In its simplicity, the Lord’s Prayer contains some of the most challenging words we will find in our walk of faith.
By Peter Bunton
A mission team I was with a few years ago was praying around an inner-city neighborhood. I particularly remember the team praying in a park. The children’s play area was covered with trash, weeds, and even broken glass. We began to pray for the city and the children, praying for matters such as safety and cleanliness. It then occurred to us, “Why are we praying for these things when we can be the very answer to our prayers?” We stopped praying. Instead, we went and got brooms, tools and trash bags; we pulled the weeds, removed the broken glass, and transformed the play area. It seems that God wanted to use us as the answer to the things we were praying for!
This could be the reason why praying the Lord’s Prayer can be so difficult. First, we pray “Our Father.” However, there is little point in praying these words unless we are prepared to come to God as a child, admitting our lack of knowledge and ability and expressing our total dependence on Him. Unless I can do that, I cannot honestly pray the words “Our Father.”
Are We Really Prepared?
Secondly, Christ teaches us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done. This sounds nice and simple, but am I fully prepared to do God’s will? If His Kingdom is about bringing peace, justice, and reconciliation, am I prepared to live those things in my own life? Am I prepared to go through the inconvenience of speaking up for those who are suffering from injustice? Am I prepared to give of my resources to feed the hungry, or to campaign for the release of those in slavery? Does my prayer translate into actions and service?
We are, furthermore, told to pray for forgiveness as we release forgiveness to others. Am I really prepared to let go of grudges or to release someone from any wrong they have done to me? We all know this can be hard. From Jesus’ statement in Luke 24:47, we learn that the main content of the message we proclaim is turning from and being released from sin. The Lord’s Prayer challenges me to continually take this posture of forgiveness and to release others.
Who Gets the Glory?
Finally, we are asked to pray that God would receive His full glory. I am often aware, however, that I may take some of that acclaim and glory for myself, thinking it is my work or my efforts that have achieved something. I can easily forget that all the strength, opportunities, and gifts I have come from God anyway! It is God who has given me those abilities and provided those opportunities, so He really should receive all the credit.
The Lord’s Prayer may be known well to many of us. Yet, in its simplicity, it contains some of the most challenging words we will find in our walk of faith. May I be able to pray these words of Christ, not as a familiar ritual, but in true submission to the work of God in my life implied in this prayer. It could well be that the answers to my prayers begin with me.
Learn more about missions in the book Evolving Missions complied by Peter Bunton and Hillary Vargas here