The Lord’s Prayer is our best known model of prayer. It deals with content, but Jesus taught other things about prayer as well. In Matthew, Chapter Six, he instructs his listeners, “… when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” So we are to pray privately, just between each of us and God, away from other people. This is not to say there should be no corporate or public prayer – there is a time for those – but times of private prayer are a vital part of the Christian life. Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” If the Son of God is our example, and he made it a point to pray alone, how much more ought we as well? If we are to focus on God, we must take that time: to praise him, to present our needs to him, to be attuned to his direction in our lives.
Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Exercise: some of us like it, many do not, but most of us know we ought to get more than we do. Something as simple a daily walk is recommended over no activity at all for a modicum of health benefit. In a similar way, we should be concerned about our spiritual health. Christians know they ought to be in God’s word, but sometimes finding the time seems as daunting as getting down to the gym. But just as we become unfit physically for lack of exercise, we become spiritually flabby for lack of spiritual exercise. The first and perhaps most important step is to establish a time, something that becomes routine. For some, that may be first thing in the morning; others, just before bedtime; or during a commute, during a meal, perhaps even during a walk or run with earphones and an audio Bible. Make a commitment that you will be in God’s word on a regular basis. And stick with it. Then you can say with the Psalmist, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Acts 4:36 “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement) . . . .”
Among the early Christians in the book of Acts, we encounter Barnabas, who is described at the end of chapter four as “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement) . . . .” Here is a man whose given name is largely forgotten in favor of a nickname that expressed his personality: Son of Encouragement. We have all met people who deserve the title “the Son (or Daughter) of Discouragement,” and because of that trait we find that life is more pleasant when avoiding them. But have you had the experience of being down, feeling the weight of the everyday problems of life when someone says the perfect thing at the perfect time, a compliment, a funny comment, a word of support? That kind of encouragement can suddenly change your whole day; it picks you up, gives you optimism, and suddenly the everyday issues don’t seem so burdensome. Why not be that person? It does not take much effort. Praise a coworker, compliment a family member, encourage a friend.
I Peter 1:15-16 NIV says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy,'”
Priests and pastors are often considered to be holy people. That is fine as far as it goes, but the fact is that the idea of a clergy set apart from the laity for a more holy life is inaccurate. All Christians are called to holy living. Peter addressed the words above to the early believers. Not just to the leadership, but to Christian churches in general. The apostle Paul concurs, writing to the church at Thessalonica, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (I Thess. 4:7 NIV) What does it mean to be holy? The letter of James gives us a short description: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV) In other words, a life of social responsibility combined with personal piety.
Proverbs 20:23 NIV says, “The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.”
These weights and scales were used in business transactions, a certain weight of silver for a basket of grain, say. If one party of the transaction had rigged his scales or weights to give a false measurement, he could cheat the other party. Compare it to the stereotype of a dishonest butcher weighing meat with his thumb on the scale. We who follow Christ must have a standard of honesty that pleases him. Our culture often winks at minor dishonesty in business dealings, or in getting an insurance settlement, or in reporting income for tax purposes. Some think it’s okay to cheat a business, the government, or a person who is wealthy because “they can afford it.” Nowhere in scripture is there an allowance to take what is not yours, even if from one who has much more. These are akin to using the dishonest scales which Proverbs says God detests. Christians are to be blameless, as businessmen, taxpayers and consumers.