Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Glorious Prayer and Lord (1)

One of the better discussions on the Lord's Prayer is Wright's The Lord and His Prayer. Wright develops the theme that this is a Kingdom prayer for Kingdom people. The other thing he accomplishes is that he brings in references from the whole Bible, the Old Testament and especially the story of Jesus in the Gospels, to explore what it means to pray this prayer. The book can be an excellent supplement to whatever approach you decide to use in teaching or study

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

I used Luke's version in Luke 11 as the backdrop for the first half of the study. In Luke, you have a clear invitation to all to engage the prayer as a beginner can, with the disciples asking Jesus how to pray, and the wonderful parable of verses 5-13 teaching about the nature of the Father's relationship to us, and the foundation of all prayer being God's giving to us in and through the Holy Spirit. God's self giving to us is what moves us to pray in the first place.

One of the better discussions of the parable is found in Claypool's, Stories Jesus Still Tells. Claypool goes well beyond the conventional reading. Jesus is not telling us to pray longer, harder, and louder. Rather Jesus is setting us up for understanding the chasm that exists between praying to the pagan, Greco-Roman pantheon of gods, which considered complete indifference as a virtue of divinity, and Jesus own experience of the God of all compassion, his Abba, "daddy." You couldn't have more of a contrast there- and this forms an excellent beginning for teaching and praying the Our Father.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.

The kingdom phrase of the prayer is thus our consenting to and acceptance of the implications of being adopted as God's own beloved children in Jesus. We declare our "yes" to God's kingdom and reign in Jesus Christ, that it first happen in us and through us, as we are clay, we are earth. We surrender to God's self-giving in Jesus and Holy Spirit. This phrase also the places us in the season of Advent. We give thanks for the Lord's coming to earth as servant King and coronation in heaven as Lord over all, the Ruler of creation.

The beauty of the petition for daily bread is twofold. First, we are taught to pray for ourselves, and to ask God for what we need for the day to come, until the Lord's coming again. Second, we are assured that the Abba God will give his children what we need most, the Holy Spirit (11:13).

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