The Lord's 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, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

You probably know this prayer. You likely have it memorized. You may have even said it today. The Lord's Prayer is, even more than the Apostle's Creed, a liturgical act that is virtually unanimously shared among Christians of all stripes throughout all ages and cultures. We pray this prayer, many of us daily. We learn to pray from this prayer.

There is a saying (of debated antiquity) among Christians: Lex orandi, Lex credendi. Literally, "the Law of Prayer is the Law of Faith" - that is - how I pray forms what I believe. This expression is sometimes used to describe how the Anglican Common Prayer Book tradition (much of which has been absorbed by Methodism) understands the Common Prayer (the liturgy) as a teacher and guardian of the faith, even as we pray it. How much more so when applied to what really is the common prayer of Christians: the Lord's Prayer.

It is important to note that Jesus concieved of his own mission in terms of the Kingdom of God/Heaven: "I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." (Lk. 4:37, NRSV). We Evangelicals often miss this kingdom focus in our teaching. Jesus did not teach his followers "The Sinners Prayer" - focused on personal forgiveness and justification - but rather this prayer of Kingdom living (which includes but goes beyond forgiveness). This prayer better captures what Jesus was about and what he wants his disciples to be about. The United Methodist Book of Discipline says it well: "The mission of God is best expressed in the prayer that Jesus taught his first disciples: Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as in heaven." (p. 90-91; para. 131). Thus to really pray (and therefore to live into) this prayer is to re-orient ourselves into Christ's Kingdom and Kingdom mission (which includes but is not limited to our justification).

As we approach "Christ the King Sunday" - the last Sunday of the Christian year (Nov. 26th), and a day on which we focus upon the present yet still coming Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ - the Church I am serving will be having a 3-part sermon series on the Lord's Prayer. This is especially appropriate because of the Kingdom focus of this prayer from beginning to end. A wonderful resource to really understand the Lord's Prayer with its Kingdom focus, both for first century Jewish disciples and then for us today, is N.T. Wright's book The Lord and His Prayer. This book changed the way and the frequency with which I prayed this prayer. Bishop Wright also covers much of the same ground in this shorter and free-er online resource.

Also free online is John Wesley's Sermon covering the Lord's Prayer in Matthew chapter 6.

Many thanks to John Meche III for spending Saturday morning helping me with my blog.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE the new layout of your blog site. Definitely more edgey. --bethany

12:00 AM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger JD said...

I also think the new layout is "snazzy!" And thanks for the reflection on the Lord's Prayer. I truly enjoy reading your blog!


7:12 PM, November 12, 2006  

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