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‘I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth…’
What does Jesus’ prayer tell us about God and about our relationship with him? It tells us that God is both Father and Lord of the earth as well as heaven. He is both the Creator and Author of all that he has made; the first origin of everything. His authority, wisdom, and gracious care extends to every living thing, and his boundless love and goodness is directed to the welfare of each person made in his image and likeness. He is the source of all human life. That is why all fatherhood and motherhood is ultimately derived from him (Eph. 3:14-15).
Jesus’s prayer contrasts the “wisdom of the world” with the wisdom which comes from above – from the Father of heaven who is all wise and good. Jesus’ prayer contains an implicit warning that pride can keep us from the love and knowledge of God. Pride is the root of all vice and evil and the strongest influence propelling us to sin against God and to do wrong to our neighbour. Sinful pride first vanquishes the heart, making it cold and indifferent towards God. It also closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom for our lives. What is pride’s flaw? It is the inordinate love of oneself at the expense of others and the exaggerated estimation of one’s own knowledge, power, importance and position over others.
Jesus contrasts pride with child-like simplicity and humility. The simple of heart are like “little children” in the sense that they see purely and simply without any pretence or falsehood. They instinctively recognize their utter dependence and reliance on others – especially those who can teach and form them to live strong, healthy, mature lives. No one can grow in wisdom and maturity unless they are willing to be taught and formed in how to live wisely and to distinguish between good and evil, truth and falsehood.
Simplicity of heart is closely linked with humility – the queen of virtues that forgets oneself in order to love and serve others for their sake. The humble of heart are the freest of all – emptied of vanity and self-concern they can single-mindedly focus on the welfare of others. The Lord Jesus is our model. He proclaimed to his disciples, “I am gentle and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus’ “gentleness” is not weakness or powerlessness. It is “strength under control” which is at the service of good rather than evil. Lord, give us a child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and confidence in your all-merciful love.