‘Our Lord’s Prayer’ A prayer that summarize our faith
Our father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen (Adopted from BCP 1662:237)
Cohen, in his writing about prayer said “faith finds its truest expression in the act of prayer. This means that it is impossible for one to claim to be a man or woman of faith and lead a prayer-less life. If one sincerely believes in God and is willing to befriend him, then s/he must address the petition to Him. Prayer in this case does not just entail asking for things from the Lord but rather having an intimate communion as creature with his creator. This is the highest sense of communion – deep speaking to deep! Cohen moves on to point out that prayer is gratifying to God and helpful to man (idem). So, the moment we Christians, fail to pray, we deny ourselves the very help we need for our day to day life. We also deny God the pleasure of communing with us his creatures that are created in His own likeness. The disciples of Jesus must have seized this reality, hence the request “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
As we embark in the study of the Lord’s Prayer, we must understand first and foremost, that prayer is NOT merely utterances of the lips, but MUST come from the heart. It MUST also be FERVENT and REVERENT. Cohen challenges us that when we pray, we must imagine that the SHEKINAH is all over as we pray. I know we run the risk of saying the Lord’s Prayer just for the sake of it. But this must take a different shape as we unearth the deep mysteries revealed in this simple yet rich prayer.
THE LORD’S PRAYER:
Our Father: The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer have far reaching mysteries. The mystery of relationship: creator—creation relationship, best conceived in the image of Father and children. When we pray OUR FATHER, the spirit of sonship (Rom 8:15) inhabits us/overshadows us giving us new identity.
This implies that we enter a parent-child relationship—of total dependence, a relationship of love that secures the courage to draw near the very being of God (CB Peter, 2011:2). This dependence and love provokes God’s goodness to pass in front of us and he proclaims his name in our presence (Ex 33:19). Praying OUR FATHER also invokes the fatherhood of God in our lives and settles all relationship both in the seen and unseen relations. Relationship with God, man and environment settles in the Lord’s Prayer.
This also opens us to realize our connectedness not only to God but to each other. We begin to see ourselves as a Family and not separate entities pursuing their selfish ends. Our means we share/belonging to us.
Finally OUR FATHER ushers in the mystery of communing with the Triune God. John 10:30 (I and my Father are one) and gives us the glimpse of the glory that will be revealed (John 17:24).
Our Father which art in heaven: We have looked at the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer and the mysteries there-in. Now we move on to ‘which art in Heaven’, Heaven is His abode and earth is His footstool (Isa 66:1). Hence is heaven a place or a state? As you ponder that, heaven reveals two great truths! Holiness and Power of God.
Heaven brings to conscience these truths and love that is mingled in them. Holiness of God places him at a higher level than any father that has ever existed. When approaching a Holy Father it means we too must strive to achieve some degree of holiness. However, holiness is not a catch it all for go-getters but a means of grace to them that trusts in a holy God. His love compels us to see beyond our weaknesses to the possibility of our transformation.
In heaven we also see the power of God. ‘The Lord is King, robed in majesty and girded with strength (Ps (93:1). Those that God gave the privilege to see his throne attest to this. Isa 6:1ff. Like in the case of holiness, praying our father in heaven places his love and power side by side (Barclay, 1975:204) and this reveals the mysterious love that works within his power and the power behind his love.
When the inhabitants of the earth pray to their father in heaven they invoke his power and holiness in their lives as His children. How does it sound to have his power and holiness in us?
Hallowed be Thy name: One of the most difficult assignment one could ever have is to try and describe holiness. This is because holiness is not merely a concept but rather an experience. This experience is also dependent on individual relationship with the one s/he treats as holy.
When we pray hallowed be Thy name, we are simply saying let your name be held holy. Barclay (175:205) helps us dig deep into the meaning of the word from which ‘hallowed’ is translated in order to get a glimpse of what we actually mean. This word is translated partly from the word hagiazesthai where the adjective hagios means to treat a person/thing as separate or different or the idea of otherness.
Something that is separate is known to those who have it and therefore for us Christians, we proclaim that our God is separate and different from all other gods. We also seek to make his holiness known to those who do not know or have forgotten. To Him we confidently affirm our awareness of his holiness and our desire to encounter the otherness of God.
Acknowledging that our God and Father is separate and different, we are automatically prompted to think about what is embodied in his name. His name embodies his character and nature. His name embodies his power, wisdom, holiness, justice, mercy, truth etc (Ryle, 1986:51). Those, to whom this has been revealed, are happy. They can trust him who is holy. (Ps 9:10).
Thy Kingdom come: The Kingdom is another mystery. Though it was Jesus’ focal point in his earthly preaching, it is a mystery that needs to be interrogated. Is it something we anticipate in the future? Can it be attained here and now or is it something that existed long before we came into being? What is it that is different about this kingdom that needs come to us.
In Jesus’ teaching the kingdom is historic (Mt 8:11), it is present Mk 1:15; Lk 17:21) and the kingdom is also futuristic (Mt 5:20). He also likened many things to this kingdom, (hidden treasure, expensive pearl, land owner, wedding feast etc). The big question however, is, what is this kingdom? Paul in Rom 14:17 tells us that the Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
We also know that kingdom is simply about rule. Here we need to make some critical connections. The kingdom we are calling for is a kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. While our kingdom is characterized by injustice/corruption, absence of Shalom, whose people are gloomy and probably living independent of the Holy Spirit.
Praying Thy Kingdom come, we acknowledge that God’s kingdom is powerful and better. It’s a Kingdom where justice reigns, people are happy and not afraid of the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, pestilence that stalks in the darkness or plague that destroys at midday (Ps 91:5,6). When this kingdom comes, it redeems our history, transforms our present and gives hope to our future.
Thy Will be done in earth as it is in Heaven. God’s will is another challenging mystery to unearth. We often pray for God’s will when we have reached the end of ourselves. It is a sign of a desperate resignation when our will has hit a deadlock. I.e. when we have a terminally ill kin and have exhausted our resource, we desperately release him to the world of the dead by praying God’s will to be done in his life.
But this is not the whole truth about God’s will. CB Peter, cites that in this petition, we pray for something which is not done here on earth but gives us an assurance that it is happening in heaven (2011:33). The entire cosmos submits to God’s will except on earth where humans dwell.
The challenge, however, is not so much about the earth where humans dwell but the human heart itself. It rejects God’s will by refusing to open its door for Christ to enter, Rev 3:20. It refuses to submit to His will by harboring deceit, (Jer 17:9). It refuses to accept that God’s will is about paying the price. We want to ask and ask and ask and NOT pay. Christ in his earthly ministry submitted fully to his father’s will (John 6:38). In death he paid the price by allowing God’s will (Mat 26:39) to prevail so that you we can be what we are today. CHRISTIANS!
God’s will is not a defeated resignation or a bitter resentment, its something we gladly bear and seek to do. It’s an assurance of God’s perfect love and wisdom. Praying and paying in God’s will prepares us to do his will not him doing our will. We invoke his perfection as we conquer the stubborn nature of self will. We embrace His love and wisdom as we trust him who is faithful.
To be continued…..
Rev. Lilian M. Kamau is a Clergy with the Anglican Church