When spells of financial trial drag out
When long relational tensions mount
When seasons are steeped in winter’s chill
When the presence of anything Other is still
When life feels every bit like a flesh and blood battle to the death…Be assured, it isn’t.
On the other side of this curtain of reality draped around us is a fierce realm of majestic glory and spiritual power. That’s where the real battle rages…between God and all his angel armies, and the dark cosmic powers of Satan and his armies of demonic marauders. We just happen to be caught in the middle.
And from this middle land, if we’re keen enough to listen in, there is an ancient cry from a live book. Remember Paul? Ephesians 6? His voice slices through the battle line:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might…and having done all…stand firm.”
He continues to insist we be fully armed in truth and righteousness, and a readiness to share the gospel of peace; keeping faith before us and salvation about us, and the unchanging Word of God in hand.
You know what the only thing Jesus’ disciples ever asked him to teach them was? How to pray.
Luke 11, right at the beginning: “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’”
And he gave them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” which I suppose is more the disciples prayer; our prayer.
Matthew 6 has the parallel passage and there the prayer is more full bodied:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
[For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory, forever.
~~ Matthew 6:9-13 w/ footnote added in brackets
Two things for you at this point…
Thing one: Did you notice anything about the personal pronouns?
They’re all PLURAL! Have you ever seen that before…or thought about it? I call this “The Plural Principle.” And you know what’s occurred to me? I don’t think this was meant to be an individual petitioner’s prayer. I think we’re all in there when we pray it. All those plural pronouns suggest to me this prayer is intended to be corporate and intercessory.
If we catch this at the outset of praying, all of a sudden we’re joining a chorus of countless voices around the country and the world in prayer before God. And we can pull others into the prayer with us; actually intercede for people we love, before God!
Give me and Sarah and Dale this day our daily bread.
Forgive me and Sam and Kelly our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.
Lead me and Carl and Philip not into temptation.
Deliver me and Lilly and Alex from evil.
Pretty Rad, huh?!
So, you know what I try to do now? I try to say this prayer a couple-few times a day. And I try to keep people in mind; actually picture them, to pull into the prayer with me…whether they like it or not (hehehe).
There’s the corporate-ness and the intercessory-ness.
Thing two: I thought I’d pass along to you my journal meanderings on the prayer; phrase by phrase, line by line. Maybe they’ll spur you on to join me in this corporate and intercessory adventure.
· Our Father – You get why we start here? Here is One who’s in close relational proximity to us; a steady paternal presence. We have been adopted (Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:4-7) and now Jesus’ Spirit (the Holy Spirit) mingles with our spirit and generates in us a heart cry that comes from deep within… “Father!”
· In Heaven – Here is the direction of our prayer. Here is our Father’s residence. Here is the place of purity and presence, of life and love and incorruptibility; where the eternal virtues of goodness, beauty, and truth still remain.
· Hallowed – Use this word lately? Probably not. It’s a word so contextualized in scripture it almost feels holy. Can we say that every day? Yet, here it is in a prayer that I think we’re supposed to use every day. Here’s my picture: You’ve seen “The Lion King?” Remember when Rafiki, the Baboon, separates Simba, from the other animals, taking him to the peak of Pride Rock, and lifts him up? The whole plane of animals cheers for the young lion cub. That’s “hallowed.” That’s set apart and lifted up from all things common and ordinary.
· Be Your Name – More than a name. His fame. His revealed reputation from Exodus 34: Merciful, gracious, patient, overflowing with steadfast love and faithfulness for thousands, forgiving, and right. May it – all that and more – be set apart and lifted up! Here’s my picture: A cosmic show and tell session.
· Your Kingdom Come – His royal and political acclaim. His social and economic policy. His eternal rule and sovereign reign. “Come!”
· Your Will Be Done – His declared will and desired will. His pursuits and decisions. His decrees and declarations. His Word, The Bible; his moral precepts and legal moorings. “Be Done!”
· On Earth As It Is In Heaven – All these are already prevailing in heaven. What if they prevailed on earth too? Imagine that. Whew!
Now, these four requests – Give us, Forgive us, Lead us, Deliver us. Sounds demanding, huh? But if you really meant the first few lines above, you can proceed in humble intercession…
· Give us this day our daily bread – Only my necessary ration, not next week’s or next month’s. Only just enough to stay the need and stand off the want. No more, no less…though it will certainly be less than my more. And I don’t think we get to replace bread with any number of wants or desires. I think it means bread. Bread is life and breath. It is Jesus really, but tangibly, it is my food and probably water, no more…for us, not me.
· Forgive us our debts – Any attitude or action toward God or others that has arrogantly lacked the faith which pleases God. Here’s my picture: A bridge we allow others to cross spanning the gaping wide cavernously deep canyon I worked so hard to excavate in the land between our Father and me.
· As we have forgiven our debtors – And from the posture of having been forgiven much, may I now forgive others; those directly and indirectly offensive to me. Here is verse 14-15, right after the prayer – “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Sheesh, is that true…?
· Lead us not into temptation – Not into the wilderness of our Lord, where evil lurks and longs to overtake us. Not into the wild loneliness of arid parched property ruled by the prince of the world. Not into traps of pride and idolatry. Here’s my picture: Jesus Christ holding our hand, leading us out of Egypt through the sea between walls of water, into the freedom of humility and righteousness; into victory over sin.
· Deliver us from evil – Simply, Rescue us! Here’s my picture: All the shackles and chains that have bound us to living without a compass in a borderless land are being loosed and clanking on stone pavement.
Remember these are intercessory petitions. Who’s on your mind, along with yourself, when you pray this? Keep a list of people you know and love who fit in with these prayers.
I like the footnoted add-on for the prayer…
· For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory – This is my declaration of God’s reign through Christ Jesus as Sovereign King. The kingdom and power and glory are not mine. They are not ours. They are YOURS! His!
· Forever – …and ever! Here we are cast backward and forward, spinning the hands of eternity’s clock into oblivion and establishing the reality of God’s “always-and-forever-ness.”
· Amen – Truly, truly, let it be so now… Here’s my picture: A wax seal placed and pressed over the folded opening of an envelope with a really important document in it. Registered mail for our Father!
There is no reason not to pray this prayer right now. In fact, I would suggest, there is every reason to pray it. Who’ll you have in mind as you pray?