Weekly Reflections on the Lord's Prayer
Updated: Jun 7
The Lord’s Prayer Reflection #1
These are different and challenging times. In such times, when all around seems strange and even threatening, we can find comfort in those things that have stood the test of times: good and ill. Other generations have faced trials and difficulties but survived, leaving words and practices that can help sustain us just as they were sustained. These things keep us afloat when the storms come and chart a course through them. The study of Scripture and the practice of prayer have been vessels of faith by which many have traversed difficult times, avoided despair, and found the rich treasure of God’s blessings in Christ. I would like to invite you into the basics of scripture and prayer: not basic as in elementary, but basic as foundational and inspirational! It is by the absence or presence of these two things that all enterprises of man find folly and failure or faithfulness and freedom. Therefore, I invite you to journey with me through these next weeks in reflecting upon scripture and engaging in prayer, that we might find Jesus as the guide through this perilous journey and the vessel by which we live abundantly in God’s good gifts, now and perpetually.
So where might we start? Where can both scripture and prayer be simultaneously engaged faithfully? What words of scriptural inspiration can best carry us through life, encompassing the whole of God’s divine purpose and love for us while remaining “basic” enough that we can have its protection and guidance readily available? What model or practice of prayer can be taught that encompasses the whole of our human experience yet bears a heart open to receive the transformative presence of God’s grace and power? Can we find such a prayer and such a verse of scripture? Can we come to know these words, thereby coming to know the whole of the power of the Word made flesh to save and sanctify us? Yes and Yes. Fortunately, you know the words already, perhaps even by heart. Unfortunately while often recited, these prayerful words of scripture are frequently repeated without reflection, insight, or even intention; their gifts left buried beneath familiarity.
You might know this scriptural prayer simply as the “Our Father” or “The Lord’s Prayer.” These words are deeply scriptural, coming to us from Jesus’ great instruction from the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew (5:9-13) and again in abbreviated form from the Gospel of Luke (11:1-4) as Jesus responds to the disciples request to teach them to pray. Here Jesus does not pray situationally: before a meal or after a long day, in intercession for grace or acknowledgement of glory, during a time of personal intimacy or public anguish. Instead, Jesus offers this prayer as a model of the whole of prayer and faith: as an address appropriate to all seasons, as an articulation of the essential basics and unlimited depths available to us in our conversation and relationship with God. Think of it! This is not just some prayer from the untold volumes of prayers Jesus spoke that just happened to be overheard and recorded. This is the prayer that stands central to Jesus’s teaching on prayer from His central teaching on discipleship known as the Sermon on the Mount. This is the prayer that Jesus provides when the disciples yearn to have their conversations with God reflect a greater honesty, intimacy, and power.
The Lord’s Prayer offers more than just an example of prayer, but within its few short verses captures a lifetime of Jesus’ prayers to His Father. As such it reveal’s the heart of Christ in the intimacies of His relationship with God. As we speak it, we not only lift its petitions to God, but enable these petitions to pattern our hearts after Christ’s. The Lord’s Prayer must not be received as a prayer of the Lord, but rather as THE prayer of our Lord and thus the prayer of our heart and life. By these words, Christ is made known to us. Throughout the centuries, our brothers and sisters have spoken theses words sometimes in rote but often as the lifeline that sustained and saved them. This great prayer has carried the faith and enabled the faithful to chart their course through this world intimately knowing God’s presence and ultimately trusting in their arrival at His Kingdom’s shore. It will sustain and save us! Join me as we uncover its power together.
Yours in prayer,
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflections #2 “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)
It must have been a beautiful thing, to see Jesus in prayer: to hear the only Begotten Son speak to His Heavenly Father, to witness the unity of heart and mind within the mystery of our Triune God expressed in holy conversation. Apparently, the disciples wanted their prayers to reflect a bit more of the significance, honesty, and intimacy that they heard when Jesus addressed God, so they request that Jesus teach them to pray. John the Baptist taught his disciples the art of prayer, so now the disciples turn to an even greater expert and ask the Lord, “Teach us to pray.” The request of the disciples implies as does Jesus’s response, that prayer is aided by instruction. Jesus proceeds to teach them.
This reminds us that prayer can be learned. Any who find prayer uncomfortable or have deemed themselves inadequate to conversations with the Divine, take heart. Prayer is not something innate to some and unachievable to others. The practice of prayer is a process that takes practice. Its institution as a part of our devotional lives takes instruction and time. Certainly, there is much in prayer that is natural like all of our efforts to communicate. But even our communication skills grow and change over time, intentionality, and familiarity with the individuals we address. In like fashion, our comfortability in prayer grows as we grow in relationship with our Lord.
We should begin by recognizing that God principally wants us to lift our voices to him with whatever rests upon our hearts. God wants us to speak to him out of the diversity of our experience, struggles, needs, and aspirations. Sometimes, however, pressured by the significance of our situation, our words are hard to articulate and organize. Sometimes even silence is appropriate in prayer as the Spirit takes over; interceding for us with sighs to deep for words. But, not unlike important conversations we have with family and friends, our silence must eventually give way to some greater articulation. Here the Spirit additionally aids us by leaving a witness in the prayers of those who have gone before us. There are many great models for prayer that can help our conversations find a start and form. Furthermore, a great host of saints across the generations have modeled diverse prayers in their walk with God through this life’s many seasons. These too can inspire and inform us. In totality, these great models and examples remind us that all prayers humbly offered are pleasing to our Lord. Faithful prayer is any honest conversation we have with God and should never be graded by its appropriateness or efficacy.
But, it is also appropriate to recognize that Jesus’s prayers were perfectly appropriate and efficacious in ways impossible for us to attain. Consider the Triune mystery of Jesus in prayer: God (the Son) prays in the power of God (the Spirit) to God (the Father). The disciples know who they have before them. This is like asking Bach about musical composition, Einstein about relativity, or BJ about your garden. Jesus teaches the disciples and us, not just as an authority, but the authority. He was in constant conversation with God, showing prayer to be as sustaining for Him as the air He breathed. His heart was one with God, thus His prayers reveal that intimate unity. Jesus offered many different prayers to God dependent on the season and situation that He was encountering. But here, as a perfect guide and teacher, Jesus offers us a perfect prayer. If no other prayer graced our lips nor instructed our hearts, the Lord’s prayer would suffice, accompanying us throughout life in profound and formative ways. All of the diverse petitions offered through the generations find expression within the perfect petitions of this short and simple prayer.
In some ways, the homework Jesus gives us is to simply learn and earnestly offer His prayer as our own. As we begin to truly own the words of this prayer, we find it begins to own and shape us. These words are not solely addressed to God but address our soul as well, constantly shaping us to better embody the fullness of its petitions. While you may already have the text of the prayer memorized, appropriating it into your heart is a life long pursuit. As the Spirit continues to inform us, each petition gains greater significance and deeper meaning, moving our hearts and minds to more intimate conversation with God. Ultimately, as we come to know the full depth and breath of “The Lord’s Prayer”, we come to know the heart of Christ.
Continue to join us through this series as we attempt to reveal some of the depth and breath of our Lord’s Prayer so we can not just better understand it, but better appropriate it into our every word and deed. Prayerfully, it will not only shape the form of our petitions but the form of our faith and life.
Yours in prayer,
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflections #3 “Our Father”
The prayer begins with two simple words, an address which directs our petitions to our heavenly Father. Both words in this address vitally informs the rest of the prayer as it shapes our relationship to God and one another.
We begin with the word “Our.” The commonly held notion surrounding prayer is that it is an intimate conversation between us and God. The teachings Jesus offers about praying in secret help us to view prayer as a “me and God” moment. While the above is all true, the “our” reminds us of another critical dimension in our prayers without which prayer can become slightly self obsessive. Despite the way we might think it, there is no “me” in the Lord’s Prayer, only “our.” This is revolutionary. I have prayed this prayer from my earliest childhood memories, but it was not until young adulthood that I realized, while I had been saying “our”, I had been meaning “me”! How often our prayers can fall into the trap of being self centered!
So, who is implied in the “our”? The first answer is simply others: fellow disciples, family, friends, the neighbor, the stranger, even our enemy. “But I tell you love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:43 Our brothers and sisters in the faith and/or our neighbor in the world are universally included throughout the petitions Jesus teaches. Jesus teaches us to pray in a way that takes seriously the great commandment to love our neighbor. When we truly love the other as much as we love ourselves- as much as Jesus loves us; petitions for our own blessing are equally articulated and desired for the other. We are no longer satisfied when our needs are met and others remain without. Here we acknowledge our kinship with the whole of humanity and pray that all might be gathered under the provision of “Our Father’s” saving grace and loving embrace. Personal needs and concerns are not dismissed but included as we pray simultaneously for one’s self and one’s neighbors in the perfectly including love of the word ”Our.”
The second implication of the ”our” is frequently ignored but speaks to the union we have with the whole of our Triune God. Clearly, we are praying here to God the Father, but the “our” reminds us that Jesus prays with and for us. “Who intercedes for us? “Jesus Christ, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 Jesus not only teaches and models prayer, he offered it on our behalf throughout his ministry and eternally in the courts of Heaven. Furthermore, Jesus gifts us with the Holy Spirit that we might be inspired in our prayer. ”God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out “Abba, Father.”” Galatians 4:6 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words can not express.” Romans 8:26 We are not left alone in prayer, reaching our singular voice in the vain hope of reaching a divine ear. Our Father awaits not only our address, but hears Christ who shows us the way of prayer and continues to petition for us. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, is continuously seeking prayerful communication with the Father in the inner motivations and adaptations of our hearts.
C S Lewis wonderfully describes what is happening in prayer when we recognize the divine in the “our.” When people kneel down to pray, they “are trying to get in touch with God. But if (they) Christian, (they) know that what is prompting (them) to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside them. But (they) also know that all their real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God- that is standing beside (them) helping (them) to pray, praying for (them). You see what is happening. God is the thing to which (we) are praying- the Goal (we) are trying to reach. God is also the thing inside (us) which is pushing (us) on– the motivating power. God is also the road or bridge along which we are being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary (person) is saying (his/her) prayers. The person is being caught up into the higher life-what I call Zoe or spiritual life: (he/she) is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining self.” If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, just know this, the “our” includes others and those others include Jesus himself, who continues to pray for us and teach us prayer in the Spirit.
While a short word, Jesus’ use of “our” begins our prayer perfectly: by orienting us concerning with whom and for whom we pray. Our next reflection will discuss to whom we pray as we concentrate on the word “Father.”
Yours in prayer,
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflection #4 “Our Father”
While the sermons from last Sunday both reflected on the word “Father”, there is vast more that could be said. Most of the previous reflections were centered on the attributes of our Father demonstrated through the parable of the Prodigal Son/Father from Luke. Here we reflect simply on the implications of Jesus’ desire that we address and know God as our Father. What might this say about God’s desired relationship with us?
Clearly at this point we must speak in ideal terms. God’s fatherhood should never be constrained by the broken examples of parenting prevalent in our culture. Abuse and absenteeism are perhaps the most serious negative forms that fatherhood take but none administer their duties as a parent perfectly. While I hold no vocation in my life to be more important than that of being a father to my three daughters, I will always fall some degree short of what I desire and they deserve. Fortunately, they have another Father who never falls short: whose wisdom never fails, whose patience never ceases, whose love never faulters. While some, due to worldly brokenness, find the title “father” hard to embrace, Jesus invites us to embrace our heavenly Father not because earthly ones have proven to be universally trustworthy and good but because God is. In addressing our Heavenly Father, we receive the embrace his children all need and furthermore are given an example by which our parental love might be reshaped and even reformed.
Let us examine at least two objectives of parental love that are central to healthy human fatherhood and helpfully inform our Heavenly Father’s relationship with us. Healthy fatherhood balances both providing for the needs of their children and teaching them so they can fully grow into their potential as adults. Sometimes these two responsibilities are harmoniously achieved, but sometimes they are tenuously balanced and somewhat at odds with each other. During a child’s younger years, a parent provides nearly all the provisions to meet their physical needs and all protections from direct harm. However, as a child grows, a wise parent selectively allows more freedom for the child, teaching them to examine their essential needs and establish for themselves helpful guards against harm. Potentially, a good parent never ceases to provide for their children in certain ways, but those provisions (whether physical, relational, psychological or spiritual) are only healthily granted following an assessment concerning whether or not they contribute to the growth of a person into the fullness of their potential.
My daughters are all either young adults or nearly getting there. Most congregational members who have watched them grow up within the congregation have witnessed my desire to provide for and protect them as children. What might be less evident is the degree to which I’m overjoyed to see their adulthood take shape. This is only possible as I have (in degrees) let them out of my protective embrace. Am I still there for them when they fall? Of coarse! But sometimes their coming to maturity forces me to allow them to fall. There is a balance between the needful provisions and protections I directly offer and the freedom that they must have to become individuals who learn in maturity to navigate true needs and dangers. No place is this more evident than in the chief blessing I have sought to share with my children: faith. In their youngest years, our faith practices were as regularly administered as healthy meals and regular baths(perhaps even more so). In these years no hard hand was necessary, only consistent expectations and personal integrity. Seeds were sown. Now those seeds have been trusted to become fruitful. My daughters have taken ownership of their own faith. Am I involved still? Yes. But, in their maturity, they seek God in ways particular to the gifts God has given them and with others who serve as mentors and partners in their growth. They are at a point where their faith must be their own and prayerfully grow beyond the limitations of their earthy father.
God’s Fatherly administrations to us are not entirely different. First, God abundantly provides for us. Our Heavenly Father demonstrates his unfailing love in ways obvious to all willing to see. As Spring returns, the birds singing and flowers blooming remind us that God’s adornment of these simple creatures pales in comparison to the love He languishes upon us, his own precious children. But God does not just desire that we be well feed like a bird in a cage, but be free to fly, singing our song -a song of gratitude and praise- to all the world. God desires that we mature in the faith, grow in relationship with him, display his image in our lives, become evermore fruitful in the Spirit. This process of growth is one in which we are never alone or without His blessings (it cannot be because we are growing in Him) but it is one in which we sometimes encounter difficulty. The new life growing in us will be refined in this process and our reflection of our Father’s grace, truth and love will be made all the more clear and trustworthy. God is preparing for us to take on the full mantel of our inheritance, the faithful Way of Jesus, and the manifold gifts of The Spirit. When we address God as our Father, we are reminded that not only does He provide for us, but ultimately all his provisions are given that we might know Him and become all we have been designed to become: reflections of His divine presence and inheritors of the Kingdom of His Son.
Overwhelmed in the providence of our Heavenly Father,
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflection #5 “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Prior to our direct examination of the petition for today, let me speak briefly on Mother’s Day observances. Just as this petition calls us to “hallow” God’s name, Mother’s Day uplifts and honors the title and role of our “moms”. I was blessed in life with a mother whose demonstration of love was a reflection of God’s love. Mom was not perfect- none of us are, but she demonstrated a consistency and depth of care for her children (extending to her children gained through her years as a preschool teacher and grandmother) that was a true blessing. There were many ways in which my mom suffered, especially physically with illnesses like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, allergy induced asma, and eventually the cancer that took her from us, yet she never let these afflictions affect her capacity to serve and help.
As Mom’s cancer advanced and her needs surpassed Dad’s capacity to be the sole caregiver, she moved into my family’s home in State College so that we could better care for her as she had so long cared for me. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity we had to serve and provide for her during those weeks of treatment. I will also forever remember the awful day when the visiting nurse called to confirm by blood test what her physical exam had indicated: that the cancer had advanced to vital organs and her time with us was drawing very short. I also remember having to tell this wonderful woman who nurtured me into being that her body was shutting down and her time with us was quickly drawing to a close. Among the tears, embraces, words of love and plans that were expressed, I was emotionally overcome with a need to explain to her the gift and influence she had been in my life. My sentiment was that her demonstration of loving care in my life was the closest worldly embodiment of God’s love that I had or could ever hope to have experienced. Furthermore, whatever positive expressions of parental love that I would share with my children as their father would be derivatives of the example and inspiration I would forever draw from her. I tearfully thanked her and hoped that my present words and future actions would aptly honor her.
