Teach us to pray 3/4- the Lord's prayer and why it should not be discarded.
Updated: Jun 13
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you!" (Mt 7:7)
"14 But we exhort you: rebuke the careless, comfort the fainthearted, bear with the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil, but always pursue good for one another and for everyone. 16 Be joyful always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 be thankful in all things; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophetic speech. 21 But test everything, and keep what is good. 22 Avoid evil in every form. 23 But he, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through, and keep your spirit and soul and body whole, blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he who calls you; he will do it." ( 1 Thess 5:17ff)
"Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with frankness, that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help! (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; Heb 10:19)"
My dear friends, dear women of God,
sometimes we struggle for words when we pray-at least that's how I feel.
It is by no means that praying always comes easy to me.
Sometimes things happen that go so deep that words fail me, and even when I know then that it is good to run to Jesus, that it is blessing and clarifying and nurturing, and I never leave a prayer time as confused and sad as I started it, words are sometimes hard to find. These are then sighing times of prayer, which also already find their end with the desperate, sometimes also touched: "Jesus...".
In such phases it is also difficult for me to deal with all the requests that come to me. "Pray for...pray for...can you please pray for me? " "No, I can't...somehow. Right now I want to calm down, I want or need to take care of a thousand things, right now...I don't know. "
When the disciples asked Jesus if he could teach them to pray, he gave them what is called a supplication. A few lines.
We read it, and we often lack the right association. The words stir little in us, and in addition to that, we all, all have a certain "rattle off" in the back of our minds, as with the Apostles' Creed, as (unfortunately often!) with Psalm 23, memorized but little internalized.
All these words of Jesus, however, are full of life. "The letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive, " - that's what Paul says, and in no prayer are we more in danger of reciting dead words.
But what do they contain? And why are these words, these petitions that Jesus gives us?
I've needed a whole new approach to learn to see the Lord's Prayer from a different perspective, and it's really a salvation for me now when my own words fall short, stick to the ceiling, or seem to always revolve around myself because I have no spare capacity, as I'd say.
A few of them I would like to share with you and hope they bless you.
"Our Father, who ⟨you are⟩ in the heavens" (Matt. 6:9a, Elb.)
There are many interpretations of Abba that say that this was an impertinent revelation, that Jesus applied this belittling form that little children applied to their "daddy."
This is a most double-edged sword. For it is true that little children say Abba in Aramaic when they learn to address their father, and it speaks to a close bond. But it does not mean "Dear Daddy!". It means, we know today, "Oh, Father!" - and that has several meanings:
First, of course, there is the personal relationship with God. Father is always an intimate word, a word of trust. It expresses that you belong to the family, that you share the same blood, that you are "the apple that does not fall far from the tree."
But father in the Middle Eastern context and also in the Jewish sense is much more than just the needy dad who reads the child's every wish from his lips:
Abba is also what students say to respecters and teachers. It is a word that reflects a master-disciple relationship, full of respect and esteem.
Abba also means: identity giver, board of directors, "master of the house." The father of a house that in Jesus' time and (in the Middle East often until today) was much larger and more comprehensive than our nuclear families today, included the duty of care for all who belonged to him, served him, worked for him, he was the final authority in all crucial matters, the one who had the place of honor at the table, the one who provided, loved, protected, decided, instructed, taught, allocated - the one who owned everything, who disposed of it freely and was accountable to no one. He expected respect, and he gave love, kindness and warm-heartedness, which we Western Europeans often have not internalized so much. He encouraged, but he also expected- loyalty, faithfulness, dedication- and that work be done FOR his house, not AGAINST his house.
When Jesus says, "Our Father who art in the heavens"-he is saying, "Our Head, our Papa, our Provider, our Principal, our Home Giver, our ...Padre. And he says, "Who art both near and far from us."
"Hallowed be your name" (Mt 6:9b, Elb.)
For me it was an eye-opener when I read in a book by Kenneth E. Bailey the true meaning of this phrase, for his reasoning was so logical that I could not escape it.
"When", Bailey asked, "must a name that IS sacred; BE made sacred?"
Well, when it is not respected. Not where he is exalted, and the one who is holy does not need to have his name made holy! No, it is about something else here:
It is the urgent appeal that God may please bring his own name to honor, in situations where we trust in him, but do not see that his will is also done.
That he may transform the impossible into the possible, that he may give victory in distress, (as for example with Gideon), that he may conquer in a way that does not make it possible to attribute this victory to someone else, to oneself, to a hero. Hallowed be YOUR name. Without a doubt.
"Make yourself known. Show us your victory!" Makes much more sense, doesn't it?
"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10a, Elb.)
May your name, God, be magnified. May you establish the kingdom of peace. May your good orders and blessings flood this land, this earth! May your kingdom of love and care displace everything else, destroy the kingdom of darkness.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Mt 6:10b Elb.)
Although often picked apart, this passage indispensably belongs together.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In heaven, God's will is never in question. "Everyone listens to His command," so to speak. Nothing and no one opposes or does "his own thing" - and the last ones who did were expelled from heaven. All...three. The serpent, Adam and Eve. Everything happens permeated by God's orders and will. It is total trust, and no one thinks of questioning, undermining or reinterpreting His will.
"May your will be lived out on earth just as it is lived out in heaven. May we walk in your ways, may we live your love, and be willingly led."
This is the first part of the petitions. Then a change of focus happens:
It's about- us.
This is totally important- because it is often over-read in a time of individualism and self-centeredness. US- it means ALL who belong to God. It is an expression of belonging, and it is not about me alone, but about all who belong to God- worldwide. Sure, I am part of the whole, and as such I am seen, and known by name, which means: God does not overlook me! But...it is about community, sharing, unity among all of us.
The beauty of the Lord's prayer is: the petitions that come now: They cover every single petition that a believer can say. When you say the Lord's prayer, and you are aware of it, you include all the petitions that come to you:
"Give us this day our daily bread" (Mt 6:11a Elb.).
This passage is not at all as clear as we read it.
Translations of "today" vary widely and are hotly debated. There is the translation option, "The bread that never runs out"-which would be a reference to the flour and oil that never runs out, the multiplication of bread, the perpetual supply. God is not stingy!
Bread-it is essential and so sacred, so precious in the Middle East, that pieces of bread that land on the ground are collected and placed on walls so that if someone is hungry, they can eat it. Bread is part of every meal, it is taken to wipe out plates and bowls, it nourishes, it is always present.
Give us all, all your children, the bread that never runs out- secular: provide us with what we need to live, spiritual: feed us with your words until we are full, spiritual: give us the body of Christ so that we can have unity with you.
"and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt 6:12 Elb.).
We all fail so often: we do not give the good we could give- out of fear, pride, out of arrogance, anger, out of bitterness, greed, out of lack consciousness. We are not good at sharing - and so we sin against each other.
Our control mechanisms and protective walls- often they are built of barbed wire and we give electric shocks instead of love, we attack, we are thoughtlessly cruel, we hurt each other, condemn each other instead of uplifting, nourishing and carrying each other. Our weapons are sharp and forgiveness is needed by all of us, so we must forgive daily where we hurt others or did not do the good that is in our hands. Our guilt: the guilt of all of us.
"Let guilt be forgiven, Father. We have forgiven all who have been guilty of us, so that you may forgive us. "
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!" (Mt 6:13 Elb.)
Again, for me, it needed an aspect that would make it clearer:
For God- he does not lead into temptation!
But a good shepherd, he does not lead to destruction. Lead us safely! " though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23).
Be faithful to us! Go safely ahead of us! Deliver and save us from the evil one! Drive him out with your shepherd's staff, with your weapon, for we cannot defend ourselves!"
It is an invocation of the Good Shepherd that we find here, who guides us, leads us, defends us, secures us and protects us even on difficult paths.
Lead us safely, Lord!
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Forever and ever! Amen." (Addition, later.)
For we confess thee! For we exalt thee! For we believe in you! We believe that you are eternal ruler, that you are the one who is the power, and who is wonderful! Beautiful, kind, or to put it casually, that you are the one who just..has it.
Amen. So be it, and we confirm that back.
No, I cannot find such a prayer outdated. It actually covers everything. The praise, the will to live in God's kingdom, worldly, spiritual and spiritual provision, forgiveness of sins and grace, right guidance and God fighting for us.
So, if you are completely at a loss for words: Pray the Lord's Prayer. Don't belabor it, but realize the beauty, scope, and all that you bring before the Father through these words, in one cry:
Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.
The Bible, Matthew 6:9 ff, Psalm 23, et al. Elberfelder Translation, quoted here from: www.bibleserver.com
Kenneth E. Bailey (ed.): The Good shepherd. A thousand-year journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament, SPCK,2015.
Kenneth E. Bailey (ed.): Jesus was not a European. Middle Eastern culture and the lifeworld of the Gospels, SCM Brockhaus 2018, pp.109-122. (English: "Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes")
Worship: Daily Bread (Official Lyric Video) - P&W Collective