As long as you do not think about it, prayer can be uncomplicated. It is easy to pray if you are in trouble. It is easy to talk to God in your thoughts. It is even possible to sit somewhere in a quiet spot somewhere in nature and experience on a deeper level some form of unity with the creator of all. But when we begin to think seriously about prayer it often becomes complicated and difficult. Jesus taught his disciples what they should pray about. Let us follow Jesus with them. Let us take the next step
Read Matthew 6:5-15 and Matthew 7: 7-12
- What were the main items on Jesus’ list of priorities when it came to prayer? Make that list again!
- With the list at hand, start praying for those same issues. Do it right now!
- Is there a connection between the Kingdom of God and the people you are spending the bulk of your time every day? What is that link?
- Does it make a difference in the way you view yourself if you start to pray like Jesus did?
The very first subject that Jesus covered with his disciples was about relationships. He did not start with high theology or basic doctrine. That would come much later. He started with relationships like:
- A brother – someone close to you, a friend, family member. A brother that irritates to death.
- Someone of the other gender, even the person you are married to!
- A malicious person who has his knife in for you.
- The enemy who actively wants to see your demise.
Read Matthew 5:21-48
- Do honest introspection. Who comes to mind as the brother, the malicious person, the enemy with whom you have to deal at work or at home? Write down their names. It can even be someone as close as your husband, wife, father or mother.
- How does Jesus teach us to respond to those people? How did he demonstrate in his own life how to deal with people like that?
- How are you going to life out the upside down life of the Kingdom in your relationship with others?
- Difficult people can make your life hell and it is most often very difficult to work through toxic relationships and bad experiences with people close to us. But if you want to follow Jesus step by step just like the twelve, then this is the first hurdle you will have to get over. If you find it difficult, remember that the same theme will be repeated quite a few times in our journey through the gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ disciples found it difficult to handle relationships too and he had to revisit the same issues time and time again, helping them step by step to begin to think and act like him ..
Relationships often cut to the heart. Do not think it is enough to touch these issues quickly by running through one short session as quick as can. It is possible that you could park on this spot for a week or to, carefully thinking through the relationship issues, helping each other to begin to think like Jesus. This is where the combined wisdom and accountability of a group can help to persevere until there is a practical application in your life. If you are doing this on your own, you may have to find a trusted friend to talk these matters through.
Read Matt: 5:1-16
This passage is well known as the beatitudes, the one portion of Jesus’ teaching that people from different backgrounds and even religions regard as more than exceptional, brilliant and an example that every human being should follow.
If we want to get to understand the mind of Christ, how Jesus thought, this is where we should start. Why at this passage? Not because just about everybody thinks it is profound and great, but because this is where Jesus himself started.
That may very well be Jesus’ own summary of his attitude to life, people and his Father in heaven, but isn’t it much too difficult to grasp and to obey?
Except if you turn it upside down and read it from the perspective of someone who lives
in poverty, is persecuted, and is rejected by everybody. Some would say that the only way to understand the beatitudes is to turn it on its head and read it from the viewpoint of a street child in one of the big mega cities like Delhi, Lagos or Johannesburg. Then you will know intuitively what the message is: It is not the powerful, the important people, the manipulators and those who have it all and know how to stand on their rights, those the look from above that will understand the Kingdom, but those who look from below upwards, who will truly understand what it is to receive God’s blessing. This is an upside down theology and an upside down spirituality, but if you learn how to look from the bottom upwards, then the gospel becomes good news and the Kingdom a practical reality. Later on Paul would call this grace.
To be a disciple of Jesus and to show something of his character you will have to begin looking upside down at others and yourself. This is the first step in following Jesus.
Now let’s do it:
- How would your life look like if you turn it upside down? How would your life look like from the position of helplessness, devastation, being a loser, someone who gave up hope for life itself? If you find this exercise difficult, use your imagination and try again.
- What does this passage say about the way you have to look at life if you want to see God’s blessing? You should just about be able to make a list highlighting a key word in every verse.
- Open the ears of your heart. What does the Lord say about your life, your dreams and your plans?
- Do you get the message of the Kingdom as good news from this upside down position yet?