Prayer, it is the mainstay of the Christian faith. Even a very quick glance through the bible will highlight the importance of prayer. Jesus prayed before every major decision, or undertaking in his earthly ministry. The practise of praying was continued by the apostles.
Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, James tells us that we can only expect God to move if we pray, Peter tells us that God is always watching and listening for the prayers of his followers, and John tells us that we can ask anything in Jesus name, and if it is in God’s will it will be granted to us.
The question of whether prayer is important then is rendered moot. The entirety of the bible declares that we must pray. The question we must then ask is how do we pray?
This is the very question the disciples asked Jesus that prompted him to create what is now known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Let us take a closer look ourselves
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name
The opening line of the prayer is such a rich vein of theological reflection. The terms that God is described in almost appear to be an oxymoron. The word used here that was translated into Father is Abba, a term of endearment that young children would call their earthly fathers. Abba is a term of closeness and fondness. God is not far off out there, but very near.
Every morning I am treated to the very sweet yet persistent voice of my 2.5 year old daughter calling out ‘Daddy’ to let me know that she is awake and wants me to get out of bed with her. Jesus is telling us that God is just that near to us, and just that willing to listen.
But our Abba is holy and in Heaven. In the second half of this phrase we are reminded of all of the majestic images of God. He is above all, rules all, and is beyond our imagining or comprehension. When these two concepts are laid down together they give a beautiful picture. We are praying to a God that is close to cares and a God that is powerful enough to do something about our prayers.
Give us this day our daily bread
One of the most difficult lessons of faith to learn is trusting in God’s timing. That was the lesson that the Israelites were supposed to learn from the Manna from heaven. Most listened, but some had difficulty trusting God would provide the next day as well.
God still very much gives out his provision in daily allotments. He doesn’t give us his grace and strength for the week, or month or year. He gives us himself in daily allotments. We cannot sustain our physical health each week but eating 21 meals worth of food in one sitting, and we cannot sustain our spiritual healthy by trying to put all of our bible reading, prayer and dependence on God in one sitting either. God gives us daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us
This just may be the most difficult and most convicting part of the entire prayer. Each time we pray we ask God to forgive us only in so much as we are willing to forgive others. I say this is convicting because we want God, and we need God to forgive us. We want God to separate our sins from us as far as the east is to the west. We want to be washed clean, to be as white as snow. But if we were to search our hearts, we would find that there are people in our lives that we do not want to grant that same graciousness too.
Our inability to offer forgiveness to others is a symptom that we truly do not understand either God’s graciousness or our own need for forgiveness. Our being forgiven is contingent on being forgiving.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil
One thing that can easily be forgotten is that being a Christian does not eliminate temptation in our lives. By declaring that we will serve Christ and no other whole new forms of temptation often can find us. It is these times that we must turn to God for strength and realize that evil has no place in our Christian lives.
I once heard it put this way. You cannot stop yourself from being tempted just as you cannot stop birds from flying over your head. But you can stop yourself, with God’s strength from sinning, just like you can stop the birds from building a rest in your hair.
Temptation will find us and we are to resist it through the strength of God to it will not produce evil in our lives.
In the gospel of Luke where Jesus’ teaching this prayer is recorded Jesus also tells a parable about persistence in prayer. We have to make sure that this pray does not only go up on our walls but is on our lips every day.
***This past is adapted from a sermon I gave on July 28th 2013 At Sackville United Baptist Church.***