He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
("What is Prayer?" courtesy of Those Crazy Liberals...and Conservatives)
Most Sundays the drone of prayer can be heard echoing from churches around the US… (lifeless) “Our father – who art in heaven – hollowed be thy name – thy kingdom come…” Most of us feel comforted or peaceful when we pray it, but do you ever feel…challenged, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer? Because you should. The Lord’s Prayer, when prayed with real understanding, is a challenging prayer, a prayer that convicts us and a prayer that reassures us.
When you pray the Lord's prayer, do you feel like you are saying something radical, making claims that no person in their right mind would make – running against the grain? Because you should. I believe that that was not only how Jesus felt, but that that was his answer to the disciples when they asked, “Teach us HOW to pray,” - “when you pray, say something radical.” I believe those who heard Jesus’ teachings on prayer were uncomfortable with what he was saying. I believe they might have thought, “Well, I could never pray that...that...that’s crazy.”
We don't know much about how Jesus prayed. Good historical material about this aspect of his life is hard to find. In particular, we know that some of the prayers that we do have are the compositions of the author, not the words of Jesus.
What we do have, however, is a formalized fragment commonly known as The Lord's Prayer. The way it has survived the ages in Luke is most likely very close to what Jesus said.
So, it would seem an important question to ask – “What does it mean?” That is, the prayer is framed in words that refer to a model of the world to which many today can't relate. This prayer reflects the way most thought about God, people and nature long ago. How then do we make sense of it? How do we avoid the tendency to recite the prayer in such a mechanical way? How can it be understood within our contemporary landscape? When we pray, what are we to say? The actual request the disciples gave Jesus was not, “teach us what do we pray,” but rather, “teach us how do we pray.” Do you hear the subtle difference? They are not asking for a prescription of what to say, but rather a description of how to pray. They are not asking Jesus to prescribe for them the words of a prayer, but rather to describe for them what a prayer is to say.
What did Jesus answer? He said…”When you pray, say…”
Jesus used the word Abba, an Aramaic word meaning "Father" or more precisely, “Daddy.” In doing so he was saying first that we depend entirely upon the care of God. This was in stark contrast to conventional wisdom of his time which taught dependence upon nation, family, temple and financial security. Second, he was also making a point about religious perspective. Everyone around him knew that Yahweh, not Abba, was God's sacred name. It was a name suitable for a mighty, severe, distant God in heaven – a god that was so distant and so powerful, Jews were not even allowed to say "Yahweh" out loud.
Jesus chose to use Abba because he chose to assert that, no matter what appearances may indicate, all humans are valued by God in the same way that parents value their children. In a more traditional metaphorical language, he taught that God loves us.
We are to address God in terms of the love of family. At the same time, particularly in the age of Jesus, Father IS a term of authority – love AND authority, all at the same time. Today we see this duality of love and authority in fathers, mothers, step-parents, grandparents, guardians and many other close relationships.
Jesus was saying, challenge modern conventions. For him that meant maybe God is not so distant that the name of God cannot even be uttered. For him, not only could the name of God be uttered, but it could be described in the most personal of authoritative relationships – “daddy.” How do we translate that challenge to modern conventions, the new insight into God, into today’s world? We can recognize, God is too big to be contained by such a small human concept as “Abba” and yet loves us in a way that only those closest to us can.
When you pray say, “Holy Creator, giver and sustainer of life, the one that we love. The one who loved us first - the one whose name is above all names.”
When you pray, say…
“Thy Kingdom come.”
AS we have just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the landing on the moon, I am reminded of James Erwin, who was one of the first few people to reach the moon. In an interview, he said that on the moon he prayed for the first time in his life. He looked up to the earth with all its beauty, he thought of his wife - somewhere on the earth; he thought he must return and put right an argument he had had with her; he thought of all the wars and hunger on the planet he was looking at… and then he said: "What is more important than man walking on the moon is that God should walk on earth."
Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “God’s kingdom comes indeed without our praying for it, but we ask in this prayer that it may come also to us.” This does not mean we can become complacent, passive or apathetic. Instead, let us pray to be open to the various ways God might use us to bring God’s reign to this earth. That is radical. In people as ordinary as us, God might find a way to walk this earth and do something extraordinary.
Thy kingdom come. This is a proclamation of one of Jesus' most significant teachings. The realm of God is here, now, all around us on this earth. Not on Mt. Sinai, not in the "sweet bye and bye." God's great good place has come to earth. In this prayer, we are willingly opening ourselves to be the conduits through which God ushers it in.
When you pray say, “This world is not what it should be but it is ready to be what you desire it to be – to be what it oughta be. Let us be your hands, your feet, your face, your love to one another and to the world.”
When you pray, say…
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
We know as a highly probable historical fact that Jesus, as an itinerant sage or preacher, sometimes lived off the generosity of others. At some points in his life, Jesus probably didn't know from day to day from where the next meal would come.
For most of us however, this petition to God has no real meaning, because it is the prayer of someone who is willing to live from hand to mouth on a day-by-day basis. We are not only unwilling to do that; we look with considerable disdain, or at least with pity, upon people who are willing or have no choice but to do that. In fact, one of our deepest commitments is to achieving a level of income and a stock of assets that will ensure that we will never be really dependent upon God or anybody else for our daily bread.
When the Israelites were destitute in the Sinai desert after their deliverance from Egypt, God provided “daily bread” in the form of “manna,” but they were prohibited by God from gathering more than was enough for one day, otherwise they might lose their deep sense of dependence upon God and of God’s dependability in meeting their needs. The danger of affluence, such as all of us here enjoy, is that it undermines, and even destroys, this deep sense of the dependability of and our dependence on God.
The reason it is hard for rich people, such as ourselves, to enter heaven is that committing to God means being able and willing to live day by day, depending upon God, and without inordinate concern for the future. It does not necessarily mean giving up what we have, although it might for some of us, but it does mean it is tremendously more difficult to truly depend on God when we are all so self-reliant. There are some of us here today who have discovered the wonderful liberation of living depending upon God. There are others of us who have not ... and who do not want to. Until we want to do that and are willing to do that, the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is essentially meaningless. Now that is radical and very challenging.
When you pray say, “We commit ourselves to strive for what we really need and not for what we might need or should need or even don't need. Remove the things in our lives that undermine our sense of the dependability of and our dependence on You.”
When you pray, say…
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us.”
The Lord's Prayer in sign language translates this phrase, "We wrong, wrong, wrong, you forgive us. Other people wrong, wrong, wrong, hurt us, you help us forgive them." Now whatever word you use for transgression against your neighbor - debts, trespasses, sins, or wrong, wrong, wrong -I think the interesting thing about this phrase is the connection between forgiveness and forgiving.
Now, I don't think that God requires us to forgive others before God will forgive us. That would be a negation of the gift of grace, which is given freely given, no strings attached; God's forgiveness is not conditional. However, I do think that in order to be released from our own sense of guilt for wrongdoing, we need to let go of the anger, and the bitterness, and the blame that we hold toward others. The “radicalness” of this petition to God is in saying that we play a part in our own forgiveness. Note that I did not say we play a part in being forgiven – that comes only from God. We do, however, play a part in our forgiveness. If someone gives you a gift, you must accept it to complete the giftedness. It is no less a gift if you don’t accept it, but you must play a part in receiving the gift to complete the giving. Just as giving is not complete without receiving. Forgiving is not complete without receiving.
When you pray say, “As you gift us with forgiveness, help us forgive others and in doing so be ready to receive your forgiveness.”
When you pray, say…
"May we not be severely tested."
Like Jesus, in his life and witness, it stirs things up - it is a radical prayer. It challenges us to live in God’s desires, not in the desires of the world or even in our own.
The way God does things is neither recognized nor followed by many in this troubled world. It's inevitable, then, that those who try to do things God's way might be perceived as enemies and face negative or even repressive pressures as a result. Running against the grain, as God asks us to do as disciples, may cause you to be severely tested. With the love of God, we can endure all things. With the help of God, the severity of worldly things can be lessened.
When you pray say, “We are your people and we seek your desires for ourselves and for the world in which we live. It will not be easy. Be with us in times of trials and sustain us in your love.”
When you pray say … something radical. If it makes people uncomfortable… well, you might be doing something right. Do not let the earthly existence you have now be enough. Do not let the relationship you have with God now be enough. Ask for something better. Ask for something that is more in line with God’s desires than the world’s desires. Ask for something that is more in line with God’s desires than YOUR desires.
When you pray say,
Holy Creator, giver and sustainer of life, the one that we love. The one who loved us first - the one whose name is above all names. This world is not what it should be but it is ready to be what you desire it to be. Let us be your hands, your feet, your face, your love to one another and to the world. We commit ourselves to strive for what we really need and not for what we might need or should need or even don't need. Remove the things in our lives that undermine our sense of the dependability of and our dependence on You. As you gift us with forgiveness, help us forgive others and in doing so be ready to receive your forgiveness. We are your people and we seek your desires for ourselves and for the world in which we live. It will not be easy. Be with us in times of trials and sustain us in your love. Amen
New Lord’s Prayer from the Anglican Church of New Zealand
Earth-maker, Pain bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth! In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever.