I love antiques and artifacts. I love going to museums and experiencing their artifacts. I feel tangibly closer to dinosaurs or mummies, to van Gogh or Van Eyck, when in a museum. I love old books and how they smell and their sturdy yellow pages and the fact that they connect me with the truth and lives of the past that are still meaningful today.
And so I read with fascination the archeological discoveries of the Holy Land. Very recently, an archeologist thinks he and his team have discovered Herod’s Temple (maybe). Several years ago, someone believes they discovered one small object from Solomon’s Temple, and not too long ago the ossuary [box to hold bones] of St. James was found (probably not).
But look what I discovered today! It’s an artifact that’s been lying around for you and me to discover every day, and it’s one of the most priceless artifacts of all: the Lord’s Prayer. Forget about the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, which we’d probably make into an idol anyway: they’re both dead objects. But in the Lord’s Prayer, we have something very living and active and powerful, full of more power and glory than streamed from the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones movies.
When you pray this, the prayer of the Lord, you are standing on hallowed ground. You have come to the Prayer that the saints have prayed for 2000 years and which saints across the earth are all busy praying this very day.
The Lord’s Prayer is holy, not just because the Lord gave it to us, saying “Take, do this” but also because it is the prayer that He Himself first prayed and hallowed before He gave it to us. More than just praying it, He lived it, and in the Lord’s Prayer we should therefore see Jesus Christ Himself.
Do you realize that if you pray the Lord’s Prayer once a day for 50 years, you will have prayed it 18,262 times? How can you make the most of a prayer that you pray that often? How can you keep it from becoming old? One way is to pray it in depth so that you’ll have something to remember next time and so that you can spend a life growing in the Lord with His prayer.
Let’s look at how we might pray the Prayer of the Lord with the Lord that we might receive His blessing.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.”
In praying to our Father, we come in prayer remembering who it is that we are coming before. In praying “Our Father,” we claim our right to come before Almighty God as we come before a father. And yet it is only because of Jesus Christ, the true Son, that we have this incalculable right. The Son makes us sons, too. He calls us His brother and has turned us from slaves and sinners into sons who are now heirs of God’s riches. Because of the Son, we now come to our loving Father, who is the One who created us and cares for us and comforts us and protects us and blesses us. We are to come like little children before Him, like the Son Himself, full of faith and humility.
But we have a problem in coming before the Father: he is in heaven, and we are on earth. He is as far above us as the heavens are above the earth. But Jesus came from heaven to earth as one of us; and He ascended from earth to heaven, for us. And now as the writer of Hebrews made clear, Jesus is in heaven for us. In praying “who art in heaven,” we are asking to be brought into heaven, the throne of grace, through Jesus Christ. We must come in utter humility, not demanding, but begging like the Prodigal Son for what we have no right to.
When we pray “hallowed be thy name,” we have another problem: this Father of ours is holy, and we are unholy sinners. God is a holy, consuming fire, so much so that when Uzzah reached out to try and steady the Ark of the Covenant which was being carried on a cart and was about to fall, God killed him because He dared to touch something holy that God said He could not touch. But Jesus Christ kept the name of Father holy by perfectly obeying Him. By His obedience and His holiness, we can come into the presence of the Father. And like Jesus, every time we obey the Father, we hallow Hiss name; but every time we disobey Him, we desecrate His Name.
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”
Now that we are allowed to enter into God’s presence, because of Jesus Christ, the heavenly, holy Son, we ask for the things that Jesus Christ the Son asked for while on earth and what He now asks for in heaven, at the right hand of God. What a privilege to say and to pray the same things that our holy Lord did!
He prays, and we pray with Him, that His kingdom would come. We know, from both His testimony and John the Baptist’s, that the Kingdom of Heaven is already here. We know it’s here because the King is here and in fact is ruling from heaven. And yet because we are sorrowfully aware that it is not here fully, and we groan as a result, we pray for the King and His Kingdom to come fully to all.
