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Tuesday, 23rd February

What gives Words Authority

– Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent –

‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.’ [Matthew 6:7]


The text today is an echo of 1 Kings 17. There we see the followers of the deity Baal seeking to attract his attention with extended chanting and an elaborate dance. Nothing happens. Whereas when Elijah prays, he whispers a simple prayer … and is heard.

The teaching of Jesus, and this event in the life of Elijah, are both premised on a conviction concerning where God resides. God is as close as your breath. Words do not attract God’s attention; love does. If our words are an expression of love and trust, be they ever so humble, God hears and responds.

Words can be problematic when it comes to faith. Words are easy and can be a substitute for action. Words can lull us into a false sense of security. Jesus did not witness to the presence of God with words alone. Primarily he did it through who he was (his very being), which then flowed into what he did. It began with being, which then led into doing. Words come last. Jesus used his words only to communicate his experience of being and doing.

Words that are not backed up by being and doing are of minimal value. If people see that we say one thing and yet do another, they rightfully become suspicious and angry. On the other hand, if they see that what we say is reflected in our own lives, our words have authority. 

By Shane Dwyer

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