I've often heard that Christians aren't meant to worry. It doesn't always help. Sometimes I worry about the fact that I'm worrying and then worrying about .... I guess you get the idea.
The Lord's Prayer is there to help us deal with our worries. We have a Father in heaven who cares for us. We can seek first his kingdom and ask him to care about our daily needs. The Lord's Prayer is a discipline to help us to trust.
Specifically, Jesus tells us not to worry about food and drink. We need them, but there's more to life than food and drink. And don't worry about clothes. It's the you inside the clothes who really matters.
The Lord's Prayer is there to help us sort out our priorities. Father first. Kingdom second. Our needs third. All important, but in that order.
Do you see why Jesus told us to go away on our own and talk to our Father in heaven? It's to help us get the priorities in the right order. We need time away from the busyness to sort it out.
Here's a question and I don't want you to tell me the answer. If you were at Mills Hill a couple of Sundays ago, did you try my suggestion, that you take time alone, talk to the Lord and tell nobody? You can see, I hope, why answering that question would not be a good idea.
But if you did, keep going. And if not, it's not too late. Your Father in heaven will reward you. That's what Jesus said.
On a related note, Monday is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day to remember the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and the later genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Monday is 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The world is not as it should be, and we do not seem to be learning.
It's the job of the church to cry, 'Your Kingdom Come.' We are here to express our frustration at the way the world is. We are here to believe in something better. And here to listen to God as he, maybe quietly, tells us the work we have to do.
We are here to cry out that God's will should be done on the earth.
This is the essence of prayer when the church comes together. So let's gather together on Sunday, ready to pray together for God's world.
Just remember, though, that the reward is for those who take time alone, and seek God when nobody else is looking. We may act in public, but we are shaped in private.
If we are going to pray well, we need to know something about the one we are praying to.
So here's the first lesson in prayer: God loves to reward us.
Do you mind if I say it again? God loves to reward us.
I repeat myself, because the first lesson of prayer is that God loves to reward us.
"Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6, NIV.)
Look a few verses around the Lord's Prayer and you will find the word 'reward' seven times.
Some people might object to this: isn't it better to serve God without looking for a reward? Well, I guess it depends on the kind of rewards that you are looking for.
Jesus starts his famous sermon by listing people that God will reward .... people who will be called God's children, people who will be filled, people who will see God.
So here's the second lesson in prayer: do it to please God. Don't try and impress others, for God won't reward you for that.
Try it now, or soon. Take a few moments to pray. Make it your sole aim to please God. Tell him you want his rewards.
As the season of Christmas comes to an end, one more thought about angels.
Angels get a lot of press in the Christmas story. They are the news announcers, telling people what God is doing and telling them the right way to respond. You are going to have a baby ... don't be afraid to marry her ... go to Bethlehem ... flee to Egypt etc etc.
And they don't stop their work when Jesus grows up. They help him at the hardest times. They are there at the resurrection. But they are not just there for the big events.
Jesus tells us not to look down on the little ones who believe in him. He means the people that others don't notice, the people we think are not important or significant. Don't despise them, says Jesus. Their angels in heaven always see the face of the Father in heaven.
Do you feel insignificant? There are angels looking after you who always see God's face. Do you look down on others? They have angels who always see God's face. When Jesus was reduced to nothing, the angels were there. He has now approached the Father with the holy angels.
I believe in angels. But it's not just about believing in them. It's about believing they are there for the ones that are written off. And for the ones who are under attack. I need to hear their message again.