More than a prayer

Jesus’ invitation to life this side of heaven

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What is the Lord’s Prayer to you? A prayer memorized as a child? A “go-to” prayer for when you feel inadequate? A prayer associated with liturgy or church tradition?

For me, the Lord’s Prayer was nothing but a memorized childhood prayer. As an adult, I valued the ethos of the prayer and could recite it, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the depth of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6. Since then, this prayer has become a plumb line for the Holy Spirit’s discipling process in my spiritual life.

Sara Maynard’s “Rooted Prayer” podcast and her book, The Prayer of All Prayers, helped set me on a path to allow the Lord’s Prayer to become the framework for my spiritual growth, daily setting a course for how to live. Let me explain, verse by verse, how I have tried to incorporate the rhythms of the Lord’s Prayer into each day.

A framework for daily life

The prayer starts with “Hallowed be your name.” This phrase causes me to see my need to prioritize worship each morning before I see the news or social media. When I start my day with worship, everything comes into perspective, and regardless of how good or bad the day is, I can rest assured that the holiness of God never changes.

I love that God’s story is a story of bringing heaven to earth through redemption. A reminder that, in the end, all things will be redeemed—heaven and earth, creation and God’s people. I’ve read the end of the book and I know that before we see that redemption in its fullness, things will get worse here on earth. But the Lord’s Prayer causes a growing desire in me to be someone who helps the redemptive kingdom break out wherever I go.

I look for opportunities to plant seeds of his grace and love and to join in what Jesus is doing around me. I can’t fix the whole world or even the problems in my city, but when I pray “thy kingdom come,” it reminds me to sow seeds of “heaven” in my spheres of influence.

What about praying, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Many of us are privileged to not have to struggle with our felt needs. For that we are so very grateful. But seeing God as my first source for financial, physical, emotional or spiritual provision has been a journey. To be honest, I’m quite independent and often capable of managing the problems that pop up day to day. I find that money, a problem-solving mindset and a 21st century desire for an instant answer gets in the way of going to God first with my needs.

I’m still growing in this discipline, and on mission trips, when I connect with people in underdeveloped countries who find joy and peace despite their lack of resources, I’m convicted by how they go to God first. Would I have that attitude if I lived in those same circumstances? I don’t know. I try to embrace a faith that God will provide and that I can trust how and when he will do so. I know God will care for me. The question is not how much he cares but how much I trust in his care.

Forgiveness is a complex issue, and I sometimes wonder if I understand the depth of it. One of the exercises that has been helpful to me is to ask: What are the ways I can describe God’s forgiveness? It is a complete forgiveness, given over and over. This forgiveness removes our sin, as the psalmist says, “as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). It is immediate, given before we ask, given while we were still enemies, generous and merciful.

One of the questions we can ask ourselves is if God forgives us this way, how should we forgive others? What would happen if our churches were known for being places where people found freedom from shame or condemnation thanks to forgiveness? Could we be known for allowing those far from God to belong to our church family even before they believe or learn to behave like Christ-followers instead of asking them to behave and believe before they can belong? Is it possible to live in the unity Jesus prays for in John 17 without forgiveness?

The only way I know to approach the relational tensions of life is through forgiveness. The best part about forgiving someone is that I don’t have to carry grudges or hurts that I’m not meant to carry.

And don’t let us yield to temptation but rescue us from the evil one.” The final verse of this prayer reminds me to be careful not to let temptations become footholds in my life that, if left unaddressed, can grow into strongholds. It’s a constant reminder that with every temptation, God is always there to rescue me.

We are in a battle against the enemy but someday we will be victorious. Remember the call at the beginning of the prayer to worship our Father? When our eyes are focused on the holiness of God and as we pray “the kingdom, power, and glory are yours forever. Amen,” those temptations and desires tend to pale.

A template for communities

This prayer is a framework for how we live out our faith, but it is also an amazing template for community. We can unite around God’s holiness, working together to be churches where people can experience a bit of heaven. Rather than leading from human wisdom, we are reminded to seek the Spirit’s leadership daily as our primary source of guidance.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need others to help me forgive myself and others; I need help finding freedom from shame and judgment. And as for temptation and the battle we fight against evil—an army is always stronger than an individual. We are surrounded by people who can go to battle for us on their knees. What a beautiful picture of corporate life when we live out the Lord’s Prayer.

As part of my journey to let this prayer sink deeply into my soul, I’ve used the Lord’s Prayer app (lordsprayer.app). Along with other believers in my city and state, we pray together for one of the seven themes each day using multiple Scriptures. What do you suppose happens when Baptists, Methodists, Assemblies of God, Catholics, Mennonites and non-denominational believers join to pray for God’s name to be holy and for God’s kingdom to break out on earth as it is in heaven? In a deeply divided culture, this prayer gives us guidelines for how to walk in relationship with others we might not always agree with. Praying this prayer together has deepened the relationships between churches in our city and state.

As you read the following articles, I hope you will see that this prayer is more than something we memorize as children. It is, in fact, how Jesus invites us to live this side of heaven.

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