Many have undertaken a formulaic summary of the Lord’s prayer by which we can structure our prayer journey. Nonetheless I thought I’d have a crack. One advantage of a blog is that you can flesh out ideas and build on concepts that a 25 min sermon won’t allow you the time to do. So, get comfy, here we go.
Jesus said in Matt 5:9-13 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a] 12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b] but rescue us from the evil one.[c] NLT
It seems that January’s getting a bit of a theme to it each year focusing on the Spiritual disciplines at Waratah. I just can’t think of a better way to begin the year than by talking about practical steps we can do to refresh our walk with God before the hectic schedule really bites. Spiritual growth is a little bit like a plant’s growth. We can’t ‘make it grow’ but we can remove stones and weeds and give it access to water and fertiliser.
So last week we had a chat about the classic signal blockers to prayer. We mentioned that before Jesus simply rips into the ‘Lord’s prayer’ discourse, he actually diagnoses some areas where our prayer walk can be compromised, no matter how formulaically marvellous our prayers may sound.
The purpose of a conceptual summary of the Lord’s prayer is to draw out the concepts covered in Jesus’ instructions on prayer. As we do, it can help us to structure and disciplines our own prayer life.
Here are the 9 ‘R’s I think summarise the Lord’s prayer:
The Lord’s prayer begins with
Two words denoting 3 enormously deep things, all relational.
1: Father is the primary understanding of our relationship to God. It is the language of adoption.
2: the ‘Our’ denotes not just the vertical relationship to God but the horizontal relationship that we have with other believers.
And 3. This prayer is coming out of Jesus’ mouth as he instructs his disciples. That is, the moment he says ‘Our father’, there is a claim of deep friendship, even brotherhood with Jesus himself. in short he is identifying with the disciples, not simply praying for them, but along-side. That’s vintage Jesus stuff right there, absolute profound majesty and the meekest identification with the ‘least of these’ in one being.
So, a parent child relationship with God, sibling relationship with other believers and, let’s say an older brother to younger sibling relationship with Jesus is denoted.
That is, as opposed to earth. Heaven is above earth. Not literally physically of course. No, it is above earth in the sense that it is a different plane, a different level of reality and consciousness which even the damage of sin has not and can not eradicate the human longing for.
God is our father, but as intimate as this relationship is and should be, it is important to recognise that every word that proceeds from God, comes from an eternal not temporal perspective. He sees and knows stuff that we don’t. You know you’ve done some prayer and thinking when you begin to realise that our sin damaged mortal limitations condemn us to inevitable self-deception. When we pray about a decision, we’re acknowledging this very fact.
The thoughts of God however are un-tainted, pure and free from all constraints. This is why prayer basically always precedes wisdom in decision making.
It’s the natural outcome of the combination of the first two. The first two being relationship and recognition. We tend to think that reverence is connected mainly to fear. But fear alone just ends up producing hatred and cynicism. Psalm 130:4 specifies that the fear of the Lord relates to recognition that with him there is….judgement? No, forgiveness. It catches us out.
“may your name be kept holy.”
The more classic translations are of course ‘hallowed be your name.’ Such a deep word ‘hallowed’. It’s not just respect or even revered but also loved and rejoiced in. Taking God’s name in vain is turning what should be blessed into a curse. We can all struggle sometimes with my language some words don’t seem to cut it when you really upset and angry. But one thing that really jars me to bone is when I hear Christians mucking about with the name of God in general conversation. You have my permission to pull me up on this if you ever hear it out of my mouth because I will be calling it out if I hear it in general conversation if not in the moment, then in follow-up.
How will people know the difference the gospel makes without a culture of reverence suffusing everything we do? It starts on Sunday mornings. Let’s deeply revere the space of public worship.
“May your Kingdom come (NLT adds ‘soon’). May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
So in heaven, God’s will is done absolutely without question and with absolute immediacy. The reason why is because in heaven, the will of God is the only concern of all who dwell there. The side-effect of that is, heaven is also absolutely free from worry. Nothing brings peace like absolute relinquishment to the will of God.
Here’s a few sentences that struck me once from one of my favourite spiritual writers of all time Henri Nouwen:
“We are so afraid of open spaces that we occupy them with our minds even before we get there. Our worries and concerns are expressions of our inability to leave unresolved questions unresolved and open-ended situations open ended. They make us grab any possible solution that seems to fit the occasion. (I would add, ‘and often call it the will of God.’) They reveal our intolerance of the incomprehensibility of people and events and make us look for labels to fill the emptiness with self-created illusions.”
How do you escape this constant worry? How do you escape these self-created illusions? Relinquishment to his will, his kingdom. The life of victory is the life of relinquishment of will and absolute obedience.
