Readings: Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14; Psalm 117; Luke 11:1-4
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ - Luke 11:1-4
The Lord’s Prayer is likely to be a familiar text to us all. However, In our readings today we come across a shorter version in Luke’s gospel than we may be accustomed to. When a piece of scripture is so familiar to us it is possible we can begin to glance over it so for our reflection this week we are going to break down the prayer and explore each phrase in turn.
Father, hallowed be your name
Immediately we are drawn into a personal closeness to God with the way we are taught to pray. Jesus teaches us our prayers are to be addressed to our Father. For us to address our prayers and communicate with our Father, traditionally, would mean intimacy with the one we are communicating with. This frames the way we address our prayers.
What does it mean by ‘hallowed be your name?’ This is not the language we commonly use today. To hallow something, in the simplest definition, is to make it holy. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to make his own name holy for each one of us. How can we then express and keep God’s name Holy?
Trying to keep God’s name holy does not have to be complicated. There are things we can avoid that will assist us in this such as not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Personally, I can find it quite frustrating when people use phrases like ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ as curses or exclamations of disbelief. I want to rebuke them and ask them to not use God’s name in this way.
Your Kingdom Come
Here we remember that God’s kingdom comes to us - sometimes in surprising ways. After all, God came to us unexpectedly as the baby Jesus. This is at the heart of the Gospel which we believe. God doesn’t just ask us to draw near to him, but he himself draws near to us. When we pray “your kingdom come” we invite God to be present in our lives in a profound and very real way. Some people today tend to think of God as being some kind of abstract being or an idea which is somehow “out there” and has nothing to do with our lives. But the Christian hope Jesus is teaching us to pray about is that when we pray, God’s kingdom draws near to us and lives in us by his Holy Spirit.
As we pray ‘your kingdom come’ may we be listening and trusting God will guide us in ways we can facilitate God’s kingdom here among us.
Give us each day our daily bread
I wonder how many of us know of, or have experienced for ourselves, someone who is struggling to have the daily necessities of life? I wonder how many of us take for granted the daily essentials we do have access to?
Personally, I can often glance over this part of the Lord’s Prayer and pray it as an act of “lip service”. I have never had a time where I have been without the daily essentials. When I was a student or interning, There have been times where the comforts were reduced or finances were tighter. However, I knew that one phone call or message to my parents would alleviate this pressure. I wasn’t alone in having to support myself. Did I ever truly trust God or seek God for the extra provision? I would love to be able to say yes. Unfortunately, my first port of call was the bank of mum and dad.
In the Old Testament, during the Exodus, they literally had to trust God for their daily bread. Without God’s provision, they had nothing. In a world where most of us are fortunate enough to have provision for the next day, and usually multiple days, how do we seek and trust God for the provision of our daily bread?
We often lose sight of the things we have in our lives or how we came to receive them. The food and provision we have come as a result of the pay from the jobs we have. The jobs we have come as a result of the skills we have. The skills we have come from the creator God who made each of us the way we are giving us our gifts and talents. If we trace it back, our daily provision comes from God. I encourage that we remember this each time we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread.’
Forgive our sins as we forgive others
How difficult do you find it to forgive others? How difficult do you find it to receive forgiveness?
Personally, forgiveness is one of the hardest parts of the Lord’s Prayer to accept and to enact. I am prepared to admit that there are times when I hold grudges. This is not always because I want to but often because I don’t always know how to let go and to forgive. However, sometimes, I can actually find it harder to receive forgiveness than to be the one to forgive. I wonder if you can relate to this?
When it comes to God’s relationship with us, one of the hardest things for us to accept can be forgiveness. We know we have wronged God. We can often feel like we can and should do better. God’s forgiveness, however, is not dependent upon what we do to earn it. This can be difficult to accept.
Does this mean God only forgives us if and when we forgive those who have done wrong by us? I don’t believe that is the case. When we forgive others we see the best in them and we try to see that whatever happened has happened and it is time to move on and let go of the hurt. When you next pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer, I would encourage you to think of it as praying that God will forgive you and see the best in you regardless of anything you may have done. I encourage us to see praying this as asking for God’s help in unconditionally forgiving anyone we may need to forgive because God has forgiven us.
Do not bring us to a time of trial
How many of us have heard the age old question: ‘Why does God allow suffering?’
Here in the Lord’s prayer we ask God not to lead us into the time of trial. Trials, by their very nature, are difficult and we all seek to avoid them. Unfortunately, as much as we all might try, we cannot always avoid times of trial in our lives. When we pray here, we petition God that the times of trial are not brought about by God leading us into them.
There is an important distinction we all need to remember, something being permissible by someone does not mean it is caused by them. For suffering, for example, just because suffering happens does not mean God allows or permits it. Suffering is not caused by God but God will use the trial for our learning development and as a time for us to be dependent upon God. Other Gospels, which have longer versions of the Lord’s Prayer, go on to petition that we be delivered from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). This part of the prayer, I believe, is to help remind us regularly God doesn’t lead us into the trials but that God will deliver us from the evil one who does lead us into trials and temptations.
As we face the week ahead, I would like to challenge us all to commit to praying the Lord’s prayer daily. As we do, let us pause on each phrase and take the time to allow God to speak to us, enlightening us on what it means to us.