This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.
[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about proper performance of religious duties. He is explaining to his disciples how they can be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].
So what does Jesus have in common with iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel? Strange question? Well, her words are the first thing that came into my mind as I read this scripture. She said, “Always remove one thing before you leave the house. Less is more.” Both Jesus and Coco had a great respect for simplicity. Yes, they both agreed that less is more. Keep it simple. Keep it tasteful. Edit it down. (I keep telling myself that as I write this blog).
If you were raised Christian, you definitely know this one even though the words are a little different in the Good News version of the Bible. It is, of course, the Lord’s Prayer. After telling his disciples what people SHOULDN’T do when they pray, [specifically make a spectacle of ourselves (Day 40) or babble (Day 41)] he now tells them how they SHOULD pray.
He gives them a really great prayer. Straightforward. Salutation, praise, adoration, petition, confession, forgiveness, and protection. All in a few simple phrases.
First, this is a communal prayer. It is not a prayer for me or you. It’s a prayer offered by those in the faith community on behalf of and for the benefit of everyone.
Our Father in Heaven… We identify who we are praying to; we name the one with whom we long to connect spirit to spirit. Our Father – not some far away, aloof, judgmental dictator. Our Father – the one who loves us and cares for us and made us in his image out of the good earth. Our Father -who is not a person but a spirit who dwells in the spiritual world called heaven which is both far away, and yet as intimate as the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our Father (not My Father), the head of the household that includes all of the people of the earth.
My your holy name be honored….We are then invited to remember that God’s name is holy because he himself is holy, set apart, high and lifted up, perfect and without flaw. He must not be taken for granted as though he is just an ordinary father.
May your Kingdom come, May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…Next, we affirm the mission of Jesus – to prepare for the Kingdom of God here on earth. Remember Day 5? He says the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! He wants all the earth to get ready! He wants us to make God’s plans our plans. When we pray these words we submit to doing things his way, which is not necessarily the way that the world, or the church, or our friends, our government, or our instincts tell us to do them.
Give us today the food we need….We admit that we are not self-sufficient. We recognize that we have needs and only God can satisfy them. Even the most basic things like bread that we think we are making ourselves come from God. It all belongs to God and flows to us from his generous hand.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us…..Once again Jesus says again that we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give. (See Days 11 and 35). We are forgiven only when we forgive. We receive mercy only to the degree that we extend it. Jesus wants to firmly plant this principle in our hearts so that it will take root and bear fruit.
Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One…Finally we ask God to protect us from testing (temptation) and the power of evil. God and God alone can deliver a person from evil. We can turn away from it and hold it off, but only God can banish it. We are only safe from evil when we are under the shadow of God’s wings, when we are walking on the safe path that he has prepared for us.
In the tradition of the church this prayer usually ends with a benediction, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.” A nice ending, even if it’s not the words of Jesus. I think he’d approve.
There it is. A clean concise prayer with no wasted words. Full of so much meaning that you can meditate on it every day for a lifetime. It is an inherently Jewish prayer that focuses on God and his will for all humanity. This prayer challenges our faith and encourages us to probe the depths of our hearts. What does it mean that God wants us to think of him as our Father? Where is heaven? What does it mean to be holy? Do we understand what it is to honor his holiness? What can we do to help build God’s kingdom? What are we doing well; what can we do better? Do I need to ask for forgiveness for anything; is there someone I need to forgive? Am I grateful for all that God has given me today? Do I appreciate it? Is there something someone else needs that I can provide? When has God saved me from the power of evil in my life? Am I entering into his protection by living out of God’s truth?
More than just a bunch of words, it’s a perfect prayer; a prayer for the ages. A prayer that reminds us that when it comes to matters of faith, “Less is more.” It’s a prayer as beautiful and luminous and genuine as the pearls that Coco Chanel preferred. Pearls of wisdom. It’s a prayer with so much truth in it that it makes as much sense today as it did 2000 years ago. It is a prayer to be studied, a prayer of infinite depth. A prayer worth repeating until the Kingdom of Heaven is established here on earth. I guess when that happens God will give us a new one.
What does this scripture say to you?