we are created and redeemed.  One who seeks this may discover that he or she is quite content to leave all else in the Father’s hands. With this priority, we enter into the purpose of our creation, redemption, and sanctification - fellowship and union with our Lord. Now, if you want any sort of purpose driven life, let it be God's purpose.

Trusting our King and our God for all other needs that are temporal is reflected in prayer that has as its focus the will and the glory of God: His kingdom and His righteousness. The first order of priority… 

And so we ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. See the promises connected to this in Matthew 7:8 and Luke 11:10. We do well to pray and ponder well, and ask, Do I have a prayer life or a life that is prayer?