“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18: 19 – 20
Do you ever find yourself reciting the Lord’s Prayer without really thinking about the meaning of the words? Or singing hymns on autopilot (sometimes getting caught out by updates to language!)?
Here we have a passage containing a verse which, at first glance, felt very familiar to me “Where two or three are gathered in my name…” When I’ve given it any thought before I’ve found the verse comforting, interpreting it as an assurance of Jesus being with us when we join with others to pray. However, at the same time, it raised a question for me – if Jesus says he is with us when two or three are gathered, does that make private prayer less valid in some way?
How easy it is to take a phrase out of context or to let the familiar wash over us!
When we read these verses in the context of the whole chapter we see they are, in fact, about the authority and discipline of the early church. The passage is about Jesus giving confidence to the disciples to be able represent him in a difficult situation and to make prayerful decisions as a group of two or three, knowing he is with them.
So … not a statement that Jesus will be with us when we pray in groups – although that really goes without saying; nor a statement that the greater the numbers the more powerful the prayer! God promises that he will be with us when we pray – alone or together – and, of course, he already knows our every need, including perseverance to read and understand the scriptures!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we give thanks for all that we learn of you and of your early Church through the richness of the Gospels. Give us the thirst to read and understand more and more of your word. Amen
Action: Revisit the words of a familiar Bible passage or a hymn and try to read them as if for the first time, letting them speak to you in a new way.