When His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, Jesus responded with a model prayer that I find myself coming back to again and again in my own prayer life.
I memorized Matthew 6:9-13 long before I was converted. It was part of the faith tradition in which I was raised. I’m glad it was.
If you’ve never memorized what we call The Lord’s Prayer, make that your first resolution for 2021. And if your kids don’t have it memorized, pay then $5 to learn it. Every one of us should have this pattern for prayer hidden away in our hearts.
As I was thinking about the Lord’s Prayer this week, I found myself thinking like Screwtape, the fictional senior demon whose missives makes up CS Lewis’s classic work The Screwtape Letters. I thought to myself “how would Screwtape teach us to pray?”
I suspect it would come out something like this:
Our Oppressor who likely doesn’t really exist,
Insignificant and trivial be your name
May your kingdom remain clouded,
May your will be ignored on earth,
Not slavishly obeyed as it is in heaven.
Give us this day the smug satisfaction of our own self-sufficiency,
And minimize the significance of our trespasses
As we cling to the bitter remembrances of those who have wronged us, demanding justice be done.
Lead us wherever it is we want to go,
And deliver us from any consequences for our actions.
For you are ultimately nothing more than a figment of our imagination, a delusion, the product of the wish fulfillment of weak men who fear their own mortality.
I hope your found that prayer as awful as I did as I was writing it. To even express such a thing in any setting, much less in a church newsletter, gives me pause.
So why am I sending such blasphemy to you at the dawn of a new year? Or at any time, for that matter?
Because I fear that the sentiments expressed in that prayer are too often my true sentiments when it comes to my walk with God.
Think through this for a minute with me.
Are you, like me, sometimes prone to see God’s will for your life as restrictive or oppressive, instead of seeing Him as a loving and gracious Father?
Can you, like me, easily go about the affairs of your day without being mindful of Him and His purposes for your life? In my own life, God is too often an afterthought, unimportant and inconsequential. His Kingdom and His purposes are frequently secondary to my own kingdom and my own purposes for my life.
Can you relate?
I am prone to see obedience to Him as optional. I think I know what’s best for me. I’m guessing you might occasionally think that way too.
I go through many days resting in my own resources, and turning to God only when my own resources run out.
I can tend to think my own sins are justified and understandable while the sins of others against me are outrageous and extreme.
I find myself too ready to follow the acceptable patterns of the culture, regardless of what the scriptures teach. Or more often perhaps, I look for novel ways to adjust the biblical text to support the more culturally tolerable position.
I want what I want. And I want to be shielded from what I think of as undeserved consequences for any of my actions.
After all, can I really be sure God even exists?
It’s because we are all bent toward ignoring or dismissing God than to honor and obey Him that we need to come back again and again to the pattern of prayer Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a prayer that we need to renew our own minds.
I need the Lord’s Prayer to continue to reshape my own life and my priorities for the year ahead. I’m guessing you do as well.
My meditation on the Lord’s Prayer this week is connected to what we’ll be looking at as we gather for worship this week. I want us to think about the reality of the invisible war that is going on all around us all the time. So before we turn back to John’s gospel, we’ll take a few weeks to look at Ephesians 6:10-18 and explore what the Bible tells us about the nature of spiritual warfare.
With that in mind, here’s a challenge for each us. Take three minutes and thirty seconds every day in January and read aloud the nine verses we’ll be studying together (I timed it. It takes less than four minutes). Here’s the passage:
Three times, in one sitting. Out loud. Every day for 31 days. Let’s make that our pattern as we focus on what this passage has for us as we begin a new year.
See you (in person or on line) Sunday!
Soli Deo Gloria!