There is one prayer that can never be repeated too often. It’s so simple a young child can learn it but so profound that only those who have surrendered their hearts to God can confess it with sincerity. Through this prayer, we affirm God’s fatherhood, our sonship, and His holiness. We bow before Him in submission to His will, asking for his blessed kingdom to come to earth and for His will to be done on earth. We acknowledge our dependence on Him for the most basic of our needs and ask for His forgiveness based on our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us and are indebted to us. We ask for relief from temptation and deliverance from evil. We confess these truths as self evident: God is the rightful king of the world; all power belongs to Him; all glory is and ever will be His. In this we rest content and live at peace.
This was our Lord Jesus’s prayer, and this is now our prayer! There are no end of reflections that could be made on this prayer. It is a model for us. Do we need to repeat it word for word? No, but why not? Was it intended as a model for what we should be praying for? Yes, but it also encapsulates all that we usually fret about, and all our needs are subsumed under this rainbow. It expresses our faith in God and our eagerness to see His perfect will accomplished. In this simple prayer, all of our material needs are reduced to the only thing we really need for continuing life: sustenance.
Years ago, I worked with a group of people bringing Bibles to believers in China. Many of the Chinese Christians were severely persecuted, and most suffered deprivation for their faith, as they were discriminated against by the Communist Party. Above all else, I was moved by one of the songs they sang, which said they didn’t need any bread but the manna from heaven (the Bible). It isn’t a song we sing in America, so I don’t even know how to share the lyrics with you, but the message always brought tears to my eyes. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Oh, to be so focused on the Word of God as that which nourishes our souls! Is it even more critical to our existence than physical bread? Do we treasure the Bible above any other earthly possession?
And, what about forgiveness? My sister sent me this bit of tongue-in-cheek wisdom from Orlando: “A happy home is one in which each spouse grants the possibility that the other may be right, though neither believes it.” Or, how about this rather pompous thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To be great is to be misunderstood.” I suspect most of the time, we’re not 100% in the right, but even when we are, God calls us to forgive. That’s one of the hardest things we’re ever asked to do, because we have to absorb the shock of injury and suffering at the hands of another person. But, that’s what Jesus did for us, and that’s what He wants us to give others as a gift of love from God through us to them. Mercy. Help us to be merciful!
What about this one? “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This isn’t just about keeping us from getting shot when we’re innocently walking down the street. It isn’t only about helping free us from addictions that enslave us and make us miserable. It’s also about resisting that delectable piece of pie that we don’t need after we’ve already eaten an excellent dinner and are full. It’s about avoiding the mall when we don’t need a new blouse. It’s about cooking dinner at home when we’d rather eat out. It’s about visiting the sick or grieved when we’d rather sit at home because we’re tired. It’s about living out the life of Christ when we’d rather indulge ourselves. Are we willing?
What an amazing prayer! Have you learned it? Do you repeat it at church or before you get up in the morning? The prayer our Lord taught us to pray gets right to the heart of who God is, who we are, and what we really need. It’s worth repeating!!
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Combining Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. )
(Photo of painting by Yongsung Kim used by permission of Havenlight.com.)