25 April 2017

Breathe the Lord's prayer

Our Father
Who art in heaven
hallowed be Thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
on earth, as it is in heaven
give us this day 
our daily bread
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for Thine is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory
forever and ever amen

Recently, I have been reading about prayer, listening to teachings about prayer, meditating on prayer, and, perhaps surprisingly, actually praying. I have been listening to a series of lectures by one of my favorite authors, Eugene Peterson, entitled Jesus and Prayer. Naturally, he spends quite a lot of time discussing what we know to be Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). Many of us learned the Lord's prayer from an early age, or at least a version similar to the above, but I wonder how many have given thought beyond recitation. Specifically, what did Jesus teach his disciples to pray?

Our Father--Jesus encourages us to begin our prayers with "Our Father." There is much richness even in these two words. "Our" reminds us that when we pray, it is not just an individualistic endeavor. Our voices, even when we pray alone, join with all of the saints. We are members of a body. Yet our relationships are not just horizontal (saint to saint), but vertical (us to God and God to us). Jesus used the word "Father" to teach us that when we pray, it is not a formal address to a Master, Sovereign Ruler, or all powerful Creator. It is that, but it is more. When Jesus taught to pray to the "Father," he was highlighting the intimacy and connection we have with God. We are a part of his family. We belong.

In heaven--Because so many of us think of heaven as somewhere "out there", somewhere inaccessible, we think that God too is inaccessible. I don't think Jesus meant that. When Matthew writes about heaven, he is writing about the kingdom of God. Heaven is where God dwells and God, by His Spirit, dwells with His people.

Hallowed be Your name--Hallowed is not a word we use very often in modern parlance. To be hallowed means to be treated reverentially and with honor. Jesus was telling his disciples to pray in a way that does not dishonor God, but also to live in a way that God is treated reverentially and honorably. He was teaching them to pray, "Father, may Your people make much of Your name."

Your kingdom come--Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God. A lot. God's kingdom is where His will is accomplished, where God rules and prevails. Jesus is teaching them to pray for God's will and God's rule to invade everywhere.

Your will be done--This is directly connected with prayer for God's kingdom. It is a request to see God's desires to happen. It raises the question, can God's will be thwarted? Ultimately, no. Yet teaches us to pray that we would enact God's will, God's plans in all of creation.

On earth as it is in heaven--In God's kingdom, shalom rules. Yet, brokenness still affects the world and the people who live in it. Jesus teaches us to pray that creation would increasingly reflect the characteristics of God's kingdom and God's glory.

Give us this day our daily bread--It is a request to give us what we need for the day, not for yesterday or tomorrow, but for today. But for today.  This phrase recognizes our ongoing dependence upon God's grace for all things, physical and spiritual.

Forgive us our debts--We are sinners, desperately in need of God's forgiveness. Jesus teaches his followers to go to the place where forgiveness and mercy are freely given, God's throne. None of us has lived a sin-free day. Each day, we accumulate debt, yet each day, God stands ready to forgive.

As we forgive our debtors--Yet Jesus reminds us that although God forgives sinners (vertical relationship), his followers are also to forgive one another (horizontal relationship). We must be cautious about presuming upon God's forgiveness when we refuse to forgive another (see verses 14-15). Forgiveness is a high and holy calling and it can be difficult and painful, but it is not optional for the believer.

Lead us not into temptation--Jesus teaches us to pray that God will keep us from unbearable temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is a request for God's protection.

But deliver us from evil--BUT...when we find ourselves captured by evil--our own or another's--God can and will deliver us.

If we have put our faith in Christ, it is our hope and prayer that we grow in Christlikeness. We desire that God's shalom will increase while evil retreats. We pray that the effects of the fall become less and less upon God's creation, broken relationships, and human hearts.

This is not a one time prayer; it must become our breath.

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