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Our Father - The Lord's Prayer
I have known about the Lord's Prayer my whole life. I rattled it off every morning at school for maybe a decade or so. I never thought of it as the prayer of all prayers.
My spiritual journey did not involve turning on a switch and boom I was a Christian. No, it was a long and slow process. To this day, I sometimes consider it pretentious to label myself a Christian. I'd much rather say that I'm still on my way.
For some, the Lord's Prayer is a daily ritual to keep close to God. For others, it is a model on which all other prayers are formed.
I set out to find out what it means for me. Here it is. What does it mean for you?
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your 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 do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever.
(Matthew 6:9-13) NKJV
One of the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray.
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1)
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:5-7)
And then Jesus continues with the Lord's Prayer after telling us that God already knows what's in our hearts. So, then, why pray at all? Well, when we pray it is not for God's benefit. It is for ours. It is our recognition that we need God, how dependent on Him we are. He wants us to talk to Him. It is part of the relationship.
Why not My?
Notice that it never says anything about I, me, my or mine? It is always about us, our and we. This is so that, even though you're praying in private, you're not alone. When you say "our," you recognize that you're the brother or sister of everyone else, that you love all of us as Jesus has loved you. That's how you know you're a follower of Jesus. You're a part of the body of Christ. My relationship with God affects you and your relationship with Him affects me.
Dad, Daddy, Abba
For most of us the word father usually refers to our biological father, the guy who gave us our genes.
That's not the father Jesus is talking about here. Some say the word He uses can best be translated as Dad or Daddy. In other words, someone who is close with us or with whom we have a relationship. For some of us, that's not necessarily our biological father.
God is a loving kind of Dad. He loves us more than anything. Like every other Dad, He wants us to be like Him. Loving God is wanting to be like him. That's what He wants for us. He wants us to love Him just like He loves us.
who art in Heaven
Heaven is the holy place. That, of course, raises the question: "What does 'holy' mean?" Is Heaven even a place? Is it more like a state of mind? Could it be everywhere?
There are three things about Heaven we can be sure of:
- There is great disagreement about what it is and what it is like.
- There is great agreement that it is a place we'd like to be.
- It's where God is.
The point is that even though it may at times seem distant, when we pray, Heaven is right here.
Hallowed be thy name
We have on the one hand the loving Dad, yet, He is holy with an awesomeness we can't even begin to comprehend.
When a person says, "I want to clear my name," it means that his/her reputation has been soiled and needs to be restored. In this sense, the name is the person's identity or character, who he/she really is, rather than the actual person.
We recognize how holy He is when we talk to Him as He really is, Dad and God, gracious and compassionate, at the same time. We also want others to have the same insight.
Thy kingdom come
What would it be like if Jesus Christ was on Earth and He ruled? What if He was in charge of the government? That's what we're asking Him to do here, individually and communally. Be in charge of us. Rule us.
Thy will be done
When you're a follower of Christ, your whole existence is aligning yourself with God. You're following Him whole heartedly. When you pray and you're aligned with God, there is no discrepancy between what you want and what God wants. When that happens, you'd be astonished how often prayers are answered.
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Heaven, the place where God's will is perfectly done, where we want to be. The more His will is done, the more earth will be like Heaven.
It is a choice we make. Our ability to choose is the one most God like thing about us. What do you think happens to a person when you force them to do something? Is it going to feel more like Heaven or is it going to feel more like earth? God doesn't force anything on us. We have to ask for it or accept it. We can choose to turn everything over to God, settle the question of who we belong to. He wants it to be a choice on our part because He loves us so much.
Give us this day our daily bread
Don't make us rich so we may deny you. Just give us enough so we're not tempted to steal.
Again, notice how it says "us," not "me?" We acknowledge God's other centered nature making the request not just for ourselves, but for everybody. After all, He gave much more than any of us ever will, namely His only son.
Notice how it says "this day," not tomorrow or the next day not to mention every day? Obviously, yesterday has already passed. Nothing we can do about that anymore. The future has not yet arrived and it may never. Worry about it if it does arrive. Only God knows. Trust in Him.
He wants us to pray this day and every day. For us it may be a problem to have someone on hold on the other line. For God it's not a problem to have a couple of billion people on the other line. He is fully capable of giving us His full attention all the time, every day. God wants us to constantly align ourselves with Him, pray continually. You're not disturbing Him, on the contrary, that's exactly what He wants us to do.
Yes, "bread" means bread as in food. It also means Jesus as the bread of life. With this petition we're saying, "I want Jesus in my life."
Forgive us our trespasses
Notice how it is assumed that we have something to ask forgiveness for? That's because no one is without sin. We all need forgiveness one way or another.
As we forgive those who trespass against us
Forgiving others is something new. In the Old Testament it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc. Don't misunderstand. It is not a license to retaliate in kind when someone attacks you physically or verbally. It is a limitation. Human nature would have you not only dish out what you receive but also add a little extra on top. God wants punishment for offenses to be just. He is just and faithful.
Jesus explains it this way: If you forgive men, your heavenly father will forgive you, but if you don't forgive, neither will He forgive you.
We ask to be forgiven in the same way we've forgiven those who offended us. You have forgiven them, haven't you? When you pray out of anger you will not be forgiven either. In a sense, we're asking to become like God - forgiving. That's what God wants. He wants us to become like Him.
When someone does us wrong, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves, victimized. When you forgive, you will no longer be a victim. You can only be victimized by people you let victimize you. The choice is yours.
When you forgive, you become the freest person in the world. That's what God wants for us, his children. When you fail to forgive someone, the person begins to rule your life. In a sense you become his slave. He controls you. You constantly think about getting revenge. Do you want that?
Whatever anyone has done to you, it is nothing against what you have done to God. Then it should be easy for you to forgive others, even pray for your enemies, the kind of prayer you would want prayed for yourself.
Lead us not into temptation
God wouldn't lead us into temptation. We're pretty good at that ourselves. We can do that just fine. We'll just take a peek, check it out, but not do anything bad. Yeah, right. Why even go there? He knows what's in our hearts.
But deliver us from evil
Deliver is about the same as save. In Jesus' time and culture, a person's name meant a lot more than we're used to now. You could say the name is equivalent to the person's identity, who he really is. Native Americans also named their children to mean something significant about them. The name, Jesus, comes from the verb to save. That's why Joseph was told that Mary would bear a son and he was to call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins, not just the penalty for sin, but the sin itself.
Sinning is like going downhill. It's easier to go downhill, do bad things, than to go uphill. Once you go down, you have so much farther to go back up again to get to where God wants you to be. Thank Him for sending His son to save us.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory
The three things Satan used to tempt Jesus, but Jesus wasn't self centered, so He didn't fall for it. We, too, have to face those exact same temptations daily. So we turn it all over to God.
A really long time, right?. Try to wrap your head around how long. Imagine future forever and then add past forever. How insignificant does this moment in time become, yet so very important.
So be it. I'm in complete agreement.