Let my words be few – Tuesday, 1st Week in Lent – Isaiah 55:10-11/ Matthew 6:7-15

Isaiah 55 was written at the end of the Babylonian exile. In 586 BC the Israelites were taken into captivity. Two generations spanning seventy years have passed and now through a twist of fate, Persia defeats Babylon in 538 BC. The Persian king Cyrus, decreed the return of the Jews to their homeland in Jerusalem. Ironically, there seemed to be a muted rejoicing. Why were the Jews not happy?

The seventy years in exile had taken its natural toll on the people. While they spoke of their homeland many did not want to return to Jerusalem. By now they had intermarried, integrated into Babylonian society, had jobs and homes and were permitted under Babylonian rule to freely practice their faith. The cities of Mesopotamia where the Israelites had settled were leading cities in the world order; they were rich in commerce, culture and trade. So, the logical response would be, ‘Why go back’?

The journey to Jerusalem would not be a cake walk and while they would have to survive an arduous journey, greeting them back home would be arid soil and ruins of their city and temple. They would have to build homes and cities. Jerusalem would have to be walled and the land tilled. It is for this reason that chapters 40-55 of the prophet Isaiah are written; God exhorts the people to return home and he laces this with promises for they are told that the desert would bloom.

To many, these words of God may seem like a honey trap. But God is no smooth talker. He walks the talk and his words are words of promise. ‘The word from his mouth does not return empty but shall accomplish that which he has purposed.’ (Isaiah 55:11)

Notice that God not only keeps his promise but his words are few. And that takes us to the Gospel of today. Jesus exhorts his disciples not to babble like the pagans. God is not deaf; he does not need bells to be rung. Just as God made his plea, his prayer and promise to the people of Israel so too must we. Our pleas, prayers and promises must be sincere and heartfelt and not a show for the world. Many words need not necessarily get his attention.

It is for this reason that Christ teaches his disciples how to pray. He says, “Pray like this.” The Lord’s Prayer is unique in its simplicity but powerful in its content. Its simplicity is marked in the fact that it constitutes just praise for God and petition for our needs but it is powerful because it gave us the privilege to call God, ‘Abba.’ The children of God who could never utter God’s name now enter into a relationship with him through prayer.

The Our Father has been said for 2000 years. There is an unbroken chain from Jesus to the apostles to the martyrs, to the saints to you and me. When you say that prayer today remember the promises God made to you, remember the simplicity with which you can approach him, and remember that you are linked to Jesus through an unbroken chain of simple yet powerful words.

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