Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Lord's Prayer V

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6.12
Humans are notorious for their ability to blame others. Everything is always someone else's fault. We want everything bad that ever happens to us to be the responsibility of anyone other than ourselves. "The devil made me do it." "My parents were divorced." "My co-worker didn't do his job." You probably could add to this list.

But, in his model prayer, Jesus doesn't let us off so easily. He understands that each of us people is capable of sin and very likely to do so.  We should not be pointing the finger at someone else, but owning up to our own culpability in many situations. We need to be forgiven our own sins. 

There are a couple of more things for us to realize, however. First of all, depending on which gospel you are reading and which translation of the Bible you are using, this verse is translated as debts, trespasses and sins. Each of us has to deal with our sins. We might call our sins by other names to try and make ourselves feel better and look better to others. We will convince ourselves that we have made mistakes, gotten off the path or simply need to make a course correction. But its all sin. And we are all guilty (Romans 3.23).

Secondly, our personal forgiveness seems to be tied to our willingness to forgive others. Humans have a tremendous capacity to hold a grudge. Here is a word of advice: Get over it! The only way that you can live a fulfilling, fruitful and peaceful life is to forgive those who have wronged you. 

Forgive, and be forgiven.

Prayer: I am sorry, God, for all the things that I have done that are not pleasing to you. Forgive me. Allow me to know your grace and peace. May I be willing and able to forgive others, according to your word and your love.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lord's Prayer III

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6.10
Here is a pet peeve of mine: When we recite the Lord's Prayer aloud in worship, we create a misconception. We say the prayer like this is two different ideas. We typically get into a rhythm. There is a certain cadence with which we say the prayer. We say:

Your will be done...
On earth as it is in heaven.

Unfortunately, that would lead us to believe that  we should pray for God's will, and that we should pray that earth should be like heaven. Those are both good and noble objectives for prayer, but what Jesus is asking us to do is much more simple- and much more difficult.

It is simple because we are to pray that since God's will is always done in heaven, it should be done on earth as well. This is a perfect corollary to the previous part of the prayer. When God's Kingdom is manifest fully it will be inevitable that his will will be done. 

It is difficult because of the tremendous burden that this puts on us followers of Jesus. We must always be looking for God's will. This means that we should be praying over each decision that we make, even the most simple and mundane. To be a follower of Christ, to pray in the way that he has taught us, means that we pray for God's will in every situation.

What would Jesus do?
Prayer: Jesus, we do not always understand your will, but we long for it. We do not always appreciate your will, but we want it. Help us to know what your desires are for us and give us the courage to live according to your plan. Amen.  

Lord's Prayer IV

Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6.11
In their wilderness journeys the Israelites collected manna each day. They could only collect enough manna for today. They were prohibited from stockpiling it. In fact, if they collected more than they needed for one day, the surplus manna would get rotten and be infested with maggots. Jesus' instruction on prayer recalls that time and that dependence on God.

There are two things that we should especially note here.

1. God will take care of us for today. We are not promised anything more. Each day we are to go to God with our needs. If we take this seriously we need to be in prayer each day. You and I may get frustrated by not knowing God's long-range plan for our lives. We might get discouraged or feel as though we are getting nowhere when we have to ask for help over and over. But remember, he does provide enough. Always. 

2. You and I are required to recognize our dependence on God. The natural state of humanity is to exercise independence and make our own decisions. We want  to be on our own all the time. But here Jesus encourages us to remember that we are children of the Father. Like the children of any parent, we need to always be mindful that we need God for everything. He is not just a source of encouragement and comfort when we are in need. Everything we have, all that we know, comes from him. We need God and his work in our lives and world for everything.

This is not a nice prayer for food. It is not grace before a meal. This is nothing less than a declaration that we make affirming our faith and relationship to God.
Prayer: Lord, be with us today. Don't let us be discouraged about the future. Help us get through this circumstance. Give us an answer for today's problem. Then remind us that we always need you. Help us to depend on you for every part of our lives.  Amen.