July 24, 2016
“Teach us to pray.” This request of the disciples would have been understandable in 1
century Palestine. In Judaism, there were many rabbis who attracted followers. One of the ways to identify oneself as a disciple of a certain teacher was to pray a prayer that was unique to that teacher. So, the followers of Jesus were quite normal in their request. However, there is much more here. In the previous chapter, we find Jesus praying to God and calling him Father. The term that he used and was held deeply by his followers, St. Paul is one, was a term of intimacy, “Abba.” It was kind of like saying, “daddy.” Jesus prayed and revealed his relationship to God; who is his own proper Father. In his prayer, he acknowledges that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Now, Jesus will reveal God to them by they way they pray.
Luke gives us the words of Jesus, which are probably as close to the original words of Jesus as any. We first note that the prayer does not have any pronouns, these come in later addition. The pronoun is always the 1
person plural, us, our, etc. In other words, this prayer is a communal prayer, not simply a private one. It speaks of the identity of those who pray it. Those who pray this prayer are part of a community, the Body of Christ, the Church. It is also a personal prayer, but its full significance is as a communal one. It is a prayer of petition that in asking, defines who the person who prays is. First, God is our Father, just as he is the Father of Jesus. Faith, discipleship in Jesus gives us his very identity before God the Father. We pray that his name be hallowed. Of ourselves we can add nothing to God, but when God’s holiness is present in us, his name, his very self is shown to others. Because his name is hallowed, his kingdom is likewise present. A kingdom is a realm where the will of the king is law. The kingdom of God is present to us when we strive to place the will of God above our own. Because we do this, we recognize that all we have comes from God. We do our own work in the world and prosper by the work of our hands, but we could not do this if we had not first received from God. If God is not hallowed in your life, then you can’t recognize this.
Recognizing our utter dependence upon God, we can ask for our daily bread. This is not simply food, but all that we need to sustain our lives. We then recognize that before God, we cannot stand justified. Our sins make us unworthy from God and so we boldly ask God to forgive our sins, to make us just in his sight. We can only do this if we show the same mercy to others. This does not mean we dismiss what others may justly owe us, but it means that in mercy, we release others when they cannot meet the demands of justice. Finally, we ask that we not be subjected to the final test. Building on the previous petitions, we recognize that God is in control of all and we ask that nothing separate us from him and that which threatens our existence. The following passages, show the attitude necessary to pray this prayer; we must be persistent and bold in making our prayer, truly confident that God will grant us what we need to fulfill our existence which is sometimes not what we want.
The Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, is a prayer that identifies who we are, children of the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. By ancient custom, this prayer is said three times a day. It reaches its full measure when we pray it together, which is why we sing it, for singing it creates a deeper sense of our unity.
Father Ken Harder