It’s Lonely at the Top

By Linda Tancs

Stories abound about bears and other animals stuck in trees. We watch news reports with rapt attention as rescuers go about the job of extraction. Clearly, the poor animal didn’t realize what it was in for when it started the climb.

You could say the same about humans. In the climb for success (however one defines it), it often becomes apparent what’s meant by the expression “it’s lonely at the top.” That’s typically because in getting there one has adopted the saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Instead of lifting others up during our march for the brass ring, we take them down. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious unless it’s selfish ambition or conceit (Philippians 2:3-4). In other words, the Bible exhorts us to please (and be pleasing to) God, not man (Galatians 1:10). To honor God and to honor the quest for power, success, honor, wealth and fame are mutually exclusive endeavors. You cannot serve both (Matthew 6:24). Jesus reminds us to seek first the Kingdom, and then our needs will be met (Matthew 6:33). To be first in the Kingdom is to be a servant (Matthew 20:26-28). So be good to those you meet on your journey because, as another expression teaches, you’ll meet the same people on the way down as you met on your way up.

A Primer on Prayer

By Linda Tancs

What does it mean to pray?

Matthew 6:5-14 teaches the value of secret prayer from a humble and fervent heart. The passage makes clear that prayer is intended to give God all the glory. When we pray for the hearing and approval of others (Matthew 6:5), we deny ourselves Trinitarian communion. As Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10 (AMPC), “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ.” Secret prayer, therefore, means keeping our personal prayer experiences private rather than displaying them to impress people. Private prayer should also be short and simple (Matthew 6:7) so that the energy of prayer is spent in releasing faith rather than in reciting lengthy passages. Short and simple prayers are clearer and more powerful.

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13) illustrates the essential character of prayer as adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. In adoration, the prayer teaches us to recognize God’s holy nature (hallowed be Your name). As a matter of contrition, we are taught that prayer is a confession of sin and repentance (forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors). To forgive does not mean to agree with the offender but rather to leave vindication to God so that our own sins may be forgiven by Him. We are to be thankful for God’s intercession (lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil) and boldly ask for our daily needs to be met (give us this day our daily bread). In this manner, we pray in a way that glorifies the kingdom rather than our individual wants or needs (for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever).

Think about your petitions (work, home, health, relationships) and how to frame them in accordance with prayer’s essential character.