How does God’s kingdom come? A king’s domain is as large an area as he is able to maintain control over. God’s Kingdom, His rule, is therefore present whenever He is obeyed, whenever His will is done. Obedience to the will of the Father is the essence of prayer and our lives in His kingdom. By obedience, the Kingdom of heaven is manifested. By the Son’s perfect obedience, in becoming man, in suffering for us, and by dying as our sacrifice, He made it possible for us to also do the will of the Father. Every time you obey, God’s kingdom advances a little; but every time you disobey, His Kingdom retreats a little.
“Give us this day our daily bread”
But where shall we ever find the strength to obey, to show God’s kingdom and hallow God’s name? By asking for and receiving our daily bread. How did Jesus Christ find strength to do the will of the Father? By praying to the Father. The One who said, “My food is to do the will of the Father” therefore becomes our daily bread, and so when we pray for our daily bread, we’re not just praying for our physical food (which we should) but are also praying for Jesus Christ Himself, the bread that comes down from heaven. He is your strength to obey the will of the Father. He is your food, and your food is to obey the Father with and through Him. He is with us in every part of your life, in joys and in sufferings. Every part of the day, therefore, is your daily bread – if we receive it with thanksgiving and with Jesus Christ. Your daily bread, then, is your life: breakfast, the morning paper, work, chores, errands, recreation, relationships – it’s all your daily bread – if you live it with Jesus Christ and see it as an occasion to turn to Jesus and feed off Him.
“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
But we have a hard time eating our daily bread and obeying the will of the Father; we don’t truly want to come to Him but want to do our will – which is known as sin. But Jesus obeyed the Father for us, and now we can come to God. Through Him, we have the right to confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Jesus died to forgive us all, even though He had never sinned, and the Father forgives us only because of His obedience and sacrifice.
Therefore, after feeding off Jesus and receiving His forgiveness, we are to be like God, forgiving those who sin against us. To truly receive God’s gift of forgiveness, you must give it, becoming like Him. This is one way of eating your daily bread.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
A second way of eating your daily bread is to turn to Jesus in times of trouble. When we pray “and lead us not into temptation,” we are praying not so much that God won’t tempt us but that He will keep us safe from tribulation, which is probably a better translation of the Greek word in this context. Regardless of the kind of tribulation, even temptation, we are to turn to Jesus Christ to deliver us. He is the one who lead us out of the wilderness of Sin and into the Promised Land, for He is the true Joshua, leading His people in the true Exodus.
We ask as well that we would be delivered from evil, knowing that Jesus defeated every kind of evil: temptation, sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. One way of translating this prayer is “deliver us from the Evil One,” and Jesus knows how to do that, too, having defeated Satan not only in the wilderness of temptation but also at the Cross.
“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”
In following Jesus in all things, in praying His prayer with Him (which also means living it), we proclaim the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father. But something even more miraculous happens if we faithfully pray and live with Jesus: He allows us to share in His kingdom and power and glory. Every time you obey, you are showing that you live under the rule of the King, and you manifest His kingdom. By receiving the same Holy Spirit that came upon Jesus at His baptism and seeking His grace in all the ways He offers it, we receive His power to obey the Father and the power to make God known to others. And as we are made partakers of Jesus Christ through prayer and faith and obedience, He shares the riches of His glory with us!
To pray the Lord’s Prayer, therefore, is to be drawn into the life and kingdom of Jesus Christ Himself. It is to follow Him in all things. It is not only to pray the prayer that He gave us but also to pray the prayer that He prayed and lived.
I think it’s even possible that this prayer, the Prayer of the Lord’s, was the very prayer He made holy by praying it in the wilderness when tempted by Satan and in the Garden of Gethsemane when tempted to avoid the Cross.
So pray it faithfully with Him every day, and it will lead you to Him so that you can more faithfully follow Him. And where He leads you is to the Cross, to self-denial, to the forsaking of your sins, and to perfect obedience to the will of the Father. But where He leads you is also to the Father, where you will find the kingdom, the power, and the glory.
Prayer: (Hmmmm, I wonder what we should pray today?!)
Points for Meditation:
- Pray with the Lord’s Supper in mind: it will revolutionize the way you pray it!
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer in the garden of Gethsemane with Him, and see it come to life. Apply it to your own temptations and tribulations.
- Meditate on a different phrase from the Lord’s Prayer each day of this week.
Resolution: I resolve to pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly and meditatively throughout the day today.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson