Pray Like Jesus
There is something beautiful about liturgy. Please hear me, I am not a “high church” kind of guy- I have always pushed back against the pomp and circumstance, and tons of wordy liturgy that drones on and on with no connection to in the moment emotions. However, I have always appreciated some liturgy and the way it calls us back to central theological truths of God. Too me the common liturgy- like the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm at funerals, The Doxology- these serve as anchors of sorts, that when the seas of life toss and turn we find ourselves held tight be them.
There was some liturgy in Jesus’ day, things that were present in his life in the same why the Doxology, the 23 Psalm, and other common pieces of liturgy are for us. One of those pieces was a prayer called The Kaddish- This prayer would be recited whenever a Rabbi was done teaching. it is also used around death and morning, but in Jesus
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.
Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus established a new liturgy, but it sort of finds its roots in the Kaddish- the first few lines certainly sound similar, don’t they? Remember the Great Commandment of Jesus? Love God and Love neighbor? It’s rooted in Jewish thought and life too- retouching from the Shama of Deut 6. Jesus takes something familiar and builds in into the teaching of the Kingdom of God.
Now, there are different schools of thought when it comes to the Lord’s prayer- some think that Jesus was giving us a literal prayer to memorize and pray. That when Jesus’ says this is how you should pray he meant literally these words. Others think it is a pattern, a mold for us to use, with certain markers and ideas that Jesus was trying to make us attentive to.
Either way, I do think that the Lord’s Prayer sets out for us some thoughts, some priorities, and some things that Jesus wants us to be aware of in our prayer lives. There are some overarching themes that he sees to hone in on in this prayer that a big ideas for those following the patterns of the Kingdom of God.
In the Lord’s Prayer we Declare the Authority and the Will of God
The Lord’s prayer is book-ended by statements about the authority of God.
“Hallowed by thy name- thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” in the beginning and “Thine is kingdom and the power and the glory forever” in the end. The authority of God is the opening statement and the closing benediction of Jesus’ prayer. Without the authority of God then prayer real becomes useless. If God is not the ultimate authority and the chief executive of the universe, then we would have just as much hope in praying to any other thing, rather than God. If God does not have the final authority, then praying to him is nothing more than complaining to your coworker about needing a pay raise, it may make you feel better, but it will not solve your problem.
The Lord’s prayer also help us keep the authority and the will of God in its right perspective- bigger than our will! The other thing that the Lord’s prayer reminds us is that when we enlist to service of God’s kingdom, we are opening ourselves to bend to his will. George Truett once said that “to know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement!” Sometimes we can project a wrong attitude when it comes to doing the will of God. We use terms like “submitting” to the will of God or other terms that make it seem like we are giving up something when we choose to do God’s will. However, we must remember that doing the will of God is the greatest thing we can do. Yes, we may be giving up our instant gratification, but we are trading it in for the best in the long run, because God’s will is always rooted in his goodness- the best goodness there is!
I like to think that this is also a good model for my life- that when my life is built on my understanding of the authority of the name of Jesus Christ, and help together by working to do Jesus’ will in my life, what happens between those things will be pleasing to God.
In the Lord’s Prayer we Learn what God really wants
The content of the Lord’s prayer tells us a lot as well. Notice the things that are included in this prayer- specifically what comes in the middle- daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from temptation. These are the kinds of requests that show up in the Lord’s prayer because they are at the core of what God wants us to focus on.
Jessica would probably tell you that sending me to the store for groceries is a kind of adventure- any other wives feel that way about your husbands? You never know what they are going to come home with. Because she knows that I will come back all sorts of random stuff, a list is a must have. She would probably never send me to the store without a list. She makes sure to write down milk, bread, what ingredients she needs for this week’s recipes, because if she doesn’t I am probably coming home with beef jerky, oreos, and hot pockets....and remember, just because she sends me with a list does not prevent the jerky, oreos, and hot pockets, but it increases the chances of the things we need coming home with them.
I think Jesus is giving us a shopping list, of sorts, in the Lord’s prayer. You pray that the new car would come home to your driveway- Jesus says- but do you have bread? You pray that the person who did you wrong would be convicted- Jesus says- have you forgiven? You pray for the winning lottery numbers- Jesus says- have you asked for protection from greed? There are certain things that Jesus does not want us to miss in our prayers.
