God’s Prayer

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

A string of troubling news from family and friends prompted me outdoors. Though to those around me this appeared to be an effort to get some much-needed exercise, it was actually my effort to get God’s full attention. I had a laundry list of requests to make on behalf of those in need and this walk would provide the time necessary to dictate this list to my ever-patient God.

Yes, this reflection is being written by the very same person who has repeatedly assured you that God knows our troubles better than we do. The good news is that, as soon as I made it to the end of my block, an insistent breeze nudged me. It pushed me along just enough to remind me of this truth. With that, I uttered a single sentence to the Lord God and then continued my walk in silence. “You know what’s wrong, Dear God, and I know you’ll be with us as we deal with it.”

In spite of all of the scripture passages available, when Jesus taught us to pray, he chose the few, simple and powerful words which have become the Lord’s Prayer: Daddy, you are the best parent we will ever have, you resides in heaven and are deserving of our praise. We ask that your will be done because your plans will take us to far better places than our own plans ever will. We ask for our daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because you will respond to all of our needs. We take your care to heart, and we forgive one another and care for one another as you do. So be it!

Loving God, Jesus said it best. Teach me to pray selflessly and with absolute faith in your love for me and for all of your children.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Plain Talk

“This is how you are to pray.”
From Matthew 6:9

Once again, my husband observed that what others are able to say in two sentences, I say in two paragraphs. At first, I responded that I simply choose to provide details to ensure that my listeners understand what I’m talking about. Later, I ignored the dear man outwardly, though I tried to take his words to heart. I admit that the change in my conversational style is minimal. Still, my ability to listen has improved immensely. I’ve discovered that the best part of a good conversation is what my partner has to say to me.

Jesus seems to be making a similar point when he teaches his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, for his lesson, Jesus chose the few, simple and powerful words that would become the Lord’s Prayer: God, the best parent you will ever have, resides in heaven and is deserving of your praise. Ask that God’s will be done because God’s plans will take you to far better places than your own plans ever will. Ask for your daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because this God will respond to all your needs. Take God’s care to heart, and forgive one another and care for one another as God does. So be it!

Dear God, teach me to pray selflessly and with trust in God’ love for me and for all of your children.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Side-By-Side

I’ve shared this numerous times, I know. Still, I repeat that my favorite portrayal of God is offered in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The image of that ever-patient, welcoming and forgiving father who opens his arms to his children, regardless of their carrying on, is something I’ve held dearly all of my life. It is this image of God as our loving parent which encourages me to open my heart to God without reservation or fear.

If you’ve been blessed with a close relationship, you understand the implications of such intimacy. When we open our hearts to others, we hide nothing from them. Neither pretenses nor formalities get in the way of the reality of who we are. When we share ourselves at this level, we put every flaw and every virtue into full view. When God is our partner in such a relationship, even the things we don’t know about ourselves are known to God. Far too frequently, I find myself faced with the reality that I’m not perfect. When this happens, I remind myself that God has been aware of this reality all along. In spite of the pettiness or grandeur of my imperfections, God looks upon me with persistent love. Because God loves me -and all of us- so completely, I approach God with the confidence Abraham exhibits in a passage from Genesis (18:20-32).

Did you notice that each time Abraham speaks he finds God to be both approachable and compassionate? The author of Genesis carefully portrays this encounter as a conversation during which God and Abraham walk side-by-side. In spite of being very much aware that he is in the presence of God, Abraham bargains for the lives of the innocent inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Though God’s apparent anger is in response to the outcries of many righteous people regarding the evil that festers in the two cities, God listens to Abraham. First, Abraham pleads that the cities be spared if there are just fifty innocent inhabitants. Then, he begs for forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty and ten innocent lives. Each time, God responds sympathetically. The chapter that follows tells us that God has Abraham’s plea in mind when God spares the lives of Lot and his family. God also knows the hearts of evildoers and the reasons they do what they do. God loves them as well. You know, God’s mercy is never lost on anyone.

In Luke’s gospel (11:1-13), Jesus refers his disciples to the God with whom Abraham is so familiar. Luke tells us that Jesus has just finished praying himself when the disciples ask him to teach them to pray. Jesus responds with the Lord’s Prayer. After offering this lesson, Jesus goes on to make his instruction regarding prayer perfectly clear. If the disciples have forgotten the persistence of Abraham and God’s generous response to him, Jesus reminds them in no uncertain terms. Jesus tells his friends of a man who responds to his neighbor’s need in the middle of the night, not so much out of love as out of weariness at the neighbor’s persistence. Jesus continues, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Jesus goes on to point out the disciples’ concern for their own children: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” The God of Abraham continues to listen!

