Early morning ponderings on The Lord’s Prayer
Jesus gave us an example of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) which is more than an example of prayer. It is also instruction in our relationship with the Triune God.
Jesus used the equal possessive pronoun. He did not say “My” thus subjugating our (we humans’) claim on The Father. Many times the “number one son” in birth order) can be heard to say to younger siblings, “He was my father first!” Jesus did not do that. He brought us into the family of God with equal claim on His Father’s affections.
What are the expectations of a father? Protection against harm, unconditional love, sufficiency to provide for our needs and wants subject to his wisdom and his responsibility and authority over us, authority over our behavior with the expectation of discipline to help us grow in wisdom and discernment, commitment to bringing us up properly, setting limits beyond which there is a consequence, intimacy between a father and child which gives the child security and a sense of acceptance and well-being. The Fatherhood of God sets an incredibly high bar for earthly fathers. The relationship between a human father and a child will form the foundation for the child's relationship with God. What they see in the human father is what they will expect from their Heavenly Father and only Holy Scripture can make the corrections and repair the damages from that foundation.
“Who art in Heaven”
Where is Heaven? We talk about going there but where is it? Well, Jesus was “taken up into the clouds” beyond our ability to see. Since none of the satellites scientists have sent up into the inososphere have ever seen Heaven, it must be beyond what we call the ionosphere. The men who walked on the moon didn’t see it so it must be beyond our moon. We see stars in the sky that are beyond the moon so Heaven must be beyond those or It would obscure our view of the stars. That’s incredible that a God who is involved in our daily lives is in a place beyond the fartherest stars we can see. How incredibly awesome is that God!
“Hallowed be Thy Name”
“Hallowed” means set apart. So, if even God’s Name is expected to be hallowed, how much more must He be. The Jews left out all the vowels in their words for God so that His Name was totally unpronounceable by human tongue. We spell it Jehovah or Yahweh but think what that would look like without any vowels: Jhvh or Yhwh….totally unpronounceable. Yet, in today’s society, we do not hallow His Name. Even small children use It in vain.
“Thy Kingdom come”
God’s Kingdom is one in which there is no sorrow, no loss but there is also no sin. So, we are asking for a Kingdom to come in which we are freed from our sinful nature.
“Thy Will be done”
Another indication that sin will not be there.
“On earth as it is in Heaven”
All the inhabitants of the earth (as we now know it) will be sin free. We have no understanding of how that could happen. The best we can comprehend such a kingdom is to picture no more war or crime or sorrow. We cannot even comprehend a kingdom without evil.
“Give us this day”
From trying to picture a future with God totally in charge and all evil discharged, Jesus returns to His here and now. We’re basically taught to trust God completely for this day’s needs. This reflects what Jesus said about not worrying about tomorrow.
“Our daily bread”
Every culture has a form of bread as the staff of its diet. In some cultures, it is wheat, in some rice, rye, etc. This is daily sustenance the source of which is God.
“And forgive us our trespasses”
When I taught small children, I used to tell them what their consequence would be for having exceeded the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Then, after the consequence was completed, I would tell them, “You made a mistake. Now, you have paid the consequence, you have repented of your behavior so I forgive you. When I forgive you, it means it’s as though it never happened and it never must again. You need also to forgive yourself so that is is as though you never did it and you are determined never to do so again.” My idea was if I could teach them in human terms what forgiveness was, when they heard the Gospel, they would understand better what it meant for God to forgive their sins.
But, the term trespass (some translations use the word debt) is important, too. Both mean to violate an established boundary willfully and without respect for the person who set it. In property, trespassing refers to the boundary established by a deed which is recognized by some legal authority. The legal authority in this prayer is the Omnipotent, Righteous, Omniscient God.
A debtor can also violate a boundary set by a legal authority set in the mortgage instrument. Our sins are our mortgage instrument with God because He established the boundaries of our behavior, the limits we are expected to obey. Jesus cancelled that mortgage, removed the boundary that was set by God for sin and that leads us to the second part.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers”
Woops! Just like the wicked servant whose master forgave him, we must forgive those who trespass against us….who “owe” us. We cannot validly ask for forgiveness unless we have willingly offered it to others. We’re admonished if we come to the Communion table with any unforgiveness in our hearts, we must leave the table to go to that brother and forgive him before we can “worthily” (to the extent that we can be worthy) part take of the Lord’s Supper and accept His forgiveness for our sins. We have not limited God's Forgiveness. We have simply limited our own access to it. We have erected a barrier of unforgiveness between ourselves and our loving Father.
“lead us not into temptation”
God’s Word assures us that He will never tempt us but this supplication goes beyond His tempting us and asks Him to restrict our access to temptation. It also supposes surrender to whatever means is necessary for Him to lead us away from temptation. Sometimes we don’t much care for that because it means He says “no” or “wait” when we want to hear “yes.”
“Deliver us from evil”
Not only are we asking God to help us to avoid evil but to deliver us away from any evil which might seek us out. We’re told that Satan wanders the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. We’re asking God to help us to escape from the clutches of Satan when he is successful in catching up to us and to take us away from his presence.
“For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory”
All the things we have asked God to do in our lives from providing us with daily sustenance to forgiving us our sins to delivering us from evil….all these are done in acknowledgment that only HE can do it because all things are subject to His Kingdom and His Power and all Glory is His.
“Forever and ever”
Eternity is a ring with no beginning and no ending. Only the God of the universe who created all that is or ever shall be understands forever. When God began the creation, He looked upon a void, without form, without content….a vast nothingness the outer boundaries man still has not explored even with all our satellites and astronauts. He looked at it and He divided it into its opposites: the land and the seas, the light and the dark, plants and animals, male and female. He separated the opposites within the realm of forever. Forever by itself speaks to eternity. To repeat the ever is to emphasize the neverendingness of God’s Kingdom, His Power and His Glory.
Amen means “so be it.” It’s a proclamation of absolute agreement with no limitation from anything or anybody. Even very primitive cultures recognize the power of the spoken word to affirm an event, to establish a precedent. Sometimes, I wonder if perhaps the more primitive cultures with their restrictions on what can be spoken and what cannot understand better than we the power of the spoken word. “Amen” means the requests, assuming we have stayed within the boundaries God established, are hereby spoken into being.