St. Luke tells us that the disciples of Jesus came to him one day and asked him to teach them how to pray. They had seen the intimate relationship Jesus had with God the Father and they wanted to learn how to pray like he did. The resulting prayer is normally called the “Lord’s Prayer” as he is the one who choose the words of the prayer; however, I tend to think of it as the “Disciples’ Prayer” as it was given to them to pray.
Now most of us don’t think about the “Lord/Disciples’ Prayer” as something to help us through the in-between times of the Kingdom. For most of us, it is just a nice poetic prayer that we hang on our walls or just recite in a flippant manner when someone asks us to pray. A look through history tells a different story as this prayer was the marker for those who truly gave their lives to follow Jesus. Even when everything else changed – cultures, tradition, Christian sub-group, etc. – the followers of Jesus have always kept this prayer close to their hearts, even when they really didn’t understand why they held on to it. When seen through the lens of Kingdom Theology, everything changes and the prayer takes on a whole new meaning.
Our father in heaven,
May your name be honored,
May your kingdom come,
May your will be done
As in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today the bread we need now;
And forgive us the things we own,
As we too have forgiven what was owned to us.
Don’t bring us into the great trial,
But rescue us from evil.
-Matthew 6:9-13, The Kingdom New Testament
In English there are ten simple and easy to memorize lines; yet each one is packed full of theological and practical implications for our lives. Accordingly, we are going to take a look at each of these lines section by section and see if we can’t better understand this prayer that the King left his followers.
“Our father in heaven”
It may sound obvious, but before you can pray you need to know who you are praying too. From the dawn of history, people of all religions have prayed to their gods and/or to their ancestors. In defining who we are to pray to, Jesus tells us that we are to pray to our Kingly Father who dwells in heaven.
A lot has been made about the term “father” that Jesus used in this pray; however, I don’t think it was as shocking as some folks think to a 1st century Jew. They were used to God being their Father – abet, they used it in more of a corporate sense than an individual one (i.e. God was the Father of the nation of Israel). No, I think the more shocking items were to come – this line just set the stage to remind the followers of Jesus who they were talking too.
“May your name be honored”
One’s name and reputation meant everything to a 1st century Jew, as it still does to a large portion of the world today. To have one’s name honored meant that everyone knew who you were and what you had accomplished. Throughout the Old Testament you can see verses warning the Israelites against dishonoring the name or reputation of the Creator God. Furthermore, there are verses talking about how the world may know that the God is the Lord of the universe. These verses usually follow a mighty act of God, like the ten plagues, crossing the Red Sea or destroying Jericho. The concept is that God had acted, and, therefore, we are to honor his name.
So what mighty act did God do that caused Jesus to tell his disciples to honor God for? It wasn’t the cross as Jesus was still alive. The mighty act that Jesus was honoring the Father for was the coming of his Kingdom into the world!
It is no accident that both St. Matthew and St. Luke place the Lord/Disciples’ Prayer in the context of an end time declaration. For St. Matthew, the prayer was placed in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus lays out the framework for life in the newly ushered Kingdom. St. Luke places the prayer at the beginning of a selection that ends with Jesus telling his followers to ask for the Holy Spirit, an event that was supposed to happen when the Day of the Lord came.
It is also interesting that St. Luke follows up this end-time declaration with Jesus casting out a demon and telling the onlookers that the “Kingdom of God has come” and that he has bound the strong man (i.e. Satan). May the Name of God be forever honored!!
More to come…