* Editor’s note: (Because of the length of this scripture, some of the content has been omitted. Please read the scripture in its entirety in your bible)
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?… Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
As I first read through today’s passages, my first response was, “Oh good, several topics that I can easily highlight.” However, I found I couldn’t overlook the one that cuts into my rational concepts about the character of God and how I relate to Her. I find Matthew 7:8 one of those biblical passages that sticks between my teeth like a kernel of popcorn. Here, Jesus basically is saying that whatever we ask in prayer will be granted. This rhetoric seems more allied with some tele-evanglist than it does to the Christ. How could Jesus preach this theology in the shadow of the savage Pax Romana and injustice of the day? Certainly, there were a myriad of prayers at the time which should have relieved the people of their oppression, if this were true. What point was he attempting to get across?
I decided to consult the scholars of the Jesus Seminar’s The Five Gospels What did Jesus Really Say? To my amazement, the verse was printed in pink, which means that according to the consensus of the members, “Jesus probably said something like this.” I am reminded again of the conflicts I have with prayer, specifically those of intercession and petition……asking for things. Should I really think of God as I did as a child, that He will give me what I want if I only pray earnestly? Haven’t I moved beyond thinking of God as “out there, the supernatural interventionist model” as Marcus Borg describes it in The God We Never Knew?
So I am back to where I began. I still pray…..most often to bring me close to those “thin places” near The Sacred, the soaring flight of a red tail overhead, the harmony of frogs after a heavy rain or the symmetry of an old Oak. I pray to ask for things too, in most cases it is in the form of concern and health for loved ones and others. Is The Sacred interventionist? Does prayer really work? Maybe that’s the mystery that keeps me seeking.
– Submitted by Mark Anderson