Book Recommendation: “Prayer – 40 Days of Practice”

Books, Kingdom of God, Poem, Prayer, Solitude, Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Growth

Back in April, I was browsing through a bookstore and found a book with an interesting-looking cover. The title was Prayer – 40 Days of Practice.

Because prayer has been a subject of great interest to me, I picked it up and began thumbing through it. I discovered that this was quite a unique book, indeed.

Each page includes a thoughtful one-sentence prayer with an accompanying illustration on the opposite page. The prayers are written by Justin McRoberts and the illustrations are created by Scott Erickson.

Blessed are the Merciful

Beatitudes, Justice, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Growth

As you look at the four portraits painted by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the mercy of Jesus is prominent. Jesus is merciful to sinners. He’s merciful to tax collectors. He’s merciful to prostitutes. The only people to whom Jesus was not merciful were those who were unmerciful.

In my last blog entry I broke down the 4th Beatitude.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

As I pointed out, “righteousness” might be better translated as either the word “justice” or “right-ness.” So the verse can be understood this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.

Now, let’s combine the 4th and 5th Beatitudes and look at them together.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for things to be made right, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

When you put these two Beatitudes together, you get a deliberate echo of Micah 6:8, which is the summary of the prophetic tradition:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

So they go together. And they have to go together. Because if you do not hold the 4th and 5th Beatitude together in tension, things go awry.

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for [Righteousness]

Beatitudes, Justice, Kingdom of God, Suffering

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [dikaiosuné], for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

Only one Greek word per blog post. That’s a strict law that cannot be violated. And the one Greek word for the day is dikaiosuné.

It is the word in the Greek language translated as both “righteousness” and “justice.” The English language is sort of an anomaly where we take “righteousness” and “justice” and we turn them into two different concepts. Two separate words. In most languages, they’re the same word.

Now, there is a problem with the word “righteousness.” It’s a great word. But the word “righteousness” can collapse into the world of personal, private spirituality. If you say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” here’s how we hear that: “Blessed are those who really, really want to be spiritual, …for they shall be really, really spiritual.”

That’s not at all what it’s saying. And the way we recover what is being said here is to use the word “justice” or, better yet, “right-ness.” “Justice” or “right-ness” sounds different in your ears than “righteousness.”