It occurs to me that I’ve found a second image of God which I must treasure at least as much as that of the father embracing his wayward son. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the young man separates himself from his father while he lives sinfully and squanders his inheritance. Though this young man is always in his father’s thoughts, he is isolated and far away in his darkest moments. When this son finally comes to his senses, he can only hope that his father will take him back as a hired hand. In today’s passage from Genesis, God and Abraham walk side-by-side. There is no question that Abraham is conversing with God face-to-face. Apparently, Abraham finds this to be perfectly normal. It seems to me that God’s close proximity to Abraham is also perfectly and wonderfully normal for you and me. Though the prodigal son was separated from his father for a while, we are never separated from God. God walks side-by side with each one of us every step of the way. In our goodness and in our wrong-doing, God is with us. Yes, even today, the God of Abraham listens.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Lesson In Forgiveness

Forgive us our trespasses…
From Matthew 6:12

It was almost Halloween and I was in need of more candy. As I watched a young teacher gather treats for her students, my thoughts returned to the days before my first class Halloween Party.

Three of my students had already distinguished themselves behavior-wise. Halloween’s approach proved to be too much for them. The little imps couldn’t keep themselves in line; they couldn’t keep themselves quiet, and they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. By Wednesday before our party, they’d pushed beyond my fairly minimal limits. That afternoon, I informed them that they would not attend our class party. Crestfallen, they moped as we walked outdoor at dismissal. Thursday morning, they romped around the playground until they saw me. My presence apparently reminded them that they’d be sitting outside the principal’s office the following afternoon. Their skips morphed into slow walks and their smiling eyes clouded over. They focused on the blacktop beneath their feet as they joined the line inching into school.

Jesus made his thoughts regarding forgiveness clear. When I acknowledge my own imperfections, I mope like my wayward students who did their best to spoil Halloween for themselves that year. The day before the party, I saw that my three outcasts were somewhat subdued. By Friday morning, I hardly noticed them at all as they’d joined in their classmates’ cooperative efforts. An hour after lunch, as my three friends gathered pencils, paper and books for the trek to the principal’s office, my heart ached. “Do you know why you’re leaving?” I asked. Each one nodded. “What are you going to do about it?” I asked. “Be good!” they said unison. With that, in spite of what I’d told them earlier, I led them back to their desks to join in the festivities.

Merciful God, thank you for teaching me to forgive.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Lord’s Prayer

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

Though I have worked to remedy this over the years, I recently caught myself elaborating far too extensively regarding a truly trivial topic. Though I was very tired and not particularly attentive to much of anything, I managed to talk on and on. My friends were kind enough to listen quietly until I interrupted myself. “Who cares about this anyway?” I asked them and me. After a good laugh at myself, I sat back and listened.

Jesus seems to be making a similar point when he teaches his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, Jesus chose the few, simple and powerful words which would become the Lord’s Prayer for this lesson: God, the best parent you will ever have, resides in heaven and is deserving of your praise. Ask that God’s will be done because God’s plans will take you to far better places than your own plans ever will. Ask for your daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because this God will respond to all of your needs. Take God’s care to heart, and forgive one another and care for one another as God does. So be it!

Loving God, Jesus said it best, didn’t he? Teach me to pray selflessly and with absolute faith in your love for me and for all of your children.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Pray Simply

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

My husband often observes that what others are able to say in two sentences, I say in two paragraphs. Early on, I responded that I simply choose to provide details to ensure that my listeners understand what I am talking about. Later, though I ignored the dear man outwardly, I tried to take his words to heart as best I could. Though the change in my conversational style is minimal, my ability to listen is greatly improved. I have discovered in all of this that the best part of a good conversation is what the other has to say to me.

Jesus seems to be making this point when he teaches his disciples how to pray. In spite of all of the psalms and scripture passages available to him, Jesus chose the few, simple and powerful words that would become the Lord’s Prayer for his lesson. Today, Jesus might have said… God, the best parent you will ever have, resides in heaven and is deserving of your praise. Ask that God’s will be done because God’s plans will take you to far better places than your own plans ever will. Ask for your daily bread, to be forgiven and to be kept from temptation because this God will respond to all of your needs. Take God’s care to heart, and forgive one another and care for one another as God does. So be it!

Loving God, Jesus said it all. Teach me to pray selflessly, with trust in your love for me and for all of your children.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved