A Prayer for the Pursuit of Perfection By Meg Bucher
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” - Matthew 5:48 NIV
“Why do you expect me to be perfect?” Every teenager asks this as they are being disciplined or held accountable. The pressure they, and we, put on ourselves to be better than we are is more immense than we like to admit. Buried under denial, shame, and guilt, lies a sinner in everyone in need of a Savior.
“I don’t expect you to be perfect,” I repeatedly explain to my daughter. “But I do expect your best effort.” Our heavenly Father expects, and holds us accountable, for no less a standard. The same effort one student applies to achieve straight A’s could lead the next to barely passing grades. The effort is the most important lesson in character development.
The above verse commands us to be perfect, or complete and whole. “Jesus sets up the high ideal of perfect or complete love- including both attitude and action,” the NIV Study Bible explains of Matthew 5:48. “This is God’s high standard for his people, empowered by the presence of Jesus in their midst.”
Perfection is an illusion for humanity, but not for God. We strive for it, because in every human heart lies the desire to be closer to God. To be close to our holy God requires the pursuit of perfection. “The future tense holds out an emphatic goal that is to shape the disciples’ entire life… the future tense also implies a promise, because the Father is not only the divine goal but also the divine enabler,” the NIV Application Commentary explains, “Jesus puts his command in such a way that disciples may look for divine help as they press toward God’s goal for them.”
Life within the love of Christ Jesus allows us tap into divine power to achieve a level of obedience and success which we could not accomplish in our own strength. Jesus’ use of the word perfection was in the context of an objective goal. (Strongs) We can and do achieve great things without a thought towards God. But in this verse, Christ is calling us to do more than just reach a worldly benchmark. The perfection He is commanding us to aim for is complete: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Perfection is achieved by the Spirit of the living God living in us. Paul also wrote, “But when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” (1 Cor 13:10). God doesn’t ask us to be perfect here on earth, much like I don’t expect my children to be perfect. But He does command we stay on the path toward perfection, and seek Him with all of our hearts.
Let’s pray now for God to persevere us until the day we are finally and completely made perfect.
We praise You for this day, and Your purpose for it. This is the day that You have made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it! Father, let the chains of our sins fall off so we may run unhindered after Christ Jesus today, and always. Remove the self-condemnation, shame, and guilt we feel when we sin, mess things up, and fall terribly short. Renew us each day, Father God. Restore us on the road to perfection, which will culminate when we meet You in heaven for eternity.
Oh, God! Help us to focus on Your perfection and rely completely on You as we journey through this day. Help us to forgive ourselves alongside others, Father. Enable us to run free and hard in the race You have set for us to run… not for earthly crowns, but the eternal reward and rest of heaven.