McFarland

Wednesday Meditation by Pastor Kelli

Light a candle

Read Matthew 6:9-13

Prayer Practice: The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is familiar, comforting, and powerful prayer.  We recite it during every worship service and it is frequently a part of our own prayer lives.  For most of us, it is easier to recall than our own phone number.  It is as familiar to us as our breath.  I thought a prayer this close and reliable might be worth a little exploration.

It’s helpful to remember that Jesus himself taught us this prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  When it’s been a while since we engaged God in prayer and we don’t know what to say – Jesus gave us a great place to start.  When life events like car accidents, cancer, or…say…a global pandemic, sucks the air from our lungs and we can’t come up with the words our soul longs to say – Jesus gave us words to offer.  When we have nothing to say, or nothing left to say, Jesus gave us this prayer.

Even when we say the Lord’s Prayer individually at bedtime, while we’re waiting for test results, or as we take a walk outside – it is still a very communal prayer.  It begins with the words “Our Father.”  Not my father, but our father.  Scholar Gordon Lathrop pointed out that we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, and to forgive us our sins, and to save us from the time of trial.[1]  In the prayer Jesus teaches us, we are reminded that we are not in this world alone and that we strive for everyone to have sufficient resources, forgiveness, and salvation.

The Lord’s Prayer is also intimately linked to following the Ten Commandments.  We are told, in the Second Commandment, to not take the Lord’s name in vain.  Martin Luther pointed out that we keep God’s name holy by calling upon God’s name in prayer.  The second commandment is upheld in the very act of praying.[2]

Another scholar wrote: “It is not a sign of weakness to pray, but a sign of genuine humanity.  Prayer is not merely for emergencies, but is thankful praise that acknowledges our true dependence on God.”[3]  By acknowledging that daily bread, forgiveness, and help from temptation are things that we need – not things that we merely want – but the things that we need, and that we can’t secure them for ourselves, this admission reminds us that we are human and that God is God.  When we get things twisted and start believing that we can procure on our own what we need for daily life, we start bending the first commandment, the one where we are to have no other gods.  This prayer orients our perspective to remember that God is God and from God we receive what is needed to survive.

Marcus Felde points out one other beautiful facet to this prayer: it holds the fulness of time.[4]  The past is held when we ask God for forgiveness from the things we have done.  The present is held when we ask God for daily bread, for all that we need to get through today.  The future is held we ask God to deliver us from evil, from all the anxiety about what might happen.  This prayer is offered in the present time, yet it also catches the past and the future with it.  All of time is held together in this prayer.

For these reasons – and so many more – the Lord’s Prayer has become the powerful, familiar, comforting, encouraging, and reliable prayer that it is.  In closing, one more quote from Martin Luther: “Thus there is no nobler prayer to be found on earth, for it has the powerful testimony that God loves to hear it.  This we should not trade for all the riches in the world.”[5]  Thanks be to God.

[1] Gordon W. Lathrop, The Pastor: a spirituality (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 26.

[2] Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism,” in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 441.

[3] M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vo. 8 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 206.

[4] Marcus Felde, “The Lord’s Prayer: Who Could Ask for Anything More?” Word and World: Theology for Christian Mission – Prayer, vol. 35 no. 1 (Winter 2015): 68.

[5] The Large Catechism. 443.

Study Questions

1) Do you have any special memories of reciting the Lord’s Prayer? During a corporate worship service or in your own time of devotion?

2) Have you considered the communal nature of the prayer before? How does that influence how we see our actions in the world?

3) Does your perspective of this prayer change, knowing that it is holding the fullness of time?

Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.

Extinguish the candle