Message delivered at Iglesia Amigos of Indianapolis, Sunday September 8, 2013
Reading: Matthew 6:5-15
The Lord’s prayer is likely the most widely memorized prayer. It is what Jesus taught the disciples, and the crowds to pray, and throughout the world many Christians recite this prayer through their whole lives. I believe that our life, our faith, and our prayers are tightly woven together. When Jesus gave this model prayer, he was saying something about how people understand their world, and how they live their lives. We pray for what we want, hopefully we also learn to want what we pray for.
Today I want to go through the prayer, line by line, and share one thing per line that I’ve learned through praying as Christ taught us to pray. Sometimes it is hard to choose only one thing, because each line is rich with meaning — and I have known this prayer almost as long as I’ve known how to speak. The Lords prayer does more than tell us what to ask for — it encourages us to change. Now I will share some of what I have learned by praying — God willing, this prayer is changing me.
Our Father in heaven
It seems strange, that right after Jesus tells people to go into a little room by themselves, to pray alone before God, the word used is “Our Father,” and not “My Father.” It is very normal in my culture to think of faith as a personal issue. I would, left to my own normal, pray not to “our Father”, but to “my God, or “My Lord and savior.”
This single pronoun reminds me that even when I am alone with God, I still pray to “our Father.” My relationship with God includes my relationship with community. My faith life includes the idea of the church. As long as I am a Christian, my faith cannot be only individual and personal. I am a part of a community, and we pray to our God.
Hallowed be your name
If there is anything that we don’t need to tell God, its that God’s name is sacred. Those of us who know the Ten Commandments know that God tells us — and commands us to respect that. We often seems to forget though. It seems that we refer to God sometimes as a curse, treating God’s name as if it were a common word. “Your name is Holy” is something that we need to remind ourselves.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
We pray that God’s kingdom is not only a thing of heaven, but that it is on Earth as well. We pray that all of Earth is obedient to God’s will. We pray because we want to live in God’s kingdom.
So much of the world we live in is very different than God’s kingdom — but, we still pray that the rules of God’s kingdom are observed here as well as in heaven. If we want God’s will to be done on Earth — we need this to start with ourselves. We need to start living like we are in the Kingdom of heaven. This needs to change the way we think, speak and act.
Give us today our daily bread
Again — it is natural to pray that we have wealth — but, Jesus did not mention praying for wealth here — he told the people just to pray for what was necessary to survive the day. Later in the sermon that this prayer if from, Jesus tells the people not to worry about tomorrow, but to let tomorrow worry about itself.
We live in a world that is often about hoarding, scarcity and worry. Our prayer is that we become a world that focuses on meeting daily needs. Through this request we pray to put aside our desire to accumulate wealth.
Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors
For me, at least, this is the most challenging part of the prayer. Listen to thins again: “Father forgive me as I forgive others.” I am asking God to let me set the standard for my own forgiveness. I am asking God to be as harsh with me as I am with others. This is a very difficult thing to pray, because it is very easy to judge others harshly, feeling that we must be better than them. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we are praying that we change, becoming as merciful with others as we need God to be with us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Here we pray that God does not do to us what we so often do to ourselves. I don’t know where it came from, but I have heard someone say as a joke: “Lead me not into temptation, for I already know the way.” So many of us think about good and evil in terms of rules. We want to know what the limits are, and then move all the way to the line without crossing it.
Very often, we behave like fighting children. Each one of us fighting to see who can behave the worst. When an adult comes to correct us, each child points out the others misbehavior, and they argue about who was the worst, as if only the worst behaved deserves punishment. Our prayer is exactly the opposite of this childish behavior. When we pray that God does not lead us into temptation, it is important to remember not to seek it out for ourselves. It is not about how far we can go without crossing the line — but which direction we should be going in the first place. (We should be following Christ, not pushing the boundaries) We pray to be delivered from evil — perhaps its best that we not walk right into it.
I believe that Jesus taught the people this prayer not only because God answers prayer, but because prayer has the power to change us. I believe that Jesus wants us to change our thinking and behavior. I believe that by teaching us to pray in this way, Christ is training our minds to move from ours needs to the needs of the community. I believe that God is moving our minds from the standards of this world to the standards of heaven. I believe that God is training our minds to forgive. I believe that God is training us to refocus our mind on what is good, instead of seeking to be as bad as possible without being too bad.
I believe that we pray this prayer so we can learn to live as we must in Heaven — and we pray that this will happen here on Earth, the same as heaven.