We were recently amazed when Gracie came home from pre-school and spouted the Pledge of Allegiance— perfectly. As Doug and I stared at each other wide-eyed he announced, “If she can learn the Pledge of Allegiance, she can learn The Lord’s Prayer!”
So I began teaching her The Lord’s Prayer, with Gracie repeating each verse after me…
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 and ever
The first time we did this Grace rested her head on my shoulder and said: “Mama, that’s beautiful.” It made me catch my breath. God’s wisdom presses gently even from the words of a child. Breathtaking. Beautiful.
I know there is danger in rote prayer. We say the words and lose touch with their meaning. Yet, this particular prayer even said “rote” has power to comfort and move us. It is, after all, how Jesus told us to pray. In this prayer rests every aspect of our spiritual needs and right relationship to God.
With Our Father who art in heavenhallowed be thy name – we pour out our adoration. He is our Father, illustrating his authority and gentleness, while defining us as part of His family. We belong to him and to each other. We honor His holy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven– establishes our submission to God’s will while resting in the hope of His kingdom. He will restore the world from brokenness to a new heaven and a new earth. His kingdom will have no end.
Give us this day our daily bread— opens our hearts to his provision.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us— humbles us and acknowledges our sin. In as much as we ask forgiveness, we are reminded to extend our offenders the same undeserved grace God has given us.
Finally, we pray, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil– this illustrates the Holy Spirit moving us away from temptations of sin.We are praying for the transformative, regenerative power of God to work out in our daily lives. But, this is also a reminder that God has done the work, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) In him we have deliverance- we have VICTORY!
Every prayer formula ever developed can’t beat the expert prayer warrior: Jesus. The foremost focus of his prayer gives God pure glory and adoration. Jesus is modeling for us that prayer is about recognizing who God is. It’s agreeing that all things are under his reign, and He will make all things new. It’s about putting ourselves in right relationship to his greatness and majesty.
How much of our prayer life is spent just in complete adoration of this extravagantly loving God? I know not enough of mine! Dr. Timothy Keller, (one of my favorites) says we should examine our prayer lives. Is all our time in “petition” and “repentance?” If so, perhaps we aren’t really grasping the point of prayer?
This is no “vending machine God” waiting for us to press the button of which prayer we want answered. He already knows what we need before we open our mouths.
This is no caricature vengeful God judging us to damnation if we don’t appropriately grovel. That’s not what gains God’s acceptance. You already have that. Remember; “It is finished.” You are already forgiven.
Then what’s the point? Why petition God if he already knows our petitions? Why ask forgiveness if we’re already forgiven?
The point is this- Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us.
The point of petition is not to pray fervently for what we want. It’s a time to allow God to work on our hearts so our petitions come in line with what God wants.
Hear Jesus in his own words: Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39, 42 NIV)
In the end we transform “My will” to “Thy will.”
The purpose of asking forgiveness isn’t to beg: “God, forgive me!” and go back to our old habits. It’s to let that prayer for forgiveness move us to actually change our behavior. The transformation of the Holy Spirit works in us so we are not lead to sin, but delivered from it. As we feel God’s undeserved grace pour into our hearts, we can pour that undeserved grace on others. This is Gospel Transformation.Feel the depth of this kind of transformation in King David’s Psalm:
“Have Mercy upon me, O God,
According to your loving kindness;
According to your multitude of tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions…. Against You, You only have I sinned,
And done this evil in your sight…. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom…. Create in me a clean heart O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation….
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and contrite heart- These, O God, you will not despise.”
(Psalm 51:1-4, 6,10-12,16-17 NKJ)
In the end, it’s not really our behavior that changes, but our hearts that transform…And That’s Beautiful…
But the beauty is deeper still. There is real soul filling nourishment in The Lord’s Prayer. We’ll spend time savoring it next time, because that’s beautiful too…