Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Sometimes when I pray it's like coins into a fountain. Shiny little afterthoughts flickering as they fall, wishes without wings.
And sometimes when I pray it like a game of darts. I just throw as many darts as I can and EVENTUALLY I know I'll get that bulls-eye. I mean odds are...
Sometimes when I pray it's like I butter God up with some pretty praise words. Impress him with my knowledge of that book He wrote. I quote a few scriptures on promises to remind Him that He is a faithful God.
And sometimes when I pray it's complaining, straight and simple.
And sometimes. I. Just. Vent.
And you know, He's gracious. He is a patient God.
But Jesus taught us to pray. He actually said, "This, then, is how you should pray."
So I have been trying to wrap my mind around this. My heart too. All that follows is my own opinion unless scripture explicitly says the same thing. I have purposely not consulted any other source but the Holy Spirit and the bible itself. I am merely trying to learn to live the words of Jesus to the letter and to the spirit in which He spoke them. Prayer is such a frustration for me at times so I want to know what Jesus thinks on the matter. I do not believe He was saying to recite these words by rote and endless repetition, but I do believe He was communicating that in this perfect prayer are all the elements of how we should pray. I hope this doesn't come out like a sermon. It is meant to be more like fresh thoughts just picked from Heaven's great garden.
"Our Father in heaven"...
The first thing that occurs to me, that which Jesus mentioned before anything else in His lesson on prayer, is prayer is about relationship. Ours to God. We are a child, His child. He is not a stranger, He is our Father, we are part of a family. He is OURS ("ours" speaks of the plurality of family and community!) and we are His. This is the starting place of any prayer, the bonds of heavenly kinship.
And we should pray as a child. Un-jaded and full of awe.
Also, we are on earth, He is in heaven. His perspective is not terrestrially myopic. He sees the big picture, the total picture. The beginning to the end, all at once.
"hallowed be your name"...
Hallowed, or Holy is a pregnant word, at least to me. So sacrosanct and stuffy at times. But it simply means wholeness. That is- perfectly complete. As in, He alone is complete. He lacks nothing. When we come to Him in prayer we do not have to bring anything but ourselves, not wise words or profound prayers, just us, lil ole honest us. And He already knows what we are going to ask, He knows what we need, what we want. It is the relationship, the abiding in His presence that He desires.
But why "hallowed be your name". I think what Jesus is saying here, what he is reminding us, is that in a name is ownership, pedigree, authority. It speaks of God alone as the supreme. The originator, the progenitor, Him of all power and control. The One who makes the decisions and made the mountains, who holds the stars and the future in His hands. No need to make your requests known to anybody else, you are talking to the One in charge. The only one with the power to make it or anything else happen. Perpetually.
"your kingdom come"...
God is King. We are His servants. This whole shindig down here is part of something much bigger than we remember sometimes. From the moment that Christ proclaimed it the Kingdom has been coming, advancing forcefully scripture says. I think Jesus tells us to pray this to remind us that our motivations, our desires, what we are asking for, should be filtered through this question, "Does it establish the kingdom, does it point others to the King?"
Also, since He is King, and our Father. We are royalty! His princesses and princes, joint heirs with Christ to all of the infinite treasure of heaven! So no need to hoard up things down here. Give it all to the poor! Your life of impossible riches is yet to come. Woohoo!
"your will be done"...
God is involved, He is not disaffected, uninterested, unable to be bothered by our current predicament. He has a will in all this, that is, He has a plan and a desire to see that plan accomplished. AND wonder of wonders, He lets us, asks us, to be involved!
I think Jesus is reminding us to consider if what we want is what God wants. And to then pray God's desires not ours. I mean let's be honest, His will, will be done, so this is about the position of our heart, our mind, our submission to Him. AND it is also our confidence that what He desires will happen. That His promises in Christ Jesus are yes! and amen!
"on earth as it is in heaven"...
This one goes with the last two. It reminds us that even though our world is broken down here, heaven's perfection can and will be manifested on earth with the same power and authority. So when we pray it is the same as if we are making our petitions known in heaven itself. And we know that Christ is ever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father too. Such confidence that brings me! That the weight of holding up the universe, my little universe even, in prayer is not my own. Maybe a good way to think of this would be a simple prayer that starts, " What are you gonna do today God? Can I help!?"
"Give us today our daily bread"...
First thing that strikes me here is that what we need, even the food to survive, is a gift, that means it's unearned. And that it is today's bread, not tomorrows that we are to ask for. In that we communicate our trust to God, that tomorrow is in His keeping and nothing for us to worry about.
And the fact that again it is plural. Give us. We are part of a community, a family. Our heart in prayer should be that God meets all of our communal needs simultaneously.
"And forgive us our debts"...
This one is easy to ask for, hard to really receive I think. I tend to want to take ownership of my mistakes, my sins. I tend to want to wallow in the remorse a bit, not so much for self-pity but more to prove to God just how sorry I am. To punish myself a bit I suppose to show that I know just how bad I have been. But His forgiveness, though offered freely to us, cost Him everything. Christ payed the brutal price. When we do not accept His forgiveness unconditionally, or when we try to buy it with our self-righteousness we are disrespecting the wonderful horrible cross and the Savior who so lovingly endured it. I really want to learn this one. Now.
"as we also have forgiven our debtors"...
This one may be the hardest. To truly forgive in the way that God forgives us. Not just absolving the offender of their offense but forgetting. Scripture says He casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. It is covered under the blood and we are wholly clean. This part in the prayer may be a subtle reminder by Jesus to leave our gift at the alter, that is, quit praying and go make amends with whoever we have not forgiven or even those who we need to ask forgiveness of. Matt 5:23-24. Tough stuff. At least for me.
"And lead us not into temptation"...
I don't really understand this one. The scripture says let no man say when he is being tempted that God is tempting Him. (I know that several translations have this as "Let us not be tempted.") Even if it said, "And let us not be led into..." it would be easier to wrap my mind around. But the original Greek syntax tends to imply the standard translation. I checked. Hmmmm....
1 Corinthians 10:13 says "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
Hmmmmm......Any help here would be appreciated! The underlying point remains though, that it is not God's will that we fall into temptation. He would not tell us to pray anything contrary to His will. So He doesn't want to lead us into temptation and He will give us the way out. And by praying it we reaffirm that we will be tempted, our dependence on Him to overcome it, and that He will deliver us!!
"but deliver us from the evil one".
This reminds me that prayer, heck life in general is a battle, spiritual warfare. That we (again He uses the plural "us", we are in the trenches together!!!) wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spirits of the air. So I think prayer needs to have that dynamic. I think Jesus was reminding us to be sober when we pray, to be on our guard. To realize we have an enemy, BUT that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, that Christ razed the gates of Hell, kicked the beast in the teeth. That He has overcome the god of this age and fought/fights our battles for us!
I hope this encourages you. I would soooo love your opinions.