You may be wondering… Why do I share this incredibly intimate and personal time with my mom? What does this have to do with the petition of the Lord’s prayer “Hallowed be Thy Name”? I share this memory because all of its intimacy and earnestness embodies just a degree of what we intend when we say “Hallowed be Thy name.” Hallowed fundamentally means “to set apart.” In my heartfelt gratitude and praise I yearned to express to my mother how “set apart” her loving influence was in my life. In this petition we express to our Heavenly Parent a gratitude and praise that exceeds even the most ideal of our worldly relationships. By whose more perfect and loving care could we ever be blessed? Our Heavenly Father’s love, truth and grace have been demonstrated in every dimension of his creative, redeeming and sanctifying work for us. Ultimately, in Christ’s willingness to take upon Himself the fullness of our suffering, pain, and sin; we see the unfathomable depths and unflappable constancy of God’s Love for us, His children. Set apart is His Love! Set apart is His name in the praise of our hearts and so too our lips and lives!
Furthermore, just as I sought to articulate to my mom that her influence in my life would continue in the quality of love I hoped to reflect in my life as a father, so we honor God’s name beyond only its usage in praise but also in the ways we live as His children. We are to demonstrate, with the help of the Spirit, the fruits of his presence in our lives. We are apples from the tree (which is no other than our Heavenly Father) and the witness of our lives should not fall far from His perfect love. Just as a tree becomes valued or dismissed by the sweetness and sustenance provided by it’s fruit, so the grave and truth we demonstrate either hallows or sullies God’s name. When I shared with my mother how her example inspired mine, there was no sense of burden or pressure associated with that continuing act of honoring her name; only an overwhelming gratitude for the gifts I had received though her and a wholehearted desire to share those gifts with others. So to there is nothing I long for more than to be an apple in God’s eyes, nothing more joyous to the heart than to give witness to the immutable and intimate sweetness of presence of God in our lives, nothing more consistent with the character of being one of God’s precious children than to demonstrate (through suffering when needs demand) the sustaining substance of God’s victorious love.
Chiefly grateful as a child of God, additionally grateful as a child of Dorothy Alma Book,
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflections #6 “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,”
Fundamentally the need for forgiveness arises out of the petition for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done. When this is truly the desire of our heart, that God’s will and reign be exemplified in and through us, then we are most naturally moved to deep repentance when we have strayed from our Father’s holy will. We cry out for freedom from our sins for our brokenness hurts. True enough, a part of our cry may come with the hope of a child, that we might be spared the spanking we deserve, but even a child finds a more earnest and lasting motivation in their desire to please than to avoid punishment. When the relationship between a good parent and child is healthy, the child wants nothing more than to reflect those characteristics which have informed, inspired, and encouraged him/her. Our cry for forgiveness not only is a cry to be freed from punishment but to be free from the sin itself that we might be reflections of God’s good will. We don’t only want our record to be cleansed but our spirit to be made new. As the psalmist cries, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
The forgiveness we receive consecrates God’s love for us beyond our deeds and simultaneously enables us to better perform deeds that glorify Him. In truth, without grace our “good” deeds are never pure. They are instead skewed into tiny brownie points with which we try to please our heavenly Father. Jesus reminds us that all the good we could possibly do is nothing more than what is expected of us. Through Christ, God sees us as redeemed, without blemish or sin. The infinite debt we owe has been paid and the account closed. So now, whatever “good” we do can be manifest as a child’s simple desire to reflect their Father. Forgiveness frees us not only from the burden of our sin but also for the doing of His will out of trust, love and gratitude.
This petition does not end with only healing the debts between us and the Divine, Jesus invites healing between his people as well. One of the most important attributes of our Heavenly Father that we are entreated to reflect is His amazing grace. At this point, it is significant to note that this petition for forgiveness is thoroughly expressed in the plural. We have already cried out for forgiveness for others as well as ourselves. Now the petition reminds us that we are to be vehicle of that grace as it extends to others. When we earnestly pray for others to receive daily bread, it is safe to assume that when able, we are willing to share of our bread with those we have lifted up in prayer. So too, when we petition God to free us from our sins and debts, certainly we are willing to be used in answering that prayer for others. How can we not be a vessel through which we grant the same forgiveness we are requesting? Families need love to remain united but at least as importantly they need grace, lest small offences grow into direct conflict and eventually establish lasting divisions. Forgiveness heals the trespasses that break relationships. If we are a family gathered in the Way of Christ, a love informed by grace is clearly our foundation. Forgiving love is what Christ demonstrates on the cross. We are all broken and need grace. We are all forgiven and thus need to reflect that grace.
