The Lords Prayer Part 2.
First of all there is a need to summarise the first half of the Lords prayer before we look at the second half. We looked at 3 aspects of the Lords prayer. We first thought about the prayer as a Childs tea set. Something we use to learn by. A child has these toys in order to learn and to practice being like our parents. We also looked at how the Lords prayer is like our older brothers suit. We sneak into his room and try it on. Its far too big for us, but we put it on and strut around anyway. As we do, we imitate our older brother we slowly come to a kind of realisation of what its like to be him. As we find out what its like to be Him, we commit ourselves to Him, and His plans.
The Prayer Jesus gave his disciples is something that we can all understand no matter how new we are to faith, and no matter how mature we are there is always more we can learn. We learnt in the first half of the prayer that our Father, who is in heaven, is deserving of worship and glory because He is the Father who saves. He is the father of the prodigal son, Israel, Gods chosen people, the people of faith. To pray “Our Father” is to entrust ourselves to the plan and promises of for our salvation.
We also are to pray “they Kingdom come” – the dangerous radical prayer for the melding of Heaven and earth. Its to pray the radical change in the cosmos, the changing of creation from darkness to light will come to its fullness. This is the will of God, says Jesus.
Then, we are to pray for our daily bread, the bread of life, salvation, and we are also to pray for our own needs. All the while, we are to remember who Jesus is, and like Jesus, we are to eat with all the wrong kind of people, to bring the light of love and healing, and the banquet of the end time salvation feast to those whom God has chosen for his people.
Now, we’re going to look into “forgive us our trespasses”, “deliver us from evil”, and finally, “the power, and the glory”. As with the first half of the prayer, we must put ourselves in Jesus mind, His culture, and time in order to understand what he means by these things. N T Wright points out that God is largely beyond our understanding. Some one commented to me that for a snail, time in the human sphere goes really fast, because snails move and metabolise so slowly. If you walk past a snail, stop, pick it up, and put it down, it might take one or two minutes. But for a snail it m ay have happened so fast that the snail didn’t even know it happened. God is a being with no beginning or end, and we are like the snail. God interacts us, and deals with us, but we have trouble comprehending it, and often don’t at all. However, unlike the snail, we have Jesus, who came from God, was God and human, and can reveal to us what God is like, and what God wants for and from us. So, we must always start from Jesus, who he was, where he was, the culture he lived in, its history and the time he lived in, in order to start to understand God.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the needs of themselves, and the world, and then to commit themselves to the salvation plan of God, he then tells them to pray “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”.
In Scripture there is a shocking story, the story of a man running. In this modern age it’s a trendy thing to be seen running and fit, but in Jesus day, a respected elder or wise man rarely moved, let alone ran. If they walked, they walked in a slow and dignified manner. To be seen running would be a bit like if George Bush turned up to a press conference wearing one of his daughters bikinis. It’s a total loss of dignity. In the story of the running man, he is running to welcome someone who has wished him dead, who has put a curse on him, who has brought disgrace to his family. It is the story of the prodigal son, a story of forgiveness. We need to comprehend the shockingness of the story. We live in a society taught to tolerate.
We don’t upset people, or hassle them, or persecute them, or treat them differently, we tolerate them. When they annoy us or upset us, we say “well, they have the right to be who they want to be”, and so we tolerate them. But we don’t forgive them. Someone who is “tolerating” some one isn’t running down the road in a pink bikini to welcome them home. Jesus is talking about genuine; no holds barred, true, radical, scary humiliating forgiveness.
When Jesus talks about forgiveness here, he isn’t so much talking about the kind of forgiveness we think of, the things we do wrong each day. What Jesus and the people of his day wanted was freedom from slavery, oppression, and exile. To the Jews, these things occurred because of Sin, and so to be freed from them was to be forgiven for their sins. If all the prisoners in a prison are set free, they know they have been pardoned.
Jesus sat and ate with the undesirables, practically revealing to them the message and forgiveness of the new exodus, the new salvation, and when he was challenged about this unbecoming behaviour, he told the story of the running man.
This radical behaviour is only overshadowed by the radical way in which God shared this message through Jesus, through the simple fishermen, slaves, sick and poor people with whom he shared his message. Once they had accepted the message, things got even more radical, not only is there a need to share with others this message, but they had to live it with each other. This is the message, that when you are a child of the revolution, there is no place for unforgiveness. Because we are forgiveness, we have no right to harbour unforgiveness against another. This is not the kind of behaviour that a child of the revolution exhibits, and it can not be.
