Last week my message was on discipleship.
I spoke about how it is the through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit working in us whereby we are given the strength and the grit to be disciples of the Lord.
The Spirit works in us even when we feel discouraged or have moments of doubt.
Even when we feel weak in faith or feel poor in spirit God is still at work in our lives.
This is one of the great truths of scripture that God continues to work in and through us empowering us for discipleship even when we are poor in spirit.
When Jesus saw the large crowd he went up the mountain, so that he could fully see the people, and then after sitting down begins to speak.
He names those who are blessed by God.
Now I find this very interesting, notice the first blessing in the Gospel reading.
Verse three from Matthew chapter five.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s think about the significance of that verse.
Jesus is not saying here that we should not tend to our faith or that we should not believe in God so that we can be poor in spirit.
Rather Jesus is saying that our faith should be so deep that there arises within us this humble and open spirit that is poor, that is completely ready to receive all that God wants to give us.
It is this recognition that we are in dire need for God and for God’s blessings in our lives.
It is like the parable that Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Two men go up to the temple to pray.
One a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stands by himself.
He doesn’t need other people.
His righteousness is all he needs.
“Lord, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give away a tenth of my income.”
But the tax collector stands at a distance to ashamed to come closer, to ashamed to even raise his head.
He is greatly troubled, he knows his failings, he knows how distant he is from God.
And in that place of deep poverty of soul, he cries out to God. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.
His cry alludes to Psalm 51 which begins with this prayer.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
These two passages of Scripture influenced the great prayer of the early church called the Jesus Prayer.
Are you familiar with the Jesus Prayer?
It is a beautiful prayer.
But so heartfelt.
The prayer is simply this: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.
Saint Hesychius of the fifth century once said, “Blessed is the one whose mind and heart are as closely attached to the Jesus Prayer as air is to the body.”
And here we have our answer to the question, “Who are blessed?”
Those who are blessed are those who come to Jesus knowing their great need for Jesus and for his mercy.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will filed.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
These blessings all reflect upon those people who are broken, who are hurting, and who are hungering for God.
In God’s great compassion for us God reaches down to us and gives us God’s blessings.
Why does God do this?
Not because of our righteousness but because of God’s great love for us.
It is because of Christ and his heart which overspills with compassion for us.
Most fully this love was shown to us on the cross as he opened his arms wide to us and embraced us all.
So no matter what hill we are walking up now, no matter how steep it goes, no matter how dark that walk becomes Christ is with us.
His promise of his blessing is upon us.
To be blessed is to receive the divine hand of God upon your life.
It is to receive God’s favor, mercy, and love.
To be blessed by God is to inherit the kingdom of God, meaning to be included with God and with God’s people.
To be blessed by God means that you belong to God.
In the beatitudes we see that in spite of challenges and struggles in our present time that God is with us and that God will bless us still.
Faith is to trust in God’s divine power and to recognize our great weakness before God.
It is to understand that the power of God is at work in us even in moments of despair and darkness.
We all have times and seasons in our lives where we find ourselves walking in the dark.
It is in the dark where we discover that the light of Christ is burning so brightly.
To be poor in spirit is to be blessed by God.
This coming week would you try praying the Jesus Prayer?
Maybe this is a prayer that you already pray.
In the Jesus Prayer we name the power and presence of Christ as Lord and Savior while at the same time naming our weaknesses and seeking his mercy for all of our sins.
Prayer the Jesus prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.
To be poor in spirit is to receive a certain kind of grace from God.
It is really an opening like a window into the presence of God.
The Jesus Prayer will greatly help us reach that place of poverty of soul so that we can more fully receive all that God wants to give us.
It is kind of like this.
A spiritual practice that I have practiced for some time now is the ancient practice of fasting.
When I fast from food.
I become more open inside for my soul to breathe and to grow.
Often I will receive some kind of spiritual insight when I fast.
In a similar way the Jesus Prayer creates an opening in our hearts to hear the voice of God.
When we hear God’s voice in our lives, when we receive Christ’s mercy we are blessed indeed.