Eventual disillusionment is a product of our focus.
“Give us today the food we need.”
I’m not sure there’s any words of Jesus that when we really think them through make us more nervous. This is not just an instruction to recognise the providence of God and ask that he provide out of it. No, it is also an instruction to not take advantage of God’s provision Ie: it’s not saying give us enough for the rest of our lives. But it echoes Proverbs 30:8-9: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
In a comfortable financially abundant western atmosphere, we only often learn reliance on God during some level of risk or discomfort.
As I look at 2018 I’ve learned to become at peace with my terror of stuffing everything up, knowing that every mistake I make will bring me back to absolute reliance on Jesus. If it drives you back to Jesus in absolute need, your worst nightmares can become a source of new life.
“and forgive us our sins,”
You can’t ask for forgiveness of sins if you don’t recognise yourself as a sinner. And that’s what we are. We’re not merely trespassers. I’m not a fan of that translation. Sin is not simply crossing over some boundary into a forbidden space. It’s so much deeper than that. To which someone says “yes Peter, but the original meaning of trespassing was such and such…” Who cares? What really matters is: how are people hearing it today? We need to talk about and redefine sin in churches, because until we do, how are we ever going to have 1 single truly authentic conversation?
So let’s start by (thanks Tim Keller) at least talking about how Sin is not just bad things that we do. Far more often, it is some of the best things that we do from impure or even mixed motives. Because until we do this, we’ll never make it to the next one:
“as we have forgiven those who sin against us,”
Yeah it’s in a past tense I know, but the textual order is following a recognition of God’s forgiveness of us. It pretty much implies that you’ll never pray this and mean it until you know what it really means to be saved by…GRACE.
The simplest advice I can offer myself and anyone is this, for the sake of your soul, NEVER move past this point in your prayers, until you really know that it’s done and the ‘lights have changed from red to green’. Moreover, every time your thoughts retreat to that place, Thank the lord for his grace and patience with you, and decide again to forgive.
I was talking with a great couple once who shared how when they were in the middle of a bit of a tiff in their marriage, one of them just got some space alone and prayed through the the Lord’s pray in his head until he got to this point and he froze. Realising he could not continue until he forgave his wife, it paved the way for ‘patching up the relationship. Sometimes, the way you know that you’re really praying is so simple:
It stops you in your tracks.
“And don’t let us yield to temptation”
This is the reason I used this translation. I think that it is more accurate to the thrust of Scripture than “lead us not into temptation.” (Though that is closer to the literal translation.) The Bible is aware that temptation is quite frankly an unpleasant fact of life. It is also used (not caused) by God in the testing of his people.
There’s also far simpler ways in Greek to say something like: “Lord remove temptation.”
It seems therefore to be coming from an awareness of the vulnerability of the human heart to temptation and that God is in ultimate control of our withstanding it. That is the key to why I’ve summarised this as renovation.
Simply put, it is during temptation that God does his greatest renovation work on our hearts when we do not give in but stand faithful. I like the Msg translation of it: “Keep us safe from ourselves.”
Here’s an example; you’ve been wronged. You want revenge. Even the passive-aggressive type that doesn’t look like revenge (or so we think) but instead, you resist that temptation and turn the other cheek. You may scream, rant and rave in prayer (Psalms anyone?) but in refusing to fall to the temptation of moving in the flesh, you sow according to the Spirit. Hey presto renovation.
God renovates our heart. No one really likes it when he smashes out a wall to make a new entry. But that’s part of the process. Real spiritual maturity comes from trusting God when it doesn’t seem like our only option.
“but rescue us from the evil one.”
This one is obvious. We need rescuing. That’s why our fairy tales are full of knights in armour. The great fantasies of human literature revolve around the concept of rescue. Someone may say: ok Peter, so then how do you know that the bible is no simply one of those fantasies?” Well I could point to a bunch of reasons emanating from scholarship and textual criticism.
But actually for me personally, it is that only the Bible has the unflinching audacity to reveal in detail the true horror of what we actually need rescuing from. Therefore, Scriptures are as unpopular as they are popular because they do not muck around in their unmasking of reality. Truth is always more extreme than fiction. It’s no bad thing to always remember, we are always in need of constant rescue.
Not every voice in your mind is yours.
- Oh but there’s one more not in the text:
So there’s 9 concepts you need to cover in your prayer journey Relationship, Recognition, Reverence, Relinquishment, Reliance, Repentance, Response, Renovation, and Rescue. As I sat there on Friday, impressed at myself at such a list Alycia came into the study and said “there’s still one more.” I said “rubbish, no there’s not.” She said yes there is, and I give it to you now…….Repeat.
Repeat. It takes time. Over and over and over again;……..repeat for the rest of your life.