In fact, it is interesting that physical needs- bread- is only one small fraction of the prayer of Jesus.
If has been said that if you love someone you will want what they want. Your desires will begin to align, and you will begin to work for a common goal- when we pray this enlistment prayer about God’s Kingdom coming and God’s will being done we are in a sense asking God to help us want what he wants.
In the Lord’s Prayer we commit to think of others
Never forget that when Jesus taught us to pray he used collective pronouns. There is not one single I or me in this prayer. Jesus’ prayer is offereed to OUR Father, asking about giving US our daily bread, forgiving US as WE forgive our debtors. Jesus’ model of prayer is not just about you and Jesus- it is about you, and Jesus, and your neighbors, and your fellow Christians.
But who is the “we and us” of this prayer? I might argue it is contextual. When I pray this is my home we and us is my family, we I pray it in the sanctuary it is our congregation, when I pray it on the street corner it is the world around me.
Remember Jesus’ great commandment? Love God with everything you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself? The Lord’s prayer draws us into that very command. Ater all, if we pray to give US this day OUR daily bread- and then we hold bread and see our neighbor in need it propels us to give. If we pray for US our debts as WE forgive our debtors- and see someone who needs forgiveness or see someone in our lives holding grudges it propels us to forgive and challenge one another to do the same. If we pray lead US not into temptation, and see a brother or sister walking into sin it propels us to go to them and speak with them.
Charles Brent once said that “Praying for someone is loving them on your knees”
In the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded of what everyone needs
One of the things that I have been reminded of lately is our common humanity. The things that all of us have in common- the things that make us human. There are certain things that all humans have in common. We all need food, we all have skin, we all have a heart that beats and circulates blood…
It seems as though many people are focusing on what draws up apart these days. Skin color, political leanings, any number of things- and yet Jesus’ call to prayer is based in common humanity- the things that we all need. We all need bread, we all need forgiveness, and we all need deliverance.
This is one of the things that I appreciate the most about the Lord’s prayer- it is grounded in real life. It is not some heady, unrealistic, out of body prayer. There are no out of this world ideas or thoughts too lofty for us the understand- it is a real life prayer.
Frank Laubach once reflected on the Lord’s prayer, and argued that the Lord’s prayer was different; even though the Lord’s prayer has requests like “Give us this day our daily bread” this is not the center of the prayer. Rather, Laubach reflects that “The Lord’s prayer is not a prayer asking God to do what we want done. It is more nearly God’s prayer to us, to help him do what he wants done…The Lord’s prayer is not intercession, it is enlistment.”
Enlistment? That’s a different way of thinking about prayer, especially the Lord’s prayer. When we think about enlisting- most of us probably get the image of signing up for the armed forces. A person enters the recruiting office and upon hearing the conditions makes the decision to enter into a relationship with the organization. This is, of course, a reciprocal relationship- the person agrees to do certain things and work for the goals and mission of the army, and the army agrees to offer certain benefits to the person, including things like food, a place to sleep, money for education, job opportunities, financial considerations, etc. No matter what the payback is- enlistment is a big deal because it is pledging your life for the cause.
Perhaps there is something to Laubach’s thinking- that when we pray the Lord’s prayer we are actively entering into duty for Christ. But if that is the case, what are we signing up for? I’m guessing most people find out all the information of what this enlistment entails. And while they may not know all of the particulars of where they will be stationed, or what division they will be in, they have an idea of the framework of what signing on for duty means.
What if the Amen on the Lord’s prayer was not the end- but the beginning. The beginning of our walking out what we prayed. After all, amen literally means “so shall it be” But here’s the thing- much of the “so shall it be” in the Lord’s prayer is up to us.
The Lord’s name being glorified- that’s up to us, isn’t it?
God’s will being done on Earth- that seems to be contingent on our willingness to follow and do his will, right?
Forgiving debts- as we forgive our debtors- sounds like we have some responsibility on that one too.
This enlistment prayer of Jesus is not just about words- it is about a call to action. As we pray this prayer we are called to get up and go and use our actions to back up our prayer.
So, today we are going to end our service by praying the Lord’s Prayer together, and I challenge you to consider what you are going to do about it. What now?