Are You Brave Enough?

Watch out! The Lord's Prayer will ruin your life

Are you brave enough to pray the Lord’s Prayer?  Do you think that is a strange question?  Most people do when they hear it, but it is a legitimate question.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we obligate ourselves to some pretty important conditions and responsibilities.  To pray the Lord’s Prayer honestly and with integrity takes some courage.  Keep reading if you want to know what I mean – and then decide if you are still brave enough to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Here is the Lord’s Prayer in the traditional English translation – the one most people learn (even if everything else at their Church is in modern English):

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 them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
[For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. *]

It is simple and straightforward and taught to the disciples by Jesus Himself when they asked Him to teach them how to pray.  St Matthew recorded the words in his account of the Gospel and we have been reciting it ever since.  Why would it take courage to pray this prayer?  Let’s break it down section by section and see.

Our Father,
“Our Father” – God is our Father because of the access granted through Jesus.  Jesus is God the Father’s “only begotten Son” and we, through Jesus, are God’s adopted children.  What does it mean for God to be our Father?  A father is a person with whom we have an intimate personal relationship.  We know our fathers.  Fathers are protective of us; fathers provide for us; fathers teach us; fathers guide us in life; and, fathers sacrifice of us.  While we may not have each had a father who lives up to those standards – that is what the ideal of fatherhood is.  As a result, we love our fathers and want to be in relationship with our fathers.  We talk with our fathers for the sake of real conversations.  We call our fathers for reasons other than only asking for stuff.  When you pray the Lord’s Pray and call upon God as Father – do you see all the above in your relationship with Him?

Who art in heaven,
While knowing God as Father allows us a great and privileged personal relationship with God, we also must remember that God’s natural dwelling place is in Heaven.  In other words, He dwells in perfection.  It is important to keep in mind that there is an earthly/heavenly divide.  We do not have natural access to God the Father.  The sin of Adam destroyed that natural and immediate access.  God once walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Now we communicate and have access to God the Father in Heaven (while we are currently bound to earth) through Jesus.

Hallowed be thy Name.
Hallowed – who knows what this means?  Hallowed = Holy – In other words: Holy is your name.  A great illustration of how much respect we should give to the name of God is represented in the practice among many Jewish faithful of not writing out the name of God.  Instead, the vowel is omitted and replaced with an underscore resulting in: G_d.  God’s name is Holy because He is Holy.  To speak of (let alone to speak to) God can never be a flippant thing.  Bumper Sticker and T-Shirt theology certainly appear to fail in regards to giving God’s name the reverence it is due.  A shirt may be holey but it is unlikely ever to be Holy.  Likewise, we can apply this standard to how we refer to God, speak of God, and otherwise use (and misuse) the name of God.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.
OK, the previous points have been about attitude and showing proper reverence for our creator.  Now we get to the parts that are honestly challenging.  We pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth.  We pray for God’s will to e done on earth.  We pray that these are here on earth as they are in Heaven.  These are great requests but how are they going to be answered?  We might, correctly, say that God will do them.  God will make it happen.  OK, through what means does God change the situation on earth?  Again, you might, correctly, say that God changes the situation on earth through Jesus His Son.  Great – we have that agreed upon and settled.  How does Jesus get things done on earth?

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82), is credited for this famous poem: “Christ has no body on earth but yours.  Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassionately on this world.  Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.  Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.  Christ has no body now on earth but yours!”

The Apostle Paul says much the same thing (although with a bit less flair) when he says, in his Epistle to the Romans, the following: For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

When we ask God’s Kingdom come and will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven – we are obligating ourselves, as members of the Body of Christ, to get out and start making it happen.

