The Lord’s Prayer. Again, a very famous piece of Scripture that I probably don’t need to spend a whole lot of time explaining. But as you might guess, I still have a few things to say.
First of all, it’s intriguing that prayer needs to be taught. You’d almost think it was sort of instinctive, or at least could be just whatever you wanted to say. But it’s certainly not just that you have to use the right words or learn to say the right things, but we need to learn HOW to pray. There are so many misunderstandings about prayer, and people get so frustrated by it. It’s because they don’t know how: they don’t know what it really is, how it really works, and what to realistically expect from it.
Prayer is a relationship, not an activity. The emphasis is totally on God, and not on ourselves:
Lead us not
For to you belongs…
It’s more like the conversations over dinner and on the couch in the evenings with your spouse than it is making up a Christmas list of “things you can give me.” But in the conversation, it’s a focus on the other person—what they feel and think, and diving into the depths of their being—rather than a thinking about what you’re going to say next. God’s holiness emphasizes that He should be given the unique reference that his holiness demands, so this relationship exists in the right sphere. It’s an attitude of acknowledgement that all that really matters is his will and his kingdom. It’s submitting the rule of our hearts to him, and we learn to see all value in terms of his kingdom. Prayer is mostly getting your head and heart in the right places, honoring the right things, seeking the right things, having the right relationship.
“Give us each day our daily bread.” Yes, prayer for each day. Nourishment, needs, sufficiency for each day. Nothing extra, but not welcoming poverty either. Take care of us, O God, as we take care of ourselves and each other.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” Or, as one kid prayed, “Forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” We have to live in community, and we pray about the grace that is forgiveness that is necessary for community. We need to stay in right relationship with God and in right relationship with each other.
This prayer is a masterpiece, and in simplicity.
“And lead us not into temptation.” It’s a request for protection: “Let the trash the comes to me in life pull me closer to You rather than divide us.”