Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6: 9-13, NASB)
Our Gospel reading today is a very familiar passage, or at least should be to anyone familiar with Scripture. We know it as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ response to the request by his disciples to teach them how to pray. And while I have recited this prayer time immemorial, I have just begun to see how it is a declaration of our trust in God. For so long I prayed it as a set of religious items I was to accomplish. It’s not, however. It is our declaration of our trust in our strange and mysterious Father. Let’s look briefly at each line and see if you agree.
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. To know someone’s name, goes the theory, is to have power over him. I know those who want to attribute names of God to his various characteristics. (El Shaddai: God Almighty. El Roi: The God who sees. El Olam: The everlasting God.) Yet there is a part of this that, to me at least, seems to be manipulative. “I know your name, God, so you now have to act in a certain way toward me.” Knowing God’s name, however, is not something to take lightly. Moses asked God his name and was told simply, “I AM.” The ultimate in mysterious names. In asking God to hallow his name, we are trusting that he knows the meaning of I AM. We are trusting that he will know how to bring glory and fame to his mysterious name.
Thy kingdom come. Kingdoms come from kings. And when a king establishes his kingdom, he brings in his way of doing things. Are we willing to trust our King to do things in the right way?
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. We are called to trust one who does not share his thoughts with us. God’s will is shrouded in clouds and mystery, and we are to trust him in this. It’s not easy.
Give us this day our daily bread. Daily bread. I want a lifetime supply of bread. Or at least annual bread. Daily bread? You mean I have to trust God every day for my needs to be met? Is that really fair? Fair or not, it is how our Father works.
Forgive us our debts. The foundation of our faith is our trust in the forgiveness of our sins. To believe that God has forgiven our debts based on nothing we do or pay or earn is the incredible grace of God. We receive this forgiveness by faith alone.
As we forgive our debtors. At first I was going to say that this is the one part of the prayer where we need to step up and do something apart from trusting God. And we do need to forgive others. “How many times do I forgive, Jesus?” According to my public school math, at least 490 times, according to Jesus’ instruction. But can we truly forgive someone if we don’t first trust that we have been forgiven?
And lead us not into temptation. Again, can we trust God to lead us, no matter how dark and twisting the road is before us?
But deliver us from evil. Evil in this world is rampant and powerful, too powerful for us to deal with on our own. We must trust that truly greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.
Trusting God is not for the weak of heart. It is not easy by any means. It will take a lifetime. But we need to begin, and there is no better place to begin than with the prayer Jesus taught us.
Let us pray.