“Pray then in this way: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

– Matthew 6:9-13

PRAYER

While I was discussing prayer with a business friend of mine, he related to me his morning practice. Each morning on his bike ride he would recite the Lord’s Prayer. Previously he had struggled with how to pray and what to pray for. He discovered the Lord’s Prayer and noted that this was Jesus’s example of prayer. So he incorporated this prayer into his bike ride and later would also say it in other quiet times of the day. Over time he felt that he was just reciting the lines and not being sincere. He began to change the words to reflect his understanding of the prayer. For instance, instead of saying “Our father in heaven,” he would replace it with “God our creator” or something similar. Or instead of saying “Give us this day our daily bread,” he would say “Feed me your words of wisdom.” This kept the prayer fresh for my friend and helped him explore his relationship with God.

The Lord’s Prayer appears two times in the Bible, first in Matthew 6:9–13 and a shorter form in Luke 11:2–4. The version in Matthew is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke, Jesus uses the prayer to explain to his disciples how to pray. In both cases it contains the elements that are important in a prayer of petition. First, praising and recognizing God. Then petition. There are three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. The first is for the substance to live a godly life, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This can mean food, spiritual guidance, or personal strength. The second is asking God to “forgive our debts,” or sins and that’s followed quickly by our taking responsibility for forgiving our neighbor’s debts or sins. The third petition is for protection. Protection from evil but also from the temptations of evil. Over time the prayer has morphed into longer forms that place further emphasis on the sovereign nature of God. For instance, many endings add something along the lines of “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever more.” The verse quoted at the top of the blog is a direct quote from the NKJV Bible.

“Jesus gives us The Lord’s Prayer as a basic prayer that will open up our prayer life.”

Many of us struggle with how, what, and when to pray. Jesus gives us The Lord’s Prayer as a basic prayer that will open up our prayer life. In the marketplace, where many are pressed for time, this prayer is easily memorized and can be said many times throughout the day. The prayer is easily adaptable to our personal circumstances. My friend learned how to say the prayer with creativity and tailor it to his day. God does not want us to just say the prayer from memory, God wants this prayer to be part of our personal relationship with him. It is okay to use the prayer as a template and expand it to fit into our own connection with God. Following the parameters of the Lord’s Prayer and remembering to say “In Jesus name I pray” at the end of every prayer were the only two things my friend needed in his prayer life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Do we pray by rote or from our hearts?

Are we remembering to praise God?

Are we willing to accept God’s answer?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

– Matthew 5:4

MOURNING

Loss is a part of life, and sadly, the older we get, the more loss we have to endure. Whether through the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job, the process of grieving and recovering is difficult and very personal. Psychologists have identified that mourning individuals experience grief in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person must pass through each stage in his or her own time on the road to recovery.

But Jesus wants us to remember his promise that all who grieve will be comforted. Through both our physical and spiritual baptisms, we become part of this blessing. He walks beside us in our grief, and through his promise, he gives us reason to hope we will recover.

In addition to loss due to death, many of us also feel a profound sense of loss when faced with disability or severe illness. An elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may grieve the loss of her fading memory, and her spouse may later mourn the loss of the woman he married, even when she’s still physically present.

Loss can have far-reaching repercussions. Individuals facing illness, disability, or even the loss of a job may also suffer from intense anxiety and fear about whether they will continue to be able to provide for themselves and their families. And many who have lost a spouse may likewise struggle with how to provide for their families and parent their grieving children while they mourn. No matter the type of loss, the experience can be intensely painful, complicated, and difficult to navigate.

“Jesus wants us to remember his promise that all who grieve will be comforted…He walks beside us in our grief, and through his promise, he gives us reason to hope we will recover.”

I have counseled many individuals who have lost a job, and as I guide them through their losses, I can see the process of grief at work. During the journey to recovery, individuals work through anxiety and fear as well as feelings of inadequacy and defeat. My assurances that there is a light at the end of the tunnel are no more than a temporary salve. Each person simply has to work through the emotional process of mourning. It can’t be hurried or prescriptive—it is a very personal process. During therapy, those in mourning will come upon roads they have to walk down in order to continue on their journeys. They will make discoveries and connections that are important and sometimes very surprising.

As we engage with those who have endured loss or are dealing with the process of grief, it’s important to be empathetic. We should avoid offering platitudes, such as “It will be okay,” or “Just keep a stiff upper lip,” as these can feel dismissive. Acknowledge and validate the feelings of those in mourning, and allow them to share their thoughts and express their emotions. They are traveling difficult and unfamiliar roads, and their emotions will fluctuate often throughout each day and week. As they proceed through the five stages, we can become their biggest allies simply by loving them and listening to them. This journey can be incredibly difficult, and for those who are in this process, time grinds on slowly.

