Several years ago I read Brennan Manning's Abba's Child. One of the stories he tells in that book, and he tells many, was about a priest from Detroit who went to visit his 80-year-old uncle. On an early morning walk together the old man begins to skip down the road like a happy child with a glowing smile. When his nephew asked him to explain why he appeared so happy, he responded by simply saying, "Yes, you see, my Abba is very fond of me!" Abba is, of course, the Aramaic word for Father, the title Jesus taught us to use in addressing our Father in Heaven. "My Abba is very fond of me!" Do you believe that?
A dear friend of mine who knows me as well as anyone regularly asks me if I know that God delights in me, referencing Zephaniah 3:17. I hedge. It is one thing to acknowledge His love for me, and quite another, at least for me, to consider that He delights in me. How about you?
This week's devotional is not directly on that subject, but in a way it is at the very heart of it. With wonderful simplicity and clarity, Jesus encourages us to pray because we have a very good Father in Heaven who gives good gifts to His children. Read Matthew 7:7-11 a couple of times slowly and then use the questions to help you meditate on this exciting text!
1. Jesus has already addressed the subject of prayer (6:5-15). Why do you think He brings it up here again? Is it randomly stuck in here by Matthew? Is it a suggestion that instead of judging others (7:1-6), we simply pray about it? Or is it something else that prompts Jesus to bring prayer to our attention again? What think ye?
2. In verse 7 there are three present tense imperatives (three commands that we are to do continually!), each with a promise. List them here. What do you think is the difference or the relationship between them?
3. In verse 8, Jesus universalizes these promises ("everyone") but basically repeats them. What do you think His point is in doing this?
4. Now Jesus gives these promises to intelligent beings who are supposed to use their intelligence to know that God is not a cosmic genie who pledges Himself to do whatever we want. So what qualifications or boundaries are there on these wide-open promises of Jesus?
5. Jesus sets before us these wide-open promises that when we seek our Father and pray (ask, seek, knock) we will be heard, and the design of that is to excite us to pray! But we don't! Why not? What gets in the way of praying?
6. Verses 9-11 are a warm, homey parable. What is the lesson?
* What does Jesus mean when He says that we are evil? And if we are evil, how can we still have within us the fatherly compassion to give good gifts to our children?
7. What might this parable suggest to us is the fundamental obstacle we face in prayer?
8. Think for a moment about this: Jesus said that our Father in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him. What are those good gifts? (Luke 11:13; Jn. 15:7-8; Rom. 8:32 - note the context; Gal. 5:16-24; II Pet.3-4)
9. If our Father in Heaven is the giver of good gifts what is the negative lesson from this?
10. Let's step back for a moment and consider the larger frame of the Portrait of a Saint. How do we measure up to the standards set by Jesus? Do we look like what He has drawn for us? What do you think is the role of prayer in all of the Sermon on the Mount?
11. What one thing do you think the Lord would have you take away from this meditation?
God be with you and I hope to see you on Sunday!