Today’s guest blogger is Will Adair. Will describes himself as a pastor in transition, learning what it means to be content in Christ. He regularly blogs at Sojourns with Jesus and can be found on Twitter here.
My name is Will Adair and you are reading this because Aaron is on vacation and has graciously opened his blog to me. I wanted to write something universally applicable instead of rambling on about some fun but obscure doctrine like modalism or why the Avett Brothers are a band you should have continually on your play track next to Derek Webb (go Google them). Instead, I am writing on the Lord’s prayer. Let me be clear and candid. I have struggled with every line in this prayer.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
The concept of God as Father once seemed ludicrous. If God was up there he certainly could not also be my father down here. God is remarkably patient as a Father. When I finally embraced him, with little decorum he ran to me when I wandered home as the prodigal younger son. He gently rebuked me when I was the unloving elder son. I joyfully embrace his Fatherhood because as a father I need him to model to me how to love my kids.
“Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Most of us have little problem with God as Savior but God as a real Lord tends to be problematic. No one has a problem with a Sovereign that is merely a figurehead like say Queen Elizabeth. The Father though unlike the Queen of England desires and has the authority to be involved in every aspect of his subjects lives. God as a King offends our modern & post-modern pride. Where there are kings there are servants. None of us likes the idea of servitude. Oscar Wilde lived his life as an atheist in his attempt to flee God and be his own lord. This though is the great illusion of our world. Wilde in De Profundis summarizes well the human condition. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” All humans either knowingly or unknowingly are as Wilde said “other people.” All of us already follow either a life given over to God or one given over to sin. Even our sin is not truly our own, it is at best someone else’s remixed.
We agree with Lucifer via the pen of John Milton states: “It is better to reign in hell than be a servant in heaven.” We create artificial “heavens” which are nothing more than well manicured mirages of hell because God is not really in them. God does not desire such horror for us or his creation for he does not desire to leave us to our own poorly constructed mirages. God the Father is only found in his kingdom yet he invites us to come in to it. As his kingdom comes on Earth as it is in Heaven, God is offering a chance for people to enter his kingdom as servants. We can either seek to be rulers in our little kingdoms where we are nothing more than slaves or we can seek to serve in his kingdom where we are declared to be sons and daughters.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Jesus switches from God’s intangible kingdom to food the most tangible of human needs. Some have said this includes anything we desire, want, or need. Jesus though declares to his listeners after the prayer to focus only on their basic needs. He strips from us a justification to pray after treasures instead he urges us to build only for his Kingdom. In this life we are not be anxious about the needs of life for that is how those outside the Kingdom think. Without food every human on the planet will die. It is the primary irreducible need common to all humanity. When Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread, he’s given us a spiritual guide to the temporal. It is not just to strive for simplicity in our prayers but to pray for the essentials of what we really need. How many people in our culture pray for cars, homes, and things that eventually end up in the trash or destroyed by time? How many prayers to God were sincerely uttered for the iPhone or a new car? Here God gives us a chance to be on absolutely equal footing with all humanity. It is meant to humble us.
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Jesus turns things on us here. Everything already said find its application in the hardest place for us mere mortals. Forgiveness. In the prayer so far we who would become children of God find our deepest of needs from God tied to our fellow human. A group of religious men one day asked Jesus what was the greatest expression of their faith. Jesus answered that first it was to love God with all of our being. The second greatest was tied to this and was in fact similar to the first. It was to love others as we love ourselves. We are told in Scripture “to owe no one anything but to love one another”. The Christian faith is a faith of love for God is love. Jesus tells us we must forgive those that have wronged us and we are to love them. This is the greatest act in which humanity can emulate God. All the vile statements, untruths, and things that were meant to wound us, the things whispered behind our backs that are meant to define us through unrighteous judgments, the words spoken