Matthew 5 and 6 are some serious verses. It’s hard to pick out one tiny section to blog about when you have almost all of the Sermon on the Mount to consider. Matthew chapter 6:5,6 really stood out to me and made me think of an old Dave Chappelle sketch called “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong.” I’m not going to get into the content of the sketch but I will site a few passages from the Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com) before I dive into Matthew:
Keeping it Real: to not inhibit yourself or pretend to be something you are not; not only tell the truth, but specifically get to the point of the actual matter at hand, rather than beating around the bush.
When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong: In the act of Keeping it Real, the outcome is unexpected and usually has a negative affect on the individual who decided to keep it real; a situation where a person decides to act on impulse or acts uninhibited by social mores or norms (i.e. “keeping it real”) which usually leads to adverse and often times unexpected results.
Now, let me share about a time when keeping it real went wrong and why I think Jesus wants the church to take a good look at corporate prayer.
Some time ago we belonged to a bible study group that subscribed to the typical evangelical bible study format, pot lock fellowship, scripture reading, prayer requests and prayer time. We had been meeting with this groups for several months and had become good friends with the group members. Every other week when we got together we would close out our meeting by sharing prayer needs and praying aloud for one another. So far so good right?
Well, after many months together I continued to be struck by the fact that our prayer time was really pretty shallow despite the fact we had developed some pretty solid relationships. Each meeting we would pray about other folks “real” issues; the woman at the job who needs Jesus, a family member who is getting a divorce, a wayward child. But when it came to ourselves and sharing our own vulnerabilities we resorted to the safe prayers: travel mercies, a project deadline at work, God’s direction on wether so and so should sell his boat (you’ve been there, you know the drill.) During this time my husband and I had some serious personal stuff going on and we would drive home talking about how we wished we could share it with the group but it didn’t quite feel safe. One night we decided that the next week we would share our hearts concern and ask our friends to pray for our need. And that? Is when keeping it real went wrong.
It was like dropping a bomb. We were the church group who allegedly had it all together and here we were trying to keep it real. We went against the group’s social mores and actually shared a serious need. Needless to say not everyone knew what to do with that. In the groups defense, once jaws were picked up off the floor they did rally behind. I wish I could say that our sharing brought on a new era in vulnerability that took our group’s prayer time deeper but the reality is “real” was a little too real and we ended up finding a new group (in a new church incidentally.)
I’m sad to say that I think many, many church groups are places where keeping it real would most likely go wrong. While Jesus is referring to individuals in vv. 5 and 6 I think you can expand the application to include corporate prayer as well. When we pray together we should not pray like the hypocrites, offering shallow snippets that hardly resemble the “real” stuff of our lives. Or worse yet, prayers that are nothing more then thinly veiled gossip about things like a friend’s straying husband (V. 5). When we come together we should be “real” as we talk to God and each other, as friends, not trying to impress with long, drawn out haughty prayers (v. 5). And finally when we pray together we should challenge each other with truth and love to go into the secret places of ourselves and share our most vulnerable concerns with each other trusting that the church will respond with genuineness and grace knowing that when we keep it real it won’t go wrong.
Also, if your small group is having a hard time “keeping it real”, or worse yet has had “keeping it real go wrong”, check out Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s fantastic book ‘Making Small Groups Work’. It’s a great resource for “real” small group leaders. Here’s the Amazon link: http://micurl.com/ysncxp