Luke’s Our Father and our own life of prayer (7/28)

July 31, 2013

July 28, 2013 (Proper 12, Year C)

There are some people in the world who seem to have a natural ability to do things. For example, I am perfectly dreadful at baseball, and I always have been. But there are many people who take to it like a duck to water. Some people need practice any guidance in order to learn a new skill. And of course, practice and guidance are essential to building any sort of skill, no matter how much natural ability we have. Now we all know that this is true, but we don’t really like to apply this insight to prayer. We are told over and over again that prayer is simple – it’s just talking with God. What could be easier? Well, it can be that easy for some people, but for most people, prayer is a little bit trickier. That’s where this morning’s gospel comes in. Now there’s a lot of wonderful stuff in this morning’s gospel. There is teaching about God’s faithfulness, and the importance of persistence in prayer. But this morning I’d like to focus on S. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Some of Jesus’ followers ask him for help. They understand that prayer is talking with God, but they have just the same kinds of problems that we do. They’re not sure how to approach God, so they ask the expert. And Jesus recommends the Lord’s Prayer.

This Lord’s Prayer looks a little different from the one we’re familiar with, though. This is Luke’s version, and we usually use the version that appears in Matthew. That version is used in just about every single Christian service of worship. So whenever we pray, we usually say these words. But there is a lot more going on here, and I think that S. Luke’s version can help us draw it out a little more easily.

If we take a step back, then the Lord’s Prayer becomes a lot more than just a single prayer. This is a whole framework, in five parts, for how we build a healthy relationship with God. Let’s look at these five parts one by one.

“Father, hallowed be your name.” This is a bit of a 2 for 1. Jesus invites us to address God intimately, as one who loves us and cares for us like a parent does. This really isn’t a given. God is the creator of all things, the supreme judge, the giver of the Law. We might think that we should adopt a somewhat groveling position. But Jesus tells us that the most important way which we should think about God is as our parent. And God’s name is holy. God’s essence is holiness, and that means that everything that flows from God is holy. All of nature, each of us with our gifts, are all part of God’s holiness. So this first part invites thanksgiving and gratitude. For making us, and making us holy, and making us his children. Part one – worshiping God and giving him thanks.

Part 2 – “Your kingdom come.” This is a prayer to make all things right. It’s probably clear to all of us that the world is not like it should be. But in the Kingdom of God, everything is made perfect. So when we talk with God, we ask him to bring the Kingdom of God into our lives to make it a refuge of holiness.

Part 3 – “Give us each day our daily bread.” This is prayer where we ask for things, things that we need. I think some people shy away for asking God for things. We pray for other people, but we think, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly ask for something for myself.” Don’t worry, if we ask for something silly, I have no doubt that God is ignore us. But Jesus does tell us to ask God. We can open our hearts and share our deepest fears and desires, and this is part of our conversation with God.

The next part is one that we need to look at closely – “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us”. The key word here is actually “for”. We ask God to release us from our sins because we release others. If we don’t forgive others, we have no claim to God’s forgiveness. Now there’s something fascinating about the fact that Luke uses the words sins and debts, but we’ll have to save that for another day.

The final part is this: “And do not bring us to the time of trial.” On the face of it, this is a strange request. We are asking God to not bring us into a time of testing, temptation, and judgment. But if God does that, then God is kind of abandoning us. So in this prayer, we are asking for God’s continued grace and presence in our lives.

So when we talk with God, Jesus gives us a framework. In these conversations, we begin each conversation with praise and thanksgiving. We remember the things in the world, in our lives which are broken, and we ask God to bring his kingdom into those places. We ask him for the things that we need. We ask for forgiveness for our own mistakes, and we ask for the strength to forgive others. Finally, we ask for his abiding presence in our lives. This is a wonderful framework for approaching our prayer. It’s almost like Jesus gives us a checklist. But there’s one more piece we should remember. When we pray, when we talk with God, we need to make sure we’re quiet long enough to hear God’s response.

– Michael+

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