If you grew up in church, chances are it is one of the first passages you learned. At the very least, you have heard it – often. Often called, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:5-13), it is actually a model prayer, with Jesus giving instructions on how to pray.
I must admit, when I am overwhelmed by life, and frustrated with circumstances, the last thing I want to do is pray. I want a remedy. I want action. I want solutions. Now.
Prayer feels passive. And while I am fully aware that it is not, I often find myself battling those feelings. My mind simply will not allow me to be content with cannot sitting idly by and not saying or doing something.
How heartbreaking is that when you think about it? To have access to the God of the universe who created the world in 6 days with just the words, “Let there be…”. And here I sit, fretting over a tomorrow that may not be. Worried about events that may not come to pass. Depressed over past and present circumstances. And, living as though I don’t know the God who can do something about it all – as if I can.
So, for a day or so, I’m going back to the basics. I need the reminder. Who He is. Who I am in light that. This is for me. I am taking you along for the journey, so feel free to join if you would like. But, I feel as though I need to remind myself of truths that I accepted long ago, that life sometimes beats out of me.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I personally need to spend more time talking to God and less time talking to people (live and virtual). The temptation when posting on Facebook or Twitter is that many of us want to be seen. We want to be right. And want others to know that we are right. “Likes” validate – they reward. Ah. But, prayer. Prayer is different. A conversation with God allows us to express our hearts, and concerns, ask for help and guidance. It places us in a posture of need, humility. We don’t like that. It’s uncomfortable. It also places a much needed mirror before us. And, sometimes, we will not like what He shows us.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
I love this simple reminder, “your Father knows…” It’s not the words – the number used or expansive vocabulary that moves or impresses Him. He already knows. He sees. He has a plan. I remember trying to explain myself during one conversation. The person refused to hear or try to understand what I was saying. Both in exasperation and relief, I responded, “God sees and He knows.”, and ended the discussion in complete peace.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Holy is His name – not mine, not yours, not your pastor’s, not your candidate or party or cause of choice, not our country. His. Name. Only.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I forget this. Often. I get so engrossed in my life here, what I want and what I believe is best to be pursued, I neglect this prayer – His will be done on earth as in heaven. People would often tease those who focused on one day going to heaven – I remember comments about slaves wishing for the “by and by” when one day they would be free in heaven. I am understanding that sentiment better the longer I live. It is not that they did not wish for freedom on earth. They just believed it was guaranteed there. It provided hope. And to have hope in God’s goodness in the middle of hopelessness and when He feels anything but good, is strength, not weakness.
Give us this day our daily bread
Yeah. This is not the American way. We are the epitome of rainy day, independent planners. There nothing wrong with preparation, in fact it is biblically encouraged. But, when the provisions outshine the Provider. That becomes a problem.
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
I’m imagining that the latter portion of the prayer isn’t often prayed with sincerity. Consider this. If there was a ledger comparing how much you forgive others to how much you have been forgiven, would you be at a surplus or deficit?
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Our own and others.
Amen and amen.