Give us this day our daily bread.
We ask for “Daily Bread” – sustenance – what we need to get by, and it is rather plain getting by.  Biblical scholars suggest that the way the original language is worded conveys this meaning: “The meaning in this case is clear enough: ‘give us today the bread necessary for our existence.’ That is, give us today only the bread we need to survive.”[1]  This is a far cry from some of the excesses we see being advocated by many.  Sadly, too many approach prayer in the spirit of Janis Joplin – “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

The same petition considered from a spiritual point of view turns our eyes to Jesus – the “Bread of Heaven” (John 6:41-51).  We ask God for our lives to be sustained by Jesus each and every day.  How can this occur?  A better question may be – Do I actually depend on Jesus every day, or do I rely on myself?  How often do I recognize the blessings of God which have been given me in life vs how often have I thought that I “deserve” or have “earned” something?  Pursuing this question further – How have I separated myself from God?  Do my sins (and we all commit them) cause me to be deprived of the Bread of Life – the power of Jesus helping me daily?  The great theologian of the Church, Augustine, writes: “saints ask for perseverance directly from God, when with this intention they say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” that they may not be separated from Christ’s body, but may continue in that holiness in which they allow no crime by which they may deserve to be separated from it.”[2]

Whether thinking of food or Jesus, are these our thoughts when we ask for our daily bread?

And forgive us our trespasses (AKA sins), as we forgive them that trespass (sin) against us.
This is the most straightforward of all the petitions we place before God the Father when praying the Lord’s Prayer.  It is the most straightforward because Jesus immediately explains it.  We may misunderstand the rest and there be some “wiggle room,” but when we ask for forgiveness – there is no room for error.  Jesus tells us plainly: For if you forgive others their trespasses (sins), your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses (sins), neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (sins) (Matthew 6:14-15).  Do you want God the Father to forgive your sins while you hold onto past hurts, grudges, and horrible offenses?  It does not work that way.  We must forgive others for God to forgive us.  Personally, I want God to forgive me of my sins – so I strive to forgive others when they sin against me.

Do you have trouble forgiving others?  So do I.  You may want to try what has helped me.  There is a great story in the Gospel according to St Mark (9:20-24) about a man that Jesus told must believe.  The man replied, “I believe; help my unbelief.”  I often paraphrase the man and pray, “Jesus, I forgive; help my unforgiveness.”

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Too often, people ask – Why did God let xyz happen?  The question that should be given in return is, “What have you done to prevent xyz from happening?”  People have come to believe that we should be spared the consequences of our actions.  Because we think we should be spared the consequences, we do not think to avoid the evil – avoid the temptations – eliminate the opportunities to sin.  “Lead us not into temptation” is better understood as “let us not enter into temptation” – meaning we must avoid temptation.

The orders given by St Joan of Arc, when she took command of the French soldiers, are a great illustration.

[Joan] gave [LaHire] some instructions, in his quality as master of the camp, which made his breath stand still. For, to begin with, she said that all those loose women must pack out of the place at once, she would not allow one of them to remain. Next, the rough carousing must stop, drinking must be brought within proper and strictly defined limits, and discipline must take the place of disorder.  And finally she climaxed the list of surprises with this—which nearly lifted him out of his armour:
‘Every man who joins my standard must confess before the priest and absolve himself from sin; and all accepted recruits must be present at divine service twice a day.’[3]

She said: Get rid of the loose women and ration the wine – in other words, Let us not enter temptation.  Get rid of the obvious temptations in life and limit/avoid what may cloud your judgment.  You thereby be more easily able to confess and be absolved – forgiven – delivered – from what evils you may have already committed.  Then make it a habit of worshipping God so that you do not return to temptations and so you can be continually delivered from the power of evil.

[For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. *]
Whether you recite this portion or not – give God the Glory for all is His.

Meaning “in truth” and “so be it” – a way of affirming all that has been said and committing yourself to it.  Having looked more closely at the Lords Prayer – Are you brave enough to say, Amen?

At this point, I hope you agree – to pray the Lord’s Prayer with integrity is an act of courage and commitment.  May you always be brave enough and committed enough to pray boldly.

Buen Camino,
Fr Steve
Warriors on the Way

* This section is not in all early manuscripts and is therefore not included in all translation and is not included by all Christians when reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 149.

[2] Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 528.

[3] Louis de Conte, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, ed. Mark Twain, trans. Jean François Alden (London: Chatto & Windus, 1896), 136–137.

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