Forgiveness assures us in the security of our relationship to God, frees us to graciously follow His will, and heals our relationships with others. Additionally, when we forgive others, we find our hearts transformed into the pattern of Christ. Remember, our desire is to be entirely free from sin. When we fail to forgive as we have been forgiven, we allow the sins committed against us to enslave us in a prison of resentment and vengeance. Unforgiveness lets our hearts begin to reflect the evil done to us by the offender rather than expressing the attributes of our Savior. Jesus would not allow the wrongs committed against him to taint His heart. He remained steadfast in grace proclaiming, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Forgiving others as Christ did, not only frees us from the burden of their sin, but frees us from it’s oppressing effects and enables us to love. Sin and evil cease to expand their influence when silenced by forgiveness. Their power over both the perpetrator and victim are ended.
The grace we petition for through the Lord’s Prayer not only saves and frees us, it sanctifies and enables God’s children to be a Holy family, united in the Way of our Lord. Jesus invites us to simultaneously receive and share God’s amazing grace.
Your brother by grace, Pastor Book
The Lord’s Prayer: Reflections #7 “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
This petition naturally flows out of the petition surrounding forgiveness in their common desire to be free from both our sins and the cycle of bitterness that can arise from an unforgiving heart toward others. Martin Luther commented that the petition for forgiveness rightly comfort us at the end of each day just as the petition to be lead away from temptation rightly enables our waking to every new dawn. For the many ways these petitions connect themselves to each other, this week’s petition does allows for greater concentration upon our daily struggle against temptation and evil in our lives.
Notice that this is the only petition that is negatively stated, seeking to avoid rather than to embrace. Recognizing the “not” of this petition immediately draws us to remember the Ten Commandments, where all but two of the commandments similarly direct us away from certain behaviors and their corresponding patterns of thought. These commandment describe where we should not tread, not only in word and deed but also in heart, mind, and soul. The pattern of this petition reiterates the desire of the Ten Commandments that we avoid coming near to these destructive sins, not only so that we are not tempted to adopt them in our own living but also that we don’t become victims of the evil’s destructive ends.
This desire to refrain from even encountering temptation is a distinction that Christians would do well to embrace. To often our machinations center around discerning what line not to cross when we consider these commandments. In other words, we try to analyze the commandment “thou shall not kill” with questions surrounding just-war theories, apologetics defending capital punishment, and debates about when life begins. While perhaps a necessary part of our public discourse in this world, this dancing around the commandments is a dangerous spiritual exercise if we truly seek to be directed in God’s will and delivered into his love. The “shall nots” of God’s commands are warning signs that entreat us to stay far away, not invitations to see how close we can get before breaking them. When God warns us that killing is a shall not, we should do all we can to flee from all that deals death and instead seek all that prospers new life. Only when our attention and actions are directed toward protecting, nurturing, serving, embracing, sustaining, prospering and sharing life do we begin to adequately regard God’s warning about killing. Sin is a contagion that deserves more than a couple feet of social distancing, it requires a complete avoidance of its manifestations and a redirection of our hearts toward holiness. Our distancing from these instruments of sin and evil free us to pursue the goodness and love of God’s way. By sharing this petition, we yearn to be kept safely on a clear and narrow path of obedience without the distractions and deceptions of this world brokenness.
As is the case with every petition, when we pray to be lead away from temptations and delivered from evil, we orient our hearts to be willing participants in the fulfilment of our prayer. We are asking for help to flee from all that is counter to God’s good will. Such a separation is increasingly hard for a culture so consumed by modern media and entertainment. We have grown accustom to first tolerating, then accepting, often approving and even adopting positions and ideals counter to God’s character and will. We choose to consume the bad with the good while maintaining the ill conceived notion that we can sift out what is wrong and keep it from infecting us. We can even come to believe that some vices are OK to maintain if we at least balance them with enough good, after all, we are not as bad as that person! This is not what Jesus teaches us to pray, nor is consuming this contagion consistent with God’s will. We are called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect! God’s heart longs for us to be holy and wholly His. Jesus offers this petition with a heart that longs for that unity to be complete for all of us.
