Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My 100th post! The Lord's (or better, Disciples') Prayer

Anyone who spent more than a few weeks in Sunday school memorized the Lord's prayer. It's got to be one of the top 5 most familiar passages in the Bible, right up there with John 3:16 and a short list of others. Today I was reading the version from Luke 11, which is even shorter than the already short version most people know from Matthew 6. I wanted to share some reflections on it. Before I comment on each phrase, it's important to note that in reality this is the "Disciples' prayer" because it is a prayer model. Jesus did not need to pray for the forgiveness of sin; he instructed his disciples to do so. Maybe that's old news to you, or maybe I just blew your mind with that little piece of information.

Father, hallowed by your name

Jesus begins by telling us who God is. He is Father. This isn't saying that we can't pray to Jesus... in the end, I'm of the opinion that it all gets to the same place. Anyways, the importance is that Jesus revolutionized the concept of God in the first century when he told his disciples call God daddy - "pater" is the Greek, and the more familiar "Abba" is the Aramaic word. Essentially, Jesus is breaking down the false notion that God is only way out there in the universe or unapproachable. He is imminent, meaning near. He is listening. He cares like a good dad cares, and he responds not only like a good dad responds but also with the wisdom that is his because he is God. When you pray, you pray to the Father. But his name is also holy (hallowed) - it is to be revered, never to be abused, and is to be held in high esteem. Only Christianity holds this tension of God as the close and personal God and the God of the universe simultaneously.

Your kingdom come

God's Kingdom had emphatically come in the person and work of Jesus. It is here, a present reality to be experienced and lived in. Yet it is still coming and will one day fully come when God reconciles all things to himself and his people are with him forever in perfect harmony. We need to regularly seek God's kingdom on earth, as members of it who acknowledge God's rule over the whole earth and as ambassadors for it, inviting people to repent and trust in God alone. His kingdom is powerful, for he is the all powerful king.

Give us each day our daily bread

We live in a culture that celebrates, even worships, excess. Bigger is better. Newer is better. More is better. Always. Yet it is our obsession with more and our rejection of "enough" that is leading us deeper into depression, obesity, and greed to name a few. As followers of Jesus we must pray that God makes us content with what is needed today. Truly, God provides more than we need almost every day, and that is his grace. But we cannot associate more with better all the time. We must fight for contentment, for joy to come from God and not from things.

and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us

Sin is indebtedness to God... do you get that? We can describe sin in many ways, and one such way is that we owe God our allegiance, love, respect, and worship but give him none of those things. Not naturally. We steal all of those things away from him and are indebted as sinners who deserve his wrath. Jesus' simple instruction is to regularly confess sin and ask forgiveness. The beauty of this is that he doesn't tie it to the sacrificial system but to an earnest plea based on God's loving mercy. And, in return we are rightly expected to be changed by God's forgiveness to forgive others. As Jesus said several times, how can you expect God to forgive you your many sins if you cannot forgive someone, from the heart, of anything they commit against you?

And lead us not into temptation

This phrase has always been a hurdle for me. Why do I need to ask God to not lead me into temptation? James 1:13 tells us that God does not tempt anyone, and other places in Scripture are in harmony with that. So, allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, we know it's not as simple as asking God to stop tempting us. I believe Jon Foreman has it right in his song "Your Love is Strong" (great solo song on a great solo album, by the way), when he repeats the Lord's prayer but says "Keep us far from our vices". We are asking God not to allow things to come into our lives that will tempt us to forsake him. For some it may be material wealth, for others it may be business success, accomplishments and recognition, or a fast growing church. None of those are evil in themselves, but anything can be a temptation for us to be prideful and think we did it on our own.

The Lord's prayer has much more application than I've reflected on here, but I hope this is helpful. The point isn't to repeat it daily but to incorporate the themes of God's nearness and greatness, his Kingdom coming and being seen in us as believers, his provision for our needs, his forgiveness of sin, and trusting him to keep us from that which would pull us away from him.

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