Ultimately this message is summed up in the cross. At the cross comes the forgiveness of sins. At the cross, salvation is made available for all those who believe. The cross message is to be taken to the peoples of the world by those who believe in the message of liberation that comes to us there. In its widest sense this prayer means to pray for the world, “Lord, forgive us our sins”. In a more narrow sense it means to live forgiveness, to live like a person who has been forgiven a crime deserving of death. And in order to do this, we should also be forgiving others, not tolerating them, but, like the running man, whole heartedly and humbly running out to them and forgiving them.
Next we will look at the section, “deliver us from evil”. In the previous section we talked about the running man, the running father, but in this section the focus is on the waiting mother. The story of Mary has as its centre point the waiting for the birth of Christ, and all the womanly things that go with it. It is a story of great hope, and great fear, a story of darkness before a new dawn, before the rise of the morning star. For most of us this imagery is the imagery of the lives we live. We know we are still in the darkness, but we are eargerly awaiting the light of the New Dawn, the return of the morning star.
The prophets, the visionaries of old saw Israels future as a build up of pressure and pain, an increasing darkness which begins to overwhelm and suffocate until it seems that there is nothing left but oblivion, and then, finally, the morning star rises, and the new day breaks. This is a tribulation, a time of testing, like a woman going through the pains of childbirth. I watched a documentary recently where a woman was giving birth without an epidural because her mother wouldnt permit it. The labor took hours and hours, and the woman kept screaming “I'm dieing, I'm dieing”, she was almost hysterical. And the more she screamed and struggled, the further off the birth of the new child was.
Like Mary, Israel was to be the handmaiden of God and walk through the pain and suffering of the world, being a light to all, and to bring the knowledge of comfort and healing from God to them. They were to be God's triumph over evil. Israel failed in this task though, keeping the things of God for themselves and excluding others, claiming themselves alone were the people of God. So God's message went to the nations, the “gentiles”. The non Jews. We, the new Israel, the true Israel are now called to be this light to the people of this world. As I talked about last time, we are called to go out into the pain, the darkness, the barren war torn world and to share the Good News, the Gospel, about the New dawn, and the banquet feast of salvation which accompanies it.
Like Jesus though, we will be lead into the testing. It isnt surprising that jesus taught his disciples to pray to be lead away from the testing, and to be delivered from evil. Look at Gethsemene, which sums up the testing of Christ in a nutshell. Jesus says to his disciples, “watch and pray, that your may not enter into temptation”. He is not talking about them committing some sort of trivial sin here. The word temptation here means “tribulation” or “Testing”. At this moment of Jesus greatest agony, at the time of his most agonising testing, he knows he must go and let the evil of the world exhaust its force on him in order that the world might go free, so he asks his disciples to pray that they may not enter into Jesus testing, for even He fears it, but rather that they are delivered from evil.
We must also be aware that when Jesus prayed this for himself, the answer was no, He could not escape the testing, and he was not delivered from evil. We can not go where Jesus went, it was a one time thing for the one called to do it. We are called to pray still, because the world is still evil, but we pray in confidence, because we know Jesus did overcome evil, that death was overcome, and finally evil will be completely eradicated. It is this thing that we remember at Easter, although we often focus on the personal aspects of it.
So, then, what is this evil and how are we delivered from it? Well, we can just pretend evil doesnt exist and bury our heads in the sand, or say, well even if it does exist, it doesnt really matter. We can take the opposite approach. Once you realise there is a powerful, real evil, you can become evil yourself, because you give into it, or and see evil everywhere, demons under every stone. You can also be like the pharisee in the temple, and thank God you are not like the others, to be self righteous. But what if such self righteousness is itself a manifestation of evil? These 3 ways of viewing evil where caricatured in scrupture by the sadducees, who saw no evil, the essenes, who wallowed in the fact of evil, letting it dominate them, and the Pharisee's, who were self righteous. Jesus was none of these though, and he didnt teach his disciples to do any of these things either. Jesus recognised the power and reality of evil and confronted it with the reality and power of the Kingdom Announcement. Praying this prayer helps the believer to keep the proper balance, not only recognising the reality of evil, but also the reality of Jesus victory over it.
