lip service

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven”.  Today’s Gospel 

Words are important. We chatter all day without thinking responding to comments in casual interactions.

There are times when we think more carefully about what we will say and how we will say it. Sometimes we are reflective enough to realise that our words have caused pain or confusion.

Then we pray using words that we may not reflect the desire of our heart. Jesus warns us about prayer that has become little more than lip-service.

We pray “Hallowed be thy name” when we prefer our own name to be praised.

We pray “Thy kingdom come” when our actions are more motivated by a desire to build our own empires.

We pray “Thy will be done” but act on this only if God’s will coincides with our own.

When we pray “give us today our daily bread” its usually not bread we after but the luxuries of life ignoring the gospel call to simply live so that others might simply live.

When we pray “Forgive us our sins” we overlook that we are adding “as we forgive those who trespass against us”

Then we conclude “Deliver us from evil” without realising that we have the power to make choices every day to turn away from evil and to embrace good.

While some say that we should only speak what we believe, I am often empowered by the shift that happens in me when I confidently speak what I’m still struggling to believe.

This is the beauty of formal prayer – we profess not only what we already believe and live, but also what we desire to believe and have yet to show by our actions.

And this is the desire we express in the concluding word of most prayers: we reveal our desire to believe and to live in our actions the words we profess with our lips: AMEN, I Believe!

An Invitation:

  • Throughout the day you might find it helpful to repeat the simple one word prayer “AMEN”. Remember the words of the father of the young man in need of healing: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” Mark 9
  • Many FFF readers have expressed their gratitude for the comments and reflections of others on these posts. You have little idea how much your words can support the faith of another. Thank you for taking the time to share a word or two. 
15 Responses to "lip service"
  1. The morning reflection, prayer, and the Amen is easier at night when l am so tired l just want to drop into bed. Perhaps the Amen at the end of the day is all God wants too.

  2. I like the Amen prayer I have being thinking about being more prayerful with more intent. The great AMENE will help me on my pathway. Blessings

  3. It’s so true that sometimes we are only giving lip service when we pray because we are human and often our thoughts stray. The good Lord understands if we offer our straying minds up before we begin by asking the Holy Spirit to offer our minds and hearts to Him. The Amen always means to me “so be it” and affirms our faith! Thank you to Father John for giving us something extra to focus on during Advent.

  4. I am astonished that I have never thought that formal prayer can mean the desire to believe and have yet to show by actions. It adds another dimension to my prayer. I am constantly growing and so helped by your simple words.

  5. Thank you for gently reminding me and it is a continually invitation to consciously attentive to the temptation of humanity n the devil to continually make the perfect choice to follow Jesus’s ways and Jesus’s desire …

  6. Father John, thank you. Singing last night with my son at his school carols service, I was struck by the simple beauty of sharing that experience with him and the school community and the peace of the final Amen at the end. At St Thomas in Claremont we have our own lessons and carols service tonight. Hope it is as peaceful and beautiful.

  7. At times, when I pray with others and I’m unable to find the words, the ‘Our Father’ is my go to prayer.
    At other times, when praying the ‘Our Father’, with others and I lose the words, the others carry me and draw me back. What a gift the ‘Our Father’ is!

  8. What a wonderful reflection on the Lords prayer. To me it is the greatest of all prayers.
    However I see you do not mention ” Lead us not into temptation” which I think about a lot. What chance do we mortals have if God is teaming up with Satin to lead us into temptation, that’s Satin’s job. People tell me that God would never lead us into temptation, then why ask him not to do something he does not do. Does not make sense, so my conclusion is that it is a miss translation some time in the past and should have been something like ” Let us not be led into temptation.
    Any thoughts anyone?

    • I love your term, ‘divine chatting’, Fr John. I’m a divine chatter myself from time to time. But a few days ago you had some words to say about formal prayer.
      ‘This is the beauty of formal prayer – we profess not only what we already believe and live, but also what we desire to believe and have yet to show by our actions.’ Profound words, which explain why I find great comfort and peace when saying these prayers of the Church very mindfully, as a kind of meditation.

    • Commenting on Terry’s query. Years ago at a prayer meeting one of our group gave a beautiful ‘expansion’ of the Lord’s Prayer. When he came to the last two
      “Lead us not into temptation” he said, ” we are asking God to strengthen us in times we ourselves are tempted – facing our own temptation, to sin. Whereas when we pray, deliver us from evil, we are asking for protection from the sin, or evil, of others upon us” 🙂

  9. I love the Trinity hymn ‘Father I thank you for all that you’ve done’ etc and find myself singing it in my head without having thought about it. Says it for me.

  10. “the shift that happens in me when I confidently speak what I’m still struggling to believe”: now there’s a change of perspective I look forward to verifying. Peace John.

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