The Lord’s Prayer is a microcosm of our spiritual lives. It’s easy for it to become boring, repetitive, and stale, but for those who are laboring to see and serve the Lord, it’s always new. There is always some new way of looking at it that gives new meaning in my life. As with the spiritual life, you must first pay attention. Second, sometimes it’s wise to focus on one small part exclusively and milk it for all of its meaning and sustenance that day.
Sometimes I pray the Lord’s Prayer with reference to partaking of Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion. All of the sudden, it’s like the heavens have opened and I’m praying an entirely new prayer!
Here is another way to make the Lord’s Prayer and your life new today. We pray:
“Thy kingdom comes.”
“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
“For thine are the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.”
Often, we see the parts of the Lord’s Prayer as individual, discrete units.
But what if we saw how these parts are all connected?
What if when we prayed “Thy kingdom come” and “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” what we really meant was: “Thy kingdom will come whenever Thy will is done, on earth as it is in heaven”?
That gives us a new way of looking at the importance of Jesus Christ, His work, and the gifts that He has given us after ascending into heaven. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven that He might sit at the right hand of the Father. But the way He rules is by ruling through us. We are His kingdoms, and when we do His will – and not ours – then everyone sees not ours – and glory and kingdom.
And when we don’t do His will, then we hide and obscure His power, glory, and kingdom to people.
Another way of saying this is that Jesus became one of us not only to save us but so that He could work through us and with us. That is the meaning of the Ascension and Pentecost.
Each of you has been given gifts by God, through the work of His Holy Spirit. “When He ascended on high, He led captives in his train and gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:7 – see the following verses in that chapter as well). Among the many gifts He gave, He gave life, eternal life, and a share in His life and kingdom. He has given, as well, the gifts of teaching, evangelizing, teaching, and many, many more.
Every one of you has been given spiritual gifts – plural – by God. You may not know what they are. You may not be using them. You may think you don’t have them – but you do.
Why has God given us these gifts? One answer, of course, is that He is a loving Father and delights in giving His children presents. But in 1 Peter 4:10, He gives us another answer through the words of St. Peter: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another.” We are not to spend these gifts on ourselves but on behalf of others.
This is why God gave you His gifts: to minister them to others. God, through His gifts, has given you the opportunity to be like Him: to use who you are and what you have to minister to those outside you in love. WOW! This is why Peter is so concerned about love: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (verse 8 – see also 3:8 – “Love as brothers).
Each of you has been made a minister of God by God and for God. Each of you has been given all you need to do God’s will as a minister. God has chosen you to be made like Him, enabled and equipped to love others as He first loved others. God has chosen you to do His holy will on earth, as it is in heaven.
And so we pray, in effect: “Thy kingdom will come whenever Thy will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And God answers this prayer by giving us His gifts so that you may be His minister and do His will.
There is much work to be done in God’s kingdom and many ways to minister. There is the work of introducing people to the Father through the Son; the hard, long work of discipling or making people more faithful to God; the work of encouraging, pastoring or shepherding; the work of praying; the work of teaching; and many, many others.
What a high and joyful calling!
But what a serious one, as well.
Having been given God’s gifts so that we are enabled to be like Him and do His will, we are stewards of the grace of God (verse 10). We are keepers of the grace of God, and because by His grace He is glorified through us, we are also keepers of His glory. When we obey His will as it is obeyed in heaven, we become a part of heaven, which is His kingdom where His will is done. When we obey His will and act as His ministers, we give His gifts back to Him, giving Him the glory that is His and which He shares with us so lovingly.
This is the end of God’s gifts to us: that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever!
For God to be glorified, however, we must be faithful stewards: we must use the gifts He’s given us. To not use them is more than an insult to God -it amounts to a rejection of Him. What if a man on a date comes and brings his date chocolates, roses, and a dinner reservation – and the woman says “No” and shuts the door. That sends a pretty clear message, doesn’t it?
How much more should we receive God’s gifts with thanks – and show this thanks by using them, for which they were intended. Every dollar of the money you give to God through your local church goes to His ministry (at least I hope it does!) But every dollar you hold back from the tithe that God requires is a dollar God has given you that you aren’t using for ministry. Every dollar held back from God’s work in His Church means that something right that He has called us to do won’t get done.
In a similar way, every spiritual gift He gave to you that you don’t so use but keep for yourself means some ministry God has called us to will not get done. To horde the gifts of God, then, is to rob Him of His glory: the worst violation of the 8th commandment because it is also a violation of the 1st and 2nd commandments.
When Jesus Christ ascended, it was to give you gifts. These incredible and costly gifts were given to you so that you might minister to one another and to others in the love of the Father.
But the gifts have one catch: they are only good if they are put to use.
The greatest gift of all is life in God – to be made a participant in the very life and work and ministry of God Himself.
And the best way to show our thanks is to use these very gifts to God’s glory and to minister to His people in love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, the giver of every good and perfect gift, I give You my heart and offer my fervent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me. O Giver of all supernatural gifts, I beg You to visit me with Your grace and Your love and to grant me the gift of holy fear, so that it may act on me as a check to prevent me from falling back into my past sins, for which I beg pardon.
Grant me the gift of piety, so that I may serve You for the future with increased fervor, follow with more promptness Your holy inspirations, and observe your divine precepts with greater fidelity.
Grant me the gift of knowledge, so that I may know the things of God and, enlightened by Your holy teaching, may walk, without deviation, in the path of eternal salvation.
Grant me the gift of fortitude, so that I may overcome courageously all the assaults of the devil, and all the dangers of this world which threaten the salvation of my soul.
Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiritual advancement and may discover the wiles and snares of the tempter.
Grant me the gift of understanding, so that I may apprehend the divine mysteries and by contemplation of heavenly things detach my thoughts and affections from the vain things of this miserable world.
Grant me the gift of wisdom, so that I may rightly direct all my actions, referring them to God as my last end; so that, having loved Him and served Him in this life, I may have the happiness of possessing Him eternally in the next. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- How have I been treating the gifts of God? Have I remembered them? Have I given thanks for them? Have I labored to put them to use?
- What spiritual gifts do you have that you may not be putting to good use?
Resolution: I resolve to ask God to show me which of His many gifts He most wants me to put to use today and, having heard, to obey as the angels in heaven so that His kingdom may come.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson