The first time I ever encountered the Lord’s Prayer was on a cassette tape. Michael W. Smith put it to music on his 1995 album I’ll Lead You Home. A few months later I found it again in the small maroon bible my mom kept on her bedside table. I remember the thrill as I read the red lettered words at the beginning of Luke chapter 11. I thought to myself, “Hey, I know this.” I ran to tell my mom. “Look, Michael W. Smith is in the bible too!” My mom tried to explain artistic inspiration something or other, which was completely lost to me in my star struck hysteria. Despite my confusion, it was the first time anything in the bible made sense to me and the experience cemented this prayer in my mind for the rest of my life.
My church says this prayer together every Sunday at some point in the service. I love it. Each time we say these ancient words together it affirms our love for the Father and His love for us. This small liturgical practice weaves the words into the fiber or our hearts and our minds so when we need it most, the words are already there.
I often pray this prayer when I don’t know what to pray for others and for myself. Even though Jesus spoke it so long ago it still covers every need and every situation. It is just as relevant now as it was then. I’m so grateful that Jesus gave me the words I need before I needed them. I’m grateful that Michael W. Smith sang these words during my childhood so that they have always been with me.
This last Sunday I realized something new. The Lord’s Prayer is not just the right words to say. It is not just a lesson on how to pray. Within the Lord’s Prayer is an answer to every one of our deepest desires as human beings.
Think of it, Our Father… Don’t we all want a father we can trust? A father to turn to during the ups and downs of life? A father who will love us unconditionally? There’s a reason counselors and physiologists talk about “father power” or “daddy issues.” The influence a father has in the lives of his children is unmatched. His impact affects his children for the rest of their lives. Fathers are important and deep down we all long for that father ideal. Jesus gives us an answer to that longing: you have a Father in heaven, He is holy and therefore trustworthy and reliable. If God is your Father you are his child and He loves you as His own son or daughter with perfect love.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done… As soon as we’re 12 or 13, or maybe even younger, don’t we realize something is wrong with the world? Don’t we all wish it could be healed and right? I remember being about that age and really understanding what was being talked about on the news. I cried about how people treated each other. Middle school, that right there is a perfect microcosm of the state of interpersonal cruelty and selfishness within the world. We are longing for a world full of compassion, decency, and kindness. Jesus gives us an answer to that longing: the will of the Father is that every tear would be dried, every wrong righted, and ultimately we would be re-united with each other and with Him. The kingdom of God is the world healed and made right.
Give us this day our daily bread… Food is important. Hunger always comes back. In a way, it never leaves our experience. A lot of people struggle to keep their cupboards full or at least stocked to some degree. We work most of the day for most days in the week nearly every week of our adult lives in order to have money with which to buy food and take it home to our house where we can cook that food and eat it. There is a lot of anxiety surrounding food whether it be money issues, quality issues or health issues. We long to know and feel secure about our food and that our hunger will be filled. Jesus has an answer to that longing: ask your Father for provision. Be secure in your trust in Him. You will have the food you need for today. Tomorrow you can have fresh security in the trust you have for your Father to supply your food for the next today.
I’d like to add an emphasis to the “daily” bit of this line. There have been seasons in my life where money was tight and food was portioned carefully. We always ate, but we didn’t always have a big store of food sitting around where I could look in the pantry and clearly see the week’s meals waiting to be eaten. Sometimes it was very much a “daily bread” situation. I struggled to trust that tomorrow was in God’s hand because I couldn’t see it yet. The truth is, just because you can’t see tomorrow’s bread today does not mean that God has left you hanging. It means that today you are secure and tomorrow is not today. When the day is new and it is today, God comes through for today, again. We can trust God’s character. If He provided for today He will provide for tomorrow. In the meantime we can strengthen our faith muscle and learn to trust God more and rely on God more.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive others… We all mess up in one way or another. We all make mistakes and don’t we hope for forgiveness when we do? Don’t we all have hurts from others that we wish we could let go of and move on? It can be difficult to navigate our way through the many layered complexities of western culture. It is inevitable that we should hurt others and be hurt by others. This inevitability can turn into dysfunctional cycles that trap us and ruin our lives. Don’t we long for a way out of those cycles? Jesus gives us an answer to that longing: forgive. Through forgiveness we are able to let go of the hurts within our hearts. Sometimes we have to forgive more than once during that process, but it does lead to a closing of the wound. Not only can we forgive others but we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness for what we’ve done. Sometimes we are able to get forgiveness from the people involved as well, sometimes not, but we can always find forgiveness from God through Jesus.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us… Don’t we all struggle with something and we wish that the object of our struggle would just go away? There’s always talk of the “seedy underbelly” of society and perhaps there is, but only because there is a “seedy underbelly” side to each individual which ultimately make up the underbelly of society. We all struggle with temptation, some give in on a regular basis some give in half the time and some find a way to overcome. In my experience I can do half the time at best unless I take it to Jesus and find strength in Him. Only then can I overcome. Temptation is a basic part of the human experience, don’t we long for deliverance? Jesus has an answer to that longing: ask your Father in heaven to lead you. Take temptation out of the drivers’ seat and put God there. When God is leading us He can lead us out of temptation and into deliverance. God can deliver us from temptation and evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever… At the end of it all its worship. The kingdom of God that will bring healing and right-ness into our lives and communities is God’s kingdom. The power that will accomplish this restoration is God’s power. This plan of redemption is glorious and God is glorious for doing it. He won’t stop doing it until it is accomplished. While we’re waiting for all these things to come to pass in our time on earth, we need to worship. There is something about worship that gives us refreshment and new courage. When we worship our prayers somehow become stronger. Above all, God is worthy of all our worship. He didn’t abandon us in our brokenness. He didn’t throw us away, he made a way for us to be mended, new in Christ. After all that the Father has done and is doing for us don’t we long to thank Him? Jesus has an answer to that longing: say thank you! Worship your Father who loves you and cares for you now and forever.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are indeed taught how to pray, but more than that we were given promises. It is as if Jesus is saying to us, “I know what you need already, just ask Me. If you ask Me I will provide. Here’s what I promise to give you if you will only ask Me.” Because the words were given by Jesus I believe we have the questions and promises within the questions. The deepest longings of our hearts will be met by our Father in heaven if we will only ask Him every day.
Our Father in heaven, who art in heaven, hallowed by Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.