About a decade ago, I began praying the Lord’s Prayer daily. It changed my life. Here’s how:
- Our Father, who art in heaven – Jesus addresses God as “Our Father.” He brings all of us along into his filial love–the love of the Son for the Father and the Father for the Son. Through Jesus, we’re not just talking about The Father or His Father. Now it’s Our Father. And that’s awesome.
- Thy kingdom come, thy will be done – Jesus’ model prayer has 7 petitions–that’s the number of wholeness and completeness in the Scriptures. In other words, this prayer that Jesus taught the disciples (cf. Luke 11:1) shapes our entire life of prayer, every other prayer that we utter. And even before Jesus touches on the vital themes of human life: the need for food and security and clothing, he focuses us on the kingdom of God. Of course, Jesus’ entire ministry was about the kingdom–preaching it, living in it, walking in its power–so we shouldn’t be too surprised that his central prayer is a prayer of the kingdom. Before all else, we are to seek the kingdom and do the will of God. A year ago, we invited a guest preacher to our community Lenten services. He said this: What if each of us got up in the morning ready to do God’s will? How would that change things? I’ve taken his words to heart. As soon as I roll out of bed in the morning, the first thing I say is: Lord, may I do your will in this day. That little declaration changes things. Trust me.
- Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us – Forgiveness lies at the heart of Jesus’ prayer. No true prayer can come from an unforgiving heart, just as no true worship can happen without forgiveness (Matt. 5:23). This is key, and Jesus wants to make sure we get it, so he comes back to forgiveness at the end of his prayer:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is hard. I would never tell anyone to forgive before their ready. But it’s also essential. A couple of years ago, I had to make something right with someone. I called them up and asked for forgiveness. It was one of the toughest calls I’ve ever made, but I felt like God was urging me on, and if I didn’t listen to him on this, God would sort of shrug and say, If you don’t do what I ask, don’t bother asking me to lead you. If felt like my prayers were stopped up until I sought forgiveness. So I made the call.
So where are you at? Maybe it’s time to let the Our Father wend its way down along the canyons of your heart.