Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Luke describes Jesus in prayer, as he often was, when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray as well. It might seem an odd request, as prayer was routinely engaged in throughout the day by most Jews; some repeated out of habit, some heart felt and designed for the moment. But these men had heard that John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray, possibly in a more spontaneous/effective way and desired the same from their rabbi.
Jesus taught them what became known as the Lord’s Prayer, arguably the most important Christian prayer we possess as it was given specifically to us by Christ; who said “When you pray, say…” Luke 11:1,2Or as Matthew remembered it, “This then, is how you should pray…” Matthew 6:9; after noting a number of ways in which they should not. Jesus prayed routinely, sometimes alone – at other times with his disciples. A few others are recorded, but nowhere else does he say, ‘This is how it should be done.’ As such, it embodied a call to action, an example of how to live a life of character and faith.
“Each of its six petitions (five given by the Lord, one added by the early church) reflect major themes from Jesus’ life and ministry.”1Which can can/should by mirrored in the lives of those who follow his “Way.” Genuine prayer becoming less about asking God to do something than opening ourselves to God’s will; although there is nothing wrong in seeking his blessing and assistance, as long as we’re prepared to accept his answer – whichever way it goes.
This prayer is full of imperatives; hallowed be your name, your kingdom come and will be done, give us bread – daily, and forgive us – as we forgive, lead us, deliver us. Focusing our minds and opening our hearts to God makes us a part of the answer. What the early church described as Ora et Le Bora – pray and work.
The name/title Yahweh appears over six thousand times in the Old Testament, other names used to describe him are El (God), El Elyon (God Most High), El Shaddai (God Almighty), and Adonai (Lord). In the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray, he encourages us to address him as our Father, as he sets the example for what a father is meant to be; first and foremost present in our lives – with expectations tempered by love, kindness, and compassion. Someone we are “born” of or “born again” in Christ Jesus. ( Genesis 1:27 & 1 Peter 1:23)
“Hallowed be thy name” can be understood as a request for God to hallow/sanctify his name, causing us to revere or be in awe of the being the name represents. When we recognize him as set apart, unique and holy, we invite him to use us as a means of hallowing his name; done through the praise, respect and honor we express for him – more pointedly by the way we reflect his goodness and love. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” is a central theme, not only of this prayer, but of Jesus’ ministry. Succinctly expressed as, not my or mine but Thy and Thine.2 Which is the essence of what it means to call Jesus Lord. This petition changes our focus from just escaping the travails of earth or the punishment of hell to experiencing a taste of heaven in the here-and-now, rejoicing that God’s kingdom is already and not yet – similar to our being saints and sinners – the kingdom is among us even as it is still to come. In praying this prayer, we ask God to make our world what it was intended to be in the beginning, even as he takes its imperfections – and our sins – and redeems them, forcing good from evil.
1From Adam Hamilton’s The Lord’s Prayer – The Meaning and Power of the Prayer Jesus Taught ; Abingdon Publishing
Check back next week for more on the significance of the Lord’s Prayer.
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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