Evil is not only out there in people, and in the world, it is also within us. Its more than just the sum of our being, our impulses and actions. When humanity gave authority to Satan instead of God, and began to worship him by doing His will, humanity gave authority to forces of destruction and malevolence, pure evil in fact. These forces are opposed to God and His creation, and were placed in authority over the world by human beings. If it were not the case, this petition on the Lords prayer would be an anti-climax, and unnecessary.
To pray “deliver us from evil” is to breathe the victory of the cross, to hold the line for another moment, another hour, another day against the evil destructive forces at work in the world. It means for us to sign on for the battle. The Jewish writer Ben Sira said “my child, if you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for a testing”. To commit to the Christian faith is to stick with it, in despite any apparent obstacles, fears, temptations, and to overcome.
To pray lead us not into temptation has 3 levels of meaning, firstly it means to escape the great tribulation, the great testing, that is coming into the world. Secondly, it means “do not let us be led into the temptation we can not bear (1 Cor 10:12-13). Finally it means to “enable us to pass safely through the testing of our faith”, that is, to say “thy will be done.”
To quote Tom Wright, whose book this is based on; “It is our responsibility when we pray this prayer, to hold God's precious and precarious world before our gaze, to sum up its often inarticulate cries for help, for reason, for rescue, for deliverence. Deliver us from the horror of war! Deliver us from human folly and the appaling accidents it can produce! Let us not become a society of rich fortessess and cardoard cities! Let us not be engulfed by social violence, or self righteous reaction! Save us from arrogance and pride, and the awful things they make people do! Save us, from ourselves, and deliver us from the evil one. You cant say these things from a distance, you can only say yes to them as you say yes to the new Kingdom birthing within you, through the Holy Spirit. You are, like Mary, saying Yes to Jesus and to God, and following Jesus to Gethsemene. Yes, we Calvary people, Easter people, Gethsemene people, following Jesus into a world of Pain and suffering, in order that we might bring the healing and love and light of the Risen Lord into the darkness. It is not a place for the weak or the partially committed, it is the place that the Spirit leads those who have been chosen by God, as Jesus Himself was led. In the darkness the mother screams in pain, as the baby is born, and the baby cries, the dawn comes, and as the mother looks at the baby, she sees the light, the hope, the promise that God will triumph over fear, and deliever us from evil, and finally bring in His kingdom.
Finally, there is only one place left to close, with the power and the glory.
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace.
And this peace will be secured by the Ancient one, by rescuing his people from their oppressors, Sin and Death. God kingdom, God's Glory, and God's power are what this is all about. This prayer, and Jesus' life are all about the power and Glory of God. It is by the power of God, and for the Gloryof God that the Kingdom of God will be finally melded with human reality.
When we pray this prayer, we are committing ourselves to God's kingdom, entrusting ourselves into His power and into his kingdom. We are saying we wont have a part of Caesars Kingdom, that we are set adise for, looking for, hoping for, desiring for the Kingdom of God.
This is also the prayer of the incarnation and empowerment. Jesus lived the Kingdom, because He is its rightful king. Unlike the Jews in the gospels, we know by whose authority Jesus acts, and we know that we can appeal to His authority, because we are His. We are invoking the power and the authority of the King of all creation.
Finally, we are praying in confidence and commitment; “for the kingdom, the power and the glory are your, forever and ever” rounds up and signs off all the other petitions that we have made in this prayer so far. Praying in this way is summed up by William Temple; “When I pray, co-incidences happen, when I cease praying, the co-incidences stop happening”.
This is not a “magic” prayer, although it is viewed that way sometimes. This is the prayer we pray, in full assurance that this prayer was given to us, so that we might know what to pray. And when we pray it, we can pray it in the full assurance, and with the boldness that Jesus Himself had, before the Father.
Like a childs tea set, we can imitate Jesus and repeat this prayer over and over, not really understanding the depth that is in this. Thats fine, Jesus gave us this prayer for that reason. But also, we can see that this prayer is also like the older brothers suit, and as we try it on, we are dwarfed by its size. But undaunted, we proudly wear it, and as we wear it, we try and be our older brother. And as we try, we learn what its like to be him, and we come to grips with the way he sees the world. As we get older and more mature, the suit fits us better, and we find that we have taken on, and understand more of what our older brother is like, how he behaves, and how He sees the world. Each time we put on this suit, and reflect on what Jesus wants us to know from it, we become just a little more like him. We take on his nature, His purpose, and find ourselves all the more subserviant to the will of God.