After having been at an Evangelical church for 35 years, it’s quite the novelty to be in a mainstream denomination again. I was raised Methodist, but for some reason, it all seems new and makes me ponder things in a different way…
At this new church, the service is very, um, structured. Like it’s the exact same things in the exact same order every single week. Of course the songs are different, and the (20-minute!!!) sermon is different, but other than that, it goes the same every time. Maybe that’s why it’s called the “order” of worship? I’m guessing this is why I can feel the timelessness of the Christian faith while I’m at this church… completing the same rituals, over and over…
Anyway, one of the things that’s ALWAYS a part of the agenda—and the thing that has me thinking right now—is the Lord’s Prayer. You know:
It’s how Jesus recommended we talk to God. Simply—hitting all the basics—praising God, praying for the world, asking for food, forgiveness and to be spared from sin and evil…
It’s in the Bible twice, and if you read it in context, you get two different angles. In the Luke 11 version, the disciples ask Him to teach them to pray, and He gives them an outline of WHAT to pray for. Then he sort of says that God is waiting around to hear and answer prayer. He says,
“As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 GNT)
|Ask for bread—get CAKE!
Which is interesting… because the prayer He taught them didn’t say, “Give us the Holy Spirit”… did it? Maybe… if He gives us the Holy Spirit, we can live out the world described in the Lord’s Prayer? And voila! Prayer answered!
Or maybe… food and such are things it doesn’t hurt to ask for, but the Holy Spirit is what we NEED, and it’s an even better answer!! Like we’re asking for bread, but He knows we need—and gives us—CAKE! In Matthew, He says,
“...be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.”
I notice that asking for bread is just one line in the prayer and the rest is spiritual stuff, so maybe He's trying to give us perspective. Sure, ask for bread, but don't forget what's REALLY at stake here.
And in Matthew’s version of the prayer, it’s in the context of teaching HOW to pray—attitude-wise. Like, don’t be a show-off, don’t spew out tons of words… Be private, be short and sweet:
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.
“When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-9)
It’s funny that here Jesus says God already knows what we want… but in Luke, He says, ask away! Maybe He just wants to chat? To hang out with us? Maybe when we pray we acknowledge where all the things come from?
Another thing I notice here is that He tells us it’s a private matter, but the prayer itself is PLURAL! OUR Father, give US, forgive US, lead US not… So we’re supposed to pray for everyone, but … by ourselves?
I wonder why somewhere in church history someone decided that we should all say it together? Maybe it’s just a bigger version of the disciples sitting around praying together back at the beginning of the church?
Maybe it isn’t at all like “praying loudly on the street corners” for all to see… When we do it at our church, everybody’s just being kind of humble and looking down and mumbling it. Not in a reluctant “I don’t care” way—but in a more reflective, thinking about it way. No one’s acting all hammy to call attention to themselves.
Again, I have no idea what any of this is all about or if I’ve said anything new or true. Just kicking some stuff around in my noggin. I supposed I could have googled it before I put it out there, but where’s the fun in that?