In today’s verse, Jesus says that mourners will be comforted. The word “will” gives us hope for the future. Through baptism, we belong to a faith that gives us the assurance that the valleys of life are temporary. While our losses will never be recovered, we never lose the love of God. The gift of God’s love doesn’t just occur because of our physical baptism; it occurs through our spiritual acceptance of God’s promises. The promise in today’s verse encourages us to keep our faith, even during the darkest moments in our lives. Jesus promises us we will be comforted.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanDo we always accept that through our baptism we belong to a loving God, and thus will be comforted?

Can we listen to those in mourning?

Are we willing to go through the valley?

How do we affirm others?

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seeds fell on the ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

– Mark 4:3-8

WHICH SEEDS ARE WE

Those of us who work in the marketplace often have annual performance reviews, during which our superiors tell us how we did. Some years we do very well, and others, not so well. Some review recommendations we listen to; others we don’t. In the parable of the sower, Jesus gives us a performance review template to help us assess where we are with our faith. The seed that fell on the path is one that never really gave faith a chance. The seed on the rock is one that wants faith, but does little to nurture its faith. The one in the thorns, while faithful, allows the worries of the day to strangle its faith. The seed in the good soil nurtures and is patient with its faith, and allows worries to disappear.

“Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.”

But are we just one of these seeds, or a mixture of all of these types of seeds? We are all affected by our circumstances and by situations we encounter. Our reactions to these circumstances affect our faith. Bad financial situations may cause us to worry. Our experiences with difficult people may cause us to give up our Christian values. When we reach a mental state where we feel we are in the good soil, situations inevitably arise that test our faith.

We all want to be the seed in the good soil, but in tough times we worry, become angered, or otherwise lose our composure. In doing so, we end up on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns. Our life’s goal is to continue to work at being present and mindful, so we can stay in the good soil.

Donna, a successful business owner I know, told me once that she was prone to anger when confronted with a difficult person or situation. Over time, she learned to identify the triggers that affected her mood and her spirit. When this happened, she would mentally distance herself from the situation and tell herself to simply observe her surroundings, to take in information passively, while letting time and distance quiet her impulsive reactivity.

Peter, a former colleague, would pull me aside during difficult, high-stress situations and suggest the two of us go for a walk. We would head out to grab a snack while we talked about football. This was our way of creating space to prevent us from becoming reactive, which would ultimately move us farther from our goals.

We all want to be in the good soil, and we become frustrated that we aren’t there all the time. Learning to identify and deal with our triggers helps us stay on course. None of us is just one “seed” all the time, and when we find ourselves on the path, in the rocks, or among the thorns, Jesus can help us find our way back to the good soil.Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanWhat situations move us from good soil?

How do we react to life’s difficult circumstances?

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

– Luke 22:42

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES

A young man in his early thirties, late at night in an ancient Judean garden, asks, “Are you sure this is the only way?” This was the third time during the evening the young man had returned to the garden. Each time with the same request, “Are you sure?” The fullness of his humanity exposed and somber, he was sweating to the point of bleeding. Finally relenting, he gives in to the task by saying, “Not my will, but yours.” He knew what lay ahead. Betrayal by his friends and humiliation in front of his community. A long, agonizing beating that would tear skin from his back. Followed by an arduous trek carrying his cross to a hill. Where he would finally be put to death. A gruesome task he had to accomplish to create a connected relationship for humanity with God. He was creating a flower for humankind called Easter.

How many times in our work lives are we faced with difficult choices? The choice between momentary safety and doing what’s right. While none our decisions have the drama of Jesus’s prayer in the garden, there are strong parallels. We have to tell our boss bad news and bear the burden of delivering the news. We are internally and externally coaxed to sugarcoat what we have to say. Perhaps blame someone else. Or even conceal the news. All these shortcuts will avoid that moment of having to deliver a tough message. The walk to deliver the news will seem like an eternity. Each breath and thought will hang thickly, almost choking us. But we have a choice and we have an example from the garden. We have all been in this spot.

Consider Sherron Watkins, the executive who delivered the bad news about Enron. Shortly afterward she became a pariah with the insiders at Enron. Her daily life was difficult and lonely. As time wore on and the issues she revealed came fully to light, she became a model for corporate integrity. In 2001 she was named one of Time magazine’s People of the Year.

“Not my will, but yours.”

Confronting the natural challenges in the marketplace is an everyday job. Many times tough and uneasy decisions have to be made. We are fortunate we have the example of Jesus in the garden to model. Through our daily prayers and relationship with God, we become emboldened and confident in decision making. Not fearing the temporary pain that is often associated with a tough decision, but sure in our faith that God is with us.Blessing, until next time,
Bruce L. HartmanWhat tough decisions do we have to make today?

Do they help our neighbor?

Are we thinking of ourselves or making the right choice?