Sunday, March 22, 2015

Praying Audaciously: (re)Learning to Pray the Lord's Prayer

What does it mean to pray audaciously?
“Fortune favors the audacious.”  Erasmus (15th century priest, humanist)

“Audacity has made kings.”  Unknown.

“Every great advancement in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” John Dewey

"Audacity augments courage; hesitations, fear." Publius Syrus (1st BC Roman author)

"Success is the child of audacity" Benjamin Disraeli (19th British PM)

"In every artist there is a touch of audacity without which no talent is conceivable" Von Goethe (1749-1832)

All of these quotations would fit well into a motivational speech.  When we think of leaders, a spirit of audaciousness and boldness is often found in persons who perform at high levels. 

But audaciousness sounds awkward in the context of prayer, doesn’t it?  But why?  Have we so domesticated prayer that we now miss its raw power as the audacious communication of created beings with their Creator?

Let’s read a prayer that is used so often in worship that too many of us miss its provocative and bold message. Hear anew the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 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.  Amen. (my translation into modern English)

I want to suggest that this prayer is not a piece for rote memory and mindless repetition as it is so often reduced in our communities of faith.  Instead this pray is an invitation to a life of audacious petition and conversation with God.

As we think about the Lord’s Prayer there are several burning questions for us to think about:

What kind of person does God imagine me to be by inviting me to say this prayer?

What sort of person do I need to become to pray this prayer?

What does it say about God that He invites us to pray this prayer?

Jesus began his public ministry with the announcement: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17).  In other words, the essential core of Jesus’ message is a call to (re)align with the new age of God’s mission to bring recreation and renewal to His Creation.  Jesus offers this prayer as a new prayer for a new day.  Jesus is looking for persons to serve as his disciples.  This prayer points to the ethos of the kingdom that he is inaugurating through his life, death, and resurrection.  This prayer is not about impressing others with eloquent words or babbling on incessantly as though rhetoric and many words could manipulate or force God into action.  Rather this prayer models a bold and direct (even audacious) approach to prayer with God.  Jesus is looking to build a movement that will change the world.  It begins with changed disciples--disciples who have been shaped and molded into disciple makers.

Audacious prayer is needed for followers of Jesus to be shaped into the world changers that God seeks to unleash.

The prayer Jesus gave to his disciples assumes a familial or relational view of God. God is a "father" rather than a despot, Lord, prince, rock, generic god, etc.

The prayer that Jesus gives his followers assumes community. It's our father and not "my" "his" "hers" or "yours." Ponder this deeply.

The prayer Jesus teaches is one that boldly asks for God to act to consummate his Kingdom fully.

The prayer Jesus teaches assumes that its pray-ers desire to live and embody God’s kingdom so that God can manifest His name through them.

The prayer Jesus teaches assumes that God cares about the basic needs of those who seek to live for God’s kingdom. This includes the base line provisions for the day—namely food.

The prayer that Jesus teaches assumes a community where forgiveness is practiced. Note that forgiveness shows up in the prayer itself and is reinforced immediately after the end of the prayer: Matt 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

The prayer assumes that God desires to guide and protect God’s people from temptation and that God’s people actively resist entering into temptation.

“Audacious prayer, which perseveres unflinchingly and ceases not through fear, is well pleasing unto God,” wrote Luther.

Are we ready to pray audaciously to the God who loves us and steadfastly acts for our greatest good?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

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