That unity is manifested as we become instruments of the Holy Spirit. In this petition, we pray that the Holy Spirit empower us to discern sin and say no to temptation lest we fall under its growing infection. Sin brings only destruction and evil. We pray for deliverance from such evils that we can be sanctified in the joy, peace, purity and love abundant in the life of the Spirit. God has made us to be his children, reflections of his love, grace, and purity. Jesus has paid the price for our sins, reclaiming and renewing us as redeemed citizen within His reign. Now in this petition, as we await the full coming of the Kingdom, we pray for the Spirit to keep us in the narrow way of discipleship and save us from the evils that abound in this world.
Together in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come” & “For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory”
The familiar Protestant ending of the Lord’s Prayer does not appear on the earlier manuscripts of the Biblical texts and is therefore probably not original to the perfect prayer of Jesus. However, the petition, “Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory” has found it’s place through the centuries as an appropriate doxology to the Lord’s prayer. It is meant to both secure our attention and praise to God while staying consistent to the heart of Jesus’ prayer.
The prayer ends by reminding us to whom we pray. We are speaking to the creator of the universe, the preexistent almighty Lord of all, the caretaker of souls. Secondly, it reminds us why we pray: because we need help and God has both the capacity and proclivity to give it! Despite the graduation speeches proliferating the internet this weekend with messages that say “you can do the impossible!” there are some things we simply can not do: like defeat the grave nor extricate ourselves from the pattern of our sins. In this closing, we remind ourselves that ours is not the kingdom, power, and glory. Simultaneously, we are reminded that God is the Kingdom and Power and Glory and that through Him we can partake in the impossible. We receive the Kingdom by the grace of God that claims us as His children and if children then heirs. We partake in His Power, a power that took on weakness and emptied itself even unto death that just as Christ took upon himself our Death, we might receive life through His victory in the Power of the resurrection. We participate in God’s Glory as the Holy Spirit continues to transform us into the likeness of Christ, not that we might be better seen, but that Christ might be better seen through us. All glory be to God!
This closing petition of doxology also reiterates the theme of God’s kingdom. We are reminded of what is perhaps the central petition of the whole of the prayer Jesus taught us: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. In many ways, the Lord’s Prayer simply invites us to better understand what it means to be citizens in the Kingdom of God. In our saying of this prayer and the inevitable ways its petitions become part of us, we grow ever closer to seeing God’s will done in and through us. In our unified and unwavering love of our Heavenly Father, our unifying love and mutual care for one another, our dependence upon and gratitude for God daily provisions, our reception and dispatchment of grace, and our turning from sin and evil to the life and way of Christ; we see the Kingdom advance within our lives and within the world.
When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” we are praying not only for that day of the Lord to come down and rid the world of its brokenness, but also for Jesus’ holy power and will to transform us now into joyful obedience. We live between Christ’s first appearance and His second: between the initiation of His reign and its culmination. In this in-between time, we are both out of place and exactly in the place we need to be. Out-of-place because we live by the influence of the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus, but we are in a world that still resists the light of His Truth and Grace. We are exactly in the-place-we-need-to-be because this resistant and broken world needs to see through us that Christ’s Kingdom comes and all are being called to know His Way, Truth, and Life. Light may feel conspicuous and out of place in the dark, but it is needed if any are to see.
During this week’s Zoom Bible Study on Paul’s Letter to Philippi, we read a declaration Paul made while imprisoned and facing potential death, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Paul continues to explain his sentiments in the verses that follow, making clear that for as long as he lives, his existence was about Jesus. Jesus was inexorably his Way, Truth and Life. Paul wants his readers to know that if death comes, while tragic that his witness would cease, he would gain the answer to his heart’s longing- the glory of God’s embrace. Paul deeply understands his membership as a citizen of the Kingdom and welcomes all its implications. While living this life, he lives as citizen of heaven, a follower of Jesus, and as a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Paul lived as a man out of place but with definite purpose: that others may see Christ through him. Like Paul, we live in a between time when the reign and will of God is not yet fully realized, but it has begun through Christ and is being realized in our lives. Furthermore, like Paul, death has no ill power over us, only the promise of an awaiting Heavenly embrace and a eternal inheritance as we join in the glories of our Lord’s Kingdom. Whatever the world presents, the kingdom, power, and glory of God enables us to faithfully persevere and rise triumphant.
By the kingdom, power and glory of God alone,