The Seven Words – first prayer

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Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Luke 23:32 – 38

Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

More Thoughts for Meditation:

For the next seven days, we will use the words Jesus said on the cross as a way to pray. We will let Jesus’ statements be our statements, be our longings, be our despair, be our joy and be our identity as we talk with God. Just as the twelve “stations of the cross” or the “way of the cross” have become a spiritual discipline to walk with Jesus and remember his final hours, the seven statements he expressed aloud as he hung on the cross have also become a contemplative prayer practice. In ages past, these sacred statements came to be referred to as “The Seven Words”.

The reality of Christ’s resurrection, which we recently celebrated as a world-wide church, must also be acknowledged and experienced in our individual hearts on a daily basis. However, living in the realm of resurrection requires giving ourselves over to the process of dying for life to be reinstated. Before Jesus encountered the cross, he told his disciples that he must die and instructed them that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus emphasized this morbid method to his disciples as a spiritual reality for them and a literal reality for him. They struggled and even refused to comprehend that Jesus would actually need to die, let alone on a cross, as a sacrifice for all. The action of sacrifice was indeed something familiar to the disciples though. As Jewish people, they were very aware of the animal sacrifices that occurred daily in the temple by the priests on behalf of the people to forgive their sins – to re-connect them with God. Sacrificing can be simply understood and practiced as giving to God what restricts us from communing with Him openly and freely. If the way we live is getting in the way of us connecting with God openly and freely, then life is what is required to be given to reconcile us with God.

The first such sacrifice is recorded in Genesis, when God took the skins of an animal to make coverings for Adam and Eve, who did not want to approach God because they felt ashamed in their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). The sacred significance of this story in Genesis as well as the tradition of sacrifices throughout the Old Testament and consequently Jesus’ procession to and statements on the cross during the Passover season are all connected to reveal how life must beget life.  Adam and Eve believed they had a grand plan of advancing themselves when they ate of the forbidden fruit. Likewise, the traditional killings throughout history of innocent life to regain a sense of immortal identity seemed a necessary notion to those who practiced the act of sacrifice. Did it ever occur to the priests, who would daily be covered in blood and surrounded by the smells of death and decay that there must be a better way to feel alive? Did they ever ask God such a question? It seems they merely went through the motions as tradition required to seemingly maintain a sense of empowerment. And in the same mortal effort to maintain control, the crowds and commanders that followed through with executing Jesus thought they were doing a noble deed. After Jesus was nailed to the cross and his body erected for all to see, he saw the people that not only stood near but also who stood a far throughout history. Jesus was giving his life, once and for all, to save us from ourselves. His first recorded statement, a request really, is an essential and intimate one. “Father”, he begins – this is an acknowledgment of the direct connection to the origin of his life. “forgive them” he continues – he is continuing the story of sacrifice, being both the priest and the sacrifice as he says these words on the cross. Jesus is interceding for us, for God to give us something that was meant to be ours from the beginning. His conclusion to this statement, “for they do not know what they are doing” is a summary of how (since the beginning) we think we know better than God. But we don’t. This is exactly the reason Jesus came to earth – to show us the way.

Suggestions for Action

Use Jesus’ statement to pray in three ways:

Pray, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. Speak these words for those who have hurt you. Give mercy to others who may not know any better way of treating you or because they are deceived to think they do.

Pray, “Father, forgive me for I do not know what I am doing.” Speak these words aloud in acknowledgment of the connection you have with God as the divine origin of your life. Ask forgiveness and for God’s guidance; and confess that you thought you knew what you were doing but things are not going as planned.

Pray, “Father, forgive us, for we do not know what we are doing”. Speak as part of a body (the church) or as a sinner (everyone) to beseech god to not give up on us. We need divine inspiration to make decisions; and the decisions that we make that do not bring life are in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation.

 

Reposted from: Circle of Hope Daily Prayer; Water

 

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