introduction:

IMAGES OF GOD

     When we pray as Christians, we pray to God the Father - who took flesh in Jesus Christ. We don't pray to the distant God of the Hebrew scriptures. We follow the pattern of prayer found in the Christian scriptures - where prayers are addressed to the Father and to Christ (e.g. Rm.1:7 & 1 Co.1:3 etc.,).
     Focusing attention on Christ, opens up a further question. Where is Christ? A passage from the gospel of Matthew, which speaks about prayer always working - provides the perspective for an answer to our question:

     .., [If] two of you on earth agree
     to ask anything at all,
     it will be granted to you
     by my Father in heaven.
     For where two or three
     meet in my name,
     I am there among them.
(Mt.18:19-20 NJB)

 

Our Intercessions:


ARE ALWAYS ANSWERED

     The God who answers our prayer, is God in Christ, who is in the community! This mysterious identification of Christ with the Christian community is a major theme in the gospel of Matthew.
The whole gospel is framed by two announcements. Near the beginning of the gospel, Matthew quotes from the prophet Isaiah:

     Look, the virgin is with child
     and will give birth to a son
     whom they will call Immanuel.
     a name which means, "God-is-with-us."
(Mt.1:23 NJB)


     And near the end of Matthew's gospel account Jesus is quoted as saying:

     All authority in heaven and on earth
     has been given to me.
     Go, therefore, and make disciples
     of all nations:..,
     Teach them to observe
     all the commands I gave you.
     And look, I am with you always;
     yes, to the end of time.
(Mt.28:18-20 NJB).


     The same idea is expressed through the risen Christ's question to Paul, on the Damascus road:

     "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Ac.9:4)

     Christ says, "me" rather than, "mine;" even though Paul was persecuting the Christian community! The same theme appears in John's gospel. For example;

     Anyone who loves me
     will keep my word,
     and my Father will love that person
     and we will come to that person
     and make our home in them.
(Jn.14:23)
 

God Who answers:

GOD-WITH-US

     "God-with-us" answers prayers. How? The answer is suggested by a saying in Matthew, which he places alongside the saying - about prayer is always answered:

     If you then, evil as you are,
     know how to give
     your children what is good,
     how much more will your Father in heaven
     give good things to those who ask!
     So always treat others,
     as you would like them to treat you;
     that is the Law and the Prophets.
(Mt.7:11-12).


     The sentence in bold is known as the Golden Rule. It is found in a different context in Luke's version of the sermon (cf Lk.6:31). It is possible that Matthew faced the problem posed by the saying about, prayer always being answered - as did Luke - but came to a different solution! The link between the two sayings, is provided by a necessary association between 'desiring' and 'asking'. One only asks for that which one desires. This directs attention to the response.
In the first part of the saying above:

     "Your Father in heaven ... will give."

And in the second part;

     "As you wish other people would do:" ...

     The union between, 'desiring' and 'asking', suggests that a similar union is to be found here. This can only be, however, if people are inspired by the same love that moves the Father - and this is exactly what is indicated!
 

The Golden Rule:

A RULE OF RECIPROCITY

     The Golden Rule is a rule of reciprocity. Its observance supposes a union of love in which the needs of one automatically become an obligation for others.
     Matthew is the theologian of community. He saw that prayers of petitons are always answered if the petitioner lives in a community of love! The existence of a community of love is God the Father's fundamental gift because the efforts of sinful humankind alone cannot bring it about!! In answering prayers, God perserves the incarnational mode inaugurated by the sending of God's Son.
 pointer
top