Monday, March 23, 2015

Prayer as Imprint: (re) Learning to Pray the Lord's Prayer (pt. 2)

Here is my translation of Matt 6:9-13 –
Our Father, the one who is in heaven;
Let your name be holy.
Let your kingdom come.
Let your will become [reality] on earth as it is in heaven [already].

Give to us today our food for the day.
Forgive us our debts just as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
Don’t lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 

What does this text assume to be true?  What does this prayer suggest about God?  What does this prayer believe to be true about us?

Our Father:
Assumes that prayer is a community activity.  This does not mean that one always has to pray in the company of others (Jesus’ instructions in 6:5-8 suggest both individual and corporate prayers), but it does force the pray-er to reflect on the meaning of “our.”  God is never simply “my father” or “his father” or “her father” or “their father”; God is our father.

Assumes a relational framework.  Many of us are turned away from addressing God as “father” because of our own experiences within our families.  But Jesus’ model is supposed to be read as an invitation to participate in God’s family.  We embody this ethos when we value community and experience authentic relationship with God.

The One who is in heaven
God doesn’t merely relate as “our father”.  God relates as “Our father who is in heaven.”  In other words, this clause distinguishes God as unique among fathers. 

This address is then followed by three petitions addressed directly to God.  All of these are requests for God to usher in fully the promised new reality of an age of salvation.  Yet implicit in each request is a bold and daring shift in the pray-er’s own allegiance.  To pray each petition is to invite God to work in our lives so that each pray-er begins to embody the values of God’s reign that adumbrate the new age that is coming through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

1) Let your name be holy.
God’s name is holy.  This is a request for the day in which God’s holiness and majesty will be fully and rightfully acknowledged by all creation.  It is a commitment to show God’s name holy in the present through the sort of life that we live.

2) Let your kingdom come.
Jesus came to announce the age of salvation—the kingdom of heaven (4:17).  This is a plea from a pray-er fully aware of the frailty of the present age.  Jesus has ushered in the first fruits of the future, but there is more to come.  It is a prayer for God to consummate his kingdom in its totality.  As this petition is prayer, the pray-er is also committing himself or herself to the values and ethos of the kingdom as taught and lived by Jesus.  Jesus’ followers are to live as people from the future who leave clues for those longing for a better life.

3) Let your will become [reality] on earth as it is in heaven [already].
This request fill outs the previous two.  What does it look like for God’s name to be recognized as holy and for God’s kingdom to come?  God’s will and intentions will be manifest in the totality of his creation.  The ethos of the Kingdom of heaven will be the ethos on earth.  Of course, to pray this line is to commit oneself to living out God’s will in the present in anticipation of God’s decisive action.

The prayer ends with three requests on behalf of the pray-er.  These serve as prayers for persons whose lives involve the mission of God.  Implicit in each request is profound trust in and recognition of God as the source of life, protection, and salvation.  Also each request is also a commitment to embody the very thing that it requested.

Give to us today our food for the day.
This is a simply request for food for the day.  Life starts and stops here.  We begin to embody this value however through becoming generous people.  To receive from God is to give to others.

Forgive us our debts just as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
Forgiveness is the key to community and maintaining genuine and life-changing relationships.  It is vital to read this request for forgiveness from God as a commitment to practice and model forgiveness within the community of faith as well as toward those outside of the community.

Don’t lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
To follow Jesus is to participate actively and fully in God’s mission.  Jesus did not come to create a static or stationary institution.  He came to unleash a movement that would embody the ethos of God’s kingdom and carry its message to the ends of the earth.  To live this way is to live dangerously.  Thus, one must pray a prayer of protection for deliverance from the evil one (the Devil) and from temptation. 

Why do we need to pray this prayer with audacity and faithfulness?  Because God desires to imprint his character on us so that we can leave his fingerprints and handprints in the world to serve as clues for others?

God doesn’t need us to make a “difference in the world” but to make the world different. God imprints us so that we can leave his imprint on others.

Are you the type of woman or man who can pray the Lord’s Prayer?  Or better, do you want to be the type of man or woman who can pray the Lord’s Prayer and embody it?

What would your life look like if you prayed the Lord's Prayer as truly lived it out?
© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Read Part one: Praying Audaciously: (re)Learning to Pray the Lord's Prayer.

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