“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
Today we’re looking at the Lord’s prayer. It’s a prayer Jesus taught in order to show those listening how they should pray. We’re getting close to the midpoint of the season, and it seems appropriate that we reflect on the theme behind this prayer asa way of reflecting on what we have talked about so far throughout the season.
Jesus uses this prayer as a direct comparison to the way ‘the hypocrites’ as he calls them, pray loudly in the synagogues and on the street corners as a way of being recognised for their ‘holiness’ and piety. Instead, Jesus says we should pray the prayer above after going into our rooms and closing the door. Why is this different and why does it matter? Whereas the hypocrites are more interested in their own reputation and self importance, the Lord’s prayer recognises God as our perfect Father, King, Judge and Deliverer; the prayer is more about him than it is about us.
There is heaps, absolutely tons that can be said about the Lord’s prayer, but I think we can very quickly see the evidence of this attitude in the gross structure of the opening of this prayer.
We start by acknowledging God as our loving Father (more like ‘our Dad’ in the original Greek) who is heavenly, powerful, and so much greater than us. Jesus then moves on to say hallowed, or holy, be your name, which I think contains two ideas. Number 1, by virtue of who God is, his name is Holy. It Is the definition of it. But I also think, number 2, that it contains a self imperative idea. Ie, we want to hallow and continuing praising your name as Holy. In both senses, God is Holy. Jesus then moves on to asking for God’s kingdom to come and will be done. And I think this is where there is a real challenge for christians. Inviting God’s kingdom to come will be done, both means looking forward to the day when Jesus shall return and we will dwell with God in his kingdom. However, as is classically the case in the New Testament, it’s a bit of a now and not yet deal. We are also asking for God’ will to be done right now, here. And how does God achieve his will and the bringing of his kingdom now? Through us. We are asking God to align our will to his, and to help us as we go about trying to achieve it.
So why does Jesus give us a prayer that has such a clear structure to the start of it? Because we acknowledge who God is and that we should want his will to be done and not our own. What does his will and the coming of his kingdom look like? Well, the teaching of Jesus in the gospels; the sort of stuff we have been talking about as the Flames so far this season. Acknowledging who God is and the ownership he has on our lives. Talking about the love that God has for us and has shown us that through his son. By recognising Jesus for who he is; King, Messiah, Lord, God’s beloved son. By doing ministry to those around us. By working hard to remain salt of the earth and a light shining on a hill to point to Him. By loving our enemies that they might see God’s love for them in our actions. By being generous in our forgiveness as He is generous to us.
The Lord’s prayer gives us a really good chance to reflect not only on the attitudes in our prayer life, but the constant battle in our lives between achieving our own will – which no doubt always leads to self promotion – and achieving God’s will.
Honestly, how are you going with working towards God’s will in your life? Not just in the big things, but in the everyday small things as well? Do you take the same attitude to the purpose of your life as Christ does in this prayer?
If you don’t believe in God, what is the motivation that drives your life, that gives it direction and shapes your actions?
Joe Hockey, club chaplain
first published 16-6-2018