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Read Matthew 8

Key Verse: Matthew 8:34 “And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.”

The driving out of the demons from the two demon possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes has always received a lot of comment, because it’s so spectacular. You know the story well. Jesus casts the demons into a local herd of pigs who then rush down into the Sea of Galilee and drown. But there are two things which stand out in this account.

First, the response of the demoniacs was, “What do you want with us, Son of God?” You wouldn’t expect Jewish people to be confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. Much less would you expect demonic spirits to be confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. And yes they knew exactly what was going on. They knew who Jesus was and that something remarkable had happened in history, in God becoming flesh and dwelling among men. They don’t pull any punches. They know exactly who Jesus is and they tell it like it is. Jesus is the the Son of God. This is not the last instance where demonic spirits refer to Jesus as He really is. They live in the spirit realm and they have eyes to see what we here in space and time do not see. So we should take note of their insight, even though they tremble at the very thought of who Jesus is.

The second thing about the story is that the whole town, when they found out what had happened, went out to meet Jesus. You’d expect that they’d be so impressed with what He’d done that they would call on Him for salvation. No, rather surprisingly, they said ‘get out of here, please’. They pleaded with Him to leave their region. We have no account here of great evangelism or a turning to God. They just wanted to get Jesus out of there, fast. So here you demonic spirits confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus getting rid of them. And you have human spirits trying to get rid of Jesus.

Figure that one out!

Read Matthew 6

Key Verse: Matthew 6:9 “This is how you should pray…”

Jesus teaches us how to pray and I’ve often noted how simple this prayer is and how complex most of our praying seems to be in comparison. Like the pagan, Jesus says, we sometimes think we’ll be heard for our much speaking, for our babbling, for our repetitions. They use many words, as He says in verse 7; not so with Jesus. He wants us to be short with our words and direct. So He gives a prayer lesson.

Just a few observations: First of all, the focus is our Father in heaven, which is the way it must always be in prayer. Before we start asking God for things we’ve got to take time to remind ourselves of who He is and focus on His holiness and majestic transcendence. “Hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” The focus is on Him, His name, HIs kingdom, and His will. As we concentrate first and foremost on Him, anything else that may follow in our prayer takes on a fresh and balanced perspective.

Sometimes our prayers are a knee-jerk reaction to a negative or urgent stimulus. And we “rush in” to tell God what He’s got to do, and what we want, and how important it is He do it now.

Well, if you’ll take time to focus in on Him, first of all, and see yourself in the context of His holiness, His plan for the kingdom and His will for your life, then some of these other urgencies become tempered and balanced. After this, you can focus on yourself. “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” We stress our physical and spiritual needs, our relationship needs and ultimately our eternal destiny needs. We must always remember in prayer that we are headed for an eternal kingdom–this very kingdom of heaven that Jesus makes the centre of His ministry. Thus, as we pray, we always begin with God Himself, focussing in on Him, praising Him, thanking Him, worshipping Him. And in that context, imploring Him to meet us at our point of need.