Someone please tell me Iím not the only one who has secretly thought that God put the Lordís prayer together in the wrong order, got repetitive, and left out some important stuff. Now donít start collecting nice throwing rocks. I have seen the error of my ways.
I like prayer ďhelpsĒ. Perhaps youíve encountered the ACTS acronym. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. A human made that up, and it feels natural to us. First tell God how great He is, then confess what youíve done wrong. Thank Him for what Heís given you, then at last you can ask for more. I know, Iím putting the crudest spin on that. But we do have a penchant for making up our own how-toís when perfect guidance is already available to us. In Matthew 6, Jesus says in no uncertain terms, ďTherefore you should pray like this:Ē and then gives us the Lordís prayer.
Being fond of prayer helps, but ashamed not to be enamored with the template Jesus gave us, I decided to work loose that knot. I spent some time studying and meditating on the Lordís Prayer passage, and at last my resistance has dissolved. I have no doubt that many more hours spent contemplating (and praying!) this prayer will yield additional rich rewards, but hereís what Iíve got so far, just barely scratching the surface.
Godís order in Matthew 6 is quite different from my natural inclination. But like most instruction God gives us about worship, service, and prayer, the details are designed for our benefit rather than to tickle Godís particular fancy. He desires to train us and grow us up into maturity. The Lordís Prayer works marvelously toward this end.
Before diving in, notice that the plural pronouns us and our are used all through the passage, so that intercession for others is built in. Intercession is what I used to think God had left out of the prayer. Where was there a spot to bless Uncle Jim? Pay attention to how much room there is to pray for others in every phrase.
The first phrase is, ďOur Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.Ē We arenít praying to a buddy, nor a remote and nameless force, but to our dear Father who loves us, but is nevertheless far beyond our comprehension, above us in every way. This beginning makes us aware of our proper place and puts us in the right frame of mind to speak with the Creator of the universe who is also our Abba.
Next comes ďYour kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Ē This used to seem empty to me, but as I get older, and deeper in the faith, I find myself praying this with heartfelt eagerness. This is Godís agenda for the world, and I so want it to be accomplished. I want His kingdom to be fully established and set all things right. I want His will to be done fully, perfectly, instantly and always.
Now, Jesus says, ask the Father to give you (and others) what you need for today. Well, at this point Iím really in tune with Godís agenda, so Iím ready to ask for what I need to be of use to God today, not what will make me comfy. As Iím asking for our daily bread, I realize that awareness of my sin is building, so that Iím eager to confess in the next section. But I might not have been so eager if Iíd rattled off a perfunctory confession at the beginning, according to my inclinations about how the order should go. God knows what Heís doing, donít you think?
It saddens me that God thinks we need a constant reminder to forgive others as He forgives us. No, it saddens me that we DO need that reminder, and gladdens me that He provides it for us gently, lovingly.
Having confessed my sin, my hands are clean before God. I have established that Iím dependent on Him for the sustenance of each moment. The next phrase is, ďLead us not into temptation.Ē I need to study this more to get the nuances of it. But my understanding is that weíre asking God not to test us or afflict us so as to prove our character. I know I donít really want Him to afflict me, but it seems almost too honest to ask Him not to, since I know Iím supposed to want to be mature. Iím grateful for Jesusí candor on my behalf. Be honest, He encourages me. Abba knows what youíre thinking anyway. You need to admit it yourself.
ďBut deliver us from evil.Ē My small study on this likes the rendering, ďdeliver us from the evil one.Ē Itís good to recognize that we have a personal enemy, not just random opposition from the universe that causes us annoyance and harm. Lord, please do deliver us from the evil one, every moment.
ďFor yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, Amen.Ē This last sentence appears or doesnít, according to your version, as itís not in all manuscripts. But itís a fitting conclusion. Shift the focus away from me and my wants back to God, as is proper in all our activities and meditations. Yes, Father, Your kingdom is what we long for with every fiber of our being. Thank You for being so powerful that thereís no doubt you will accomplish Your will in these things and that the result will be glory beyond measure, beauty, joy, peace, adventure and love forever. Amen, indeed.
ďTherefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.Ē
Matthew 6:9-13 HCSB