There is a strange paradox with what is familiar. What we know well we hold especially dear. But familiarity can also breed contempt. I would suspect that is true of what might be one of the most frequently repeated prayers of the Bible: The Lord’s Prayer. With this prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples how we should pray, not what we should pray, but regardless, it is what Christians have prayed countless times through the millennia. Its words are familiar. To many, they are dear. But for many, the familiarity of these words has made us lose sight of their significance.
There could be sermons preached on every word and every phrase—and there probably has been. I won’t attempt that, but I would like to lead us into a reflection on this beautiful model Jesus gave us for how to pray.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .
He is our Father. We are a body, a family. This Christian life is not a solitary and individual pursuit. It’s meant to be lived out alongside brothers and sisters and under the loving care of a Father. A Father who is in heaven. Can our minds even comprehend this?! He is high and lifted up. God of all the universe. He spoke and from nothing, everything was created. In Jesus, we are invited to call Him Father. Do I live in such a way that His name is held up as holy in my words, my thoughts, my actions and my motivations? Does my life show others which family I belong to?
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
If I’m asking for His kingdom to come, I’m acknowledging that He is the King. Because of the time we live in, we might be tempted to see the role of King as more of a ceremonial role. One of pomp and circumstance, but having little real authority or power. That’s not how people in Jesus’ time would have seen it, and that’s not how Jesus saw it. This King will one-day command the allegiance of every person who has ever lived in every period of time. If I’m asking for His kingdom to come, I’m saying that I will live under His authority as king. I will live wanting His will to be done more than my own, or anyone else’s. I will live wanting my world to align with His Kingship and His desires. That’s what I’m asking for when I pray these words. When Jesus showed His followers how to pray, He showed them that what they should want most is God’s glory, God’s rule, and God’s will—that’s what I should seek first. I can’t help but look back over the prayers I’ve prayed so many times and wonder, has this been my primary motivation to pray?
Give us this day our daily bread . . .
Is that really all I ask for? Just for my needs for the day to be met? Am I grateful to know that as I type this, my needs and the needs of my family are met, not just today, but for an extended period of days? Or do I feel unsettled, insecure, maybe even cheated because I think that period of time should be longer? And why does it say ‘us’? If I am coming to God, the Father of my family of brothers and sisters in Christ, do I come asking that my family’s needs be met? Or am I more concerned about the needs of myself and my biological family?
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
This isn’t a phrase that we can hold up to God and say, ‘look at me. I forgave so-and-so for what they did to me, so you have no choice but to forgive me.’ This is a heart cry like David’s, ‘search me and know me and if there’s any offensive way in me, weed it out so I can walk in the way that leads to eternal life.’ If this holy and powerful God has reached down from heaven to initiate relationship—and not just any relationship but that of a Father to a beloved child—and if this loving Father has extended grace, mercy, love and forgiveness to me, how could I accept and receive it from Him and not extend it to others? What could I possibly have that I didn’t receive freely? And if I’ve received it freely, why would I hang tightly onto it and not share it with others? The answer to those rhetorical questions seems obvious, but God knows my heart and He knows the times that I want to hang on to unforgiveness. He knows my fear in releasing the power I think I hold when I refuse to forgive.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Our Father doesn’t lead us into temptation, He leads us in paths of righteousness. He is the way, and He will lead us in the way of life. I am as dependent on Him for my spiritual survival as I am dependent on Him for my physical survival. I need to know how poor of spirit I really am to receive the blessing of His Kingdom.
There is something that I’ve discovered in my years of walking with Jesus: every time I turn my gaze upon Him and see Him for who He truly is, the cares of my world feel a little bit lighter because I shift the burden of them onto a powerful God who has invited me to call Him Father. When I see Him, and how safe I am in His hands, my heart’s cry becomes For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, both now and forever. Amen.
If praying like Jesus taught us how to has led you to want to worship in song, sing along with I Need Thee O I Need Thee.