The Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t know how to pray. They were useless; they couldn’t even open their mouths and thank God. They must have been complete imbeciles. So Jesus taught them how to pray.
Now this isn’t entirely true. Jewish men were taught to pray from an early age. It was something that they did several times a day. So, when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, what were they really asking? Well, as we will see, Jesus didn’t understand their request in the sense of “what is the right formula to pray”, but instead, as content thing, along the lines of “what should we pray about?”
Jesus response was to teach them to pray, “Our Father, who is in heaven”. We all want to be close to God, to be so close enough to be able to call Him Father. To be taught, guided, comforted, loved, grown. To be as intimate with God as Jesus himself was.
Jesus prayer is a bit like a child’s tea set, for us to learn with. It is also a grown mans suit, although a few sizes to big, so that no matter how mature and how much we know, we have always got room to grow into it. As soon as one is saved, one can call God Father, but the more mature we are the more we understand the depth of Jesus teaching in this prayer.
It is like an older brother’s suit, which we’ve borrowed, and in which we have tried to impersonate him, and in doing so, we find out what it is like to be him.
This is the prayer of Jesus, the one who came from God. Some claim that this led him to use Abba Father in a new more intimate way than ever before. This is very shaky though, as God is often called “father” and the words are in common usage in various situations, other than on the words of privileged children. All in all, it was very common for devout and passionate Jews to call God “Father” in this way. So, if this isn’t a “special” thing, so to speak, what is Jesus saying, what does He mean, when He calls God, Father?
The most obvious Old Testament example is
in what Moses is told to tell Pharaoh in Ex 4:22; “Then you shall say to the Pharaoh; ‘Thus says the Lord,
This is a prayer of revolution. The revolution, the uprising, the war; this is the revolution that calls God’s chosen children out of the darkness, into the light, and then, as children of light, back into a world of pain and darkness to bring love and healing on God’s behalf. The revolution is the overthrow of the kingdom of evil, and the final, permanent institution of the Kingdom of God.
When we pray “Our Father, Who is in Heaven, HOLY is your name”, we are submitting ourselves, as willing Children to His purposes, His revolution, His war. We are saying, “Yes, Father, I do believe in your purpose, and here I am, ready to worship and glorify you in any way possible, even though the world is full of pain and darkness, we will not run and hide; Yet not my will, but yours be done”. Just as Jesus prayed before He went to the cross, we pray, as we carry our crosses with us daily.
Following on from that, Jesus taught the disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom come…” This is an interesting statement, as it rules out a heaven “somewhere up there” – strange mansion in the sky with winged angels playing harps. God’s Kingdom COMES, we do not go. Read in Revelations 21: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, the next statement, then requires some explaining. Heaven is, theologically, and practically, the place where God is in control fully, and there His will is done. For us, it is in part a future thing, where God’s purposes become fully realised, actual, Spiritual realities. Earth, or creation, is human reality, it is our space. Heaven is God’s space. When Heaven comes to earth, God’s purposes and human reality become finally and fully integrated.
The Jewish people, through out their history, but especially in Jesus’ time, had enough of foreign rulers. They were sick of them, their own kings were corrupt and the Roman rulers were just a joke. They wanted God to take over His rightful place of Glory as ruler on Earth.
If we read Is 52:7-10 we find this:
7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
11 Depart, depart, go out from there!
Touch no unclean thing;
go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves,
you who carry the vessels of the Lord.
We find the three parts of the Kingdom message here. First, the release of God’s people, second, the defeat of evil, and thirdly, the return of YHWH as King of creation.
The release of God’s people is expanded
on in the story of the prodigal son, not just about acceptance and forgiveness,
but it also illustrates the liberation and redemption of
Evil is, Jesus said, defeated through His work. The servant songs in Isaiah, outlined how this would happen, and Jesus volunteered to be that servant, believing that this was in fact true.
Jesus also told stories of the King coming in power and might, and yet as gentle as a lamb, King, Judge, and Shepherd.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray “thy Kingdom come”, Jesus is asking them to pray for His success. Much to their surprise this success came in the form of the cross. Notice that this is not the final victory, but the beginning of the final battle which ends at judgement. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray this prayer, they begin to understand there is more than just a new spirituality, improved moral code, or a new theology. Something far more radical, scary and dangerous has happened.
In Jesus life, death, and resurrection the whole of the cosmos has been shaken up, turned upside and is being reborn, the cosmos is turning from dark, to light.
To pray “thy Kingdom come” is to look into the face of the father, to see the world as He sees it; the joy at the beauty of a spectacular creation, and His grief at a battle scarred, battered fallen world. To see this through the lens of the Cross, and see the redemption of the whole world, the healing of the earth as it finally becomes one with heaven.
Finally for today, we look at “give us this day, our daily bread”. This is the point where most people race up to in the prayer, when they use it as a model, and then start to reel off the list of needs and wants that they have. We must look at the life of Jesus to see what He means with this, as we have with the other two parts.
Many things were said about Jesus; one particularly was that he was a glutton and a wine bibber. This comes from the Old Testament, in Deut 21, where it symbolises a drunk and rebellious Son. It’s not to do with going to too many parties at all. This drunken and rebellious son would be taken out and stoned. This is a way of saying; He is a heretic and deserves to die.
Jesus however, unlike is countrymen was in fact the only one loyal and obedient to the true traditions. Jesus ate and drank with the lowlifes, the scum of the earth, the despised people. This is part of an old Biblical tradition, in which the Father prepares a banquet for those whom he has rescued. We see that in Ps 23, “He prepares a banquet for me in the face of my enemies”, and also Is 25: 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Jesus is celebrating the great wedding banquet of salvation. There is also a difference in versions here, between Matthew and Luke. Matthew’s version says “give us this day our daily bread for tomorrow”, and Luke’s says “give us each day our daily bread”. They are two aspects of the same thing. Matthew asks for tomorrows salvation today; the blessings of the coming Kingdom to be with us now. And Luke asks for the practical reality of the melding of heaven and earth to be one, today, as we live now, and not tomorrow. The Kingdom will come, but in the mean time, can we have some of the kingdom blessings now, as we have needs. This is what Jesus asks us to pray about.
So, what do we do, close our eyes, clear our minds, and find we have a bunch of things circling around in our heads, things we want, need, are unsure about, questions, sorrows, pains, happiness’s etc. We often feel ashamed about praying for our daily bread, but, we are told that God “knows all our desires” – so, how can we be ashamed? He already knows. This clause in the prayer Jesus wants us to pray is here to remind us that we SHOULD pray for our needs and wants, and not to hide them, there is no point in hiding them.
However, this is not an unspiritual prayer; we shouldn’t see this as a means to get what we want, when we want it. It’s asking God to fulfil our needs and wants in His way, in His time.
It also reminds us that God wants us to pray for specific things, for example, a parking space perhaps. In the greater scope of the Kingdom of God, it is right to pray for what we need, it is precisely that a child would ask of its father, and we are instructed to ask our father.
It is also right to lift our eyes beyond our needs also, and pray for the needs of others, and of the world. How can we pray for our own needs, and not know about all those who don’t have enough. In this case it is not so much a praying FOR those in need, although it can be, it is more in the sense of praying on behalf of them. Standing in the gap, as it were.
This all ultimately is revealed in its fullest in the communion. Communion is the sharing of the bread of life, the body of Christ, and is how we are told to best remember Him. Through the Holy Spirit the body and blood become real, and minister to us in a real sense, a practical sense. Jesus tells us that the bread of life, in john 6, is as necessary for life as food and water.
Even more than that, communion is a sign, or an anticipation of the final banquet, the final salvation day banquet, which we have already mentioned. In his lifetime, Jesus shared his banquet with all the wrong kind of people. The needy, sinful, outcasts, the undesirables, not those whom it was expected. Jesus was a revolutionary, and so should we be. The world is sick and dying, battle worn and scarred, and it needs us to go out and share Jesus’ banquet with others.
Jesus model prayer is, when you first read it, like a child’s tea set, but as we can see, there is more to it, it is a slightly large suit, which we must grow into. As we grow into it, we find that it is the suit of revolution, that those who wear this suit are committing themselves to the salvation plan of the Father, to go out into a dangerous war torn world, initially to share in the great banquet, to share the most intimate thing, a meal, with the needy. To pray that heaven and earth will one day meld together, and to go and begin that process.
This is not all though, and in part 2 we will find out more about the prayer of revolution.