Have you ever been given “the silent treatment”? When someone you love withdrew and refused to talk or engage with you?
Take a few moments to recall how that felt. Write down two or three words to describe those feelings. If you’re in a group, each share one of your words.
Now recall how it felt when you and your loved one were reconciled, when you could talk and share again freely. Write down some words to describe how that felt.
I wonder why “the silent treatment” is so hurtful? Maybe because it abuses one of the most fundamental features of our human identity: we are made to be in relationship.
Read Genesis 1:26,27
What does that little word “us” in v26 suggest about God?
Our God is plural! God exists in relationship within God’s self, revealed to us in Scripture as three Persons. We call them the Trinity: three Persons in one Being.
What does God’s relational Being suggest about humans who are made in God’s image?
God made humans to live in relationship, as God does. God exists in a loving relationship of Father, Son, Spirit. The Church Fathers spoke of the three Persons’ continual movement of love for each other almost like a dance: they called it perichoresis [“coming and going around”] one intimate shared life of mutual love.
God made us to live in similar relationships of outflowing love for our creator God and for each other. We are most fully human when we are joining God’s dance of loving life, in relationship with God and each other! Read Matthew 22:37–40
Discuss together what “the silent treatment” does to this “dance” of love.
Genesis 3 tells us what happens when we doubt God’s Word of love to us and reject God’s way. We turn away from the intimate dance of love; we break relationship. Adam and Eve gave the first example of “the silent treatment” to God, when they hid from him after disobeying him. As all their relationships began to fracture, they withdrew, blaming each other, blaming the snake, even blaming God. The dance was lost to them.
Think of times when you have given God “the silent treatment”. When in recent days have you turned from him, shut your ears to his Word, ignoring his loving call to you? Take time now to listen to his call to you today.
How has Jesus Christ dealt with all our broken relationships with God, with each other, with ourselves?
Read Ephesians 2:13–22
By his death on the cross, Jesus demolished our walls of hostility, and reconciled us to God and each other. He brought peace and knits us together again in relationships of love. He brings us back into the dance of God’s loving life! Bless you, Lord Jesus!
The Lord’s Prayer as relationship
Our Bible studies over coming months will focus on the Lord’s Prayer. As we introduce it this month, I invite you to think about the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer of relationship. Read Luke 11:1.
Jesus was praying one day, as was his custom. Look quickly at Luke 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28. What do you see in these verses?
Devout Jewish people of Jesus’ time prayed three times daily: morning, afternoon, and evening. These prayers were learned by heart and recited, and there were also prayers for meals, Sabbath and for festivals. Jesus himself learned to pray this way.
The disciples’ request in Luke 11:1, though, makes me wonder if they had noticed something unusual about Jesus’ prayer life. In his intimacy with God and his habit of spending hours alone with his “Father”, Jesus went far beyond the traditional practices of prayer. He sought out opportunities to leave the crowds and spend time in prayer. Why do you think he did this?
In these prayer times, Jesus kept his relationship with his Father and the Spirit alive and central in his life. In prayer God reminded Jesus: who he belonged to: the Father and the Spirit whose life he shares; who he was: the Son incarnate; and what his mission was: to obey his Father and enact their great plan of salvation. In his prayer life, Jesus displayed a relationship of loving dependency on and obedience to God.
I wonder if Jesus’ disciples saw something of this and wanted it too! They saw that Jesus’ prayer expressed a deep, intimate relationship with God, and that Jesus emerged from his prayer times stronger and clearer and ready to go on in his work of love and service.
The same is true for his disciples. God calls us to prayer because there he reminds us who we belong to, who we are, and what our calling is. God knows we need reminding of these things all the time, and so he commands us to pray!
Why do we need constant reminding of these things?
We humans are the most forgetful of creatures! We are so easily seduced away by the world, the devil, and our sinful nature, forgetting that we belong to God who created us and redeemed us at great cost. We forget that we have been adopted in baptism and made his beloved children, his heirs. And we forget that we have been called to live as his children, as lights in a dark world, as ambassadors of reconciliation.
We forget that we were made to dance in his life, to live in loving relationship with him. We so often give our God “the silent treatment”.
So, Jesus gives us his great Prayer of relationship, a prayer that keeps our dependency on and obedience to the Father, strong and central in our lives. Our Lord’s Prayer gathers us again into the love and life of God. It reminds us of who God is and that we belong to him; it reminds us of his great plan of salvation, and it calls us to our part in that plan. No wonder Jesus gave it to us!
Let’s pray the Lord’s Prayer together again now. And as we do, hear what it expresses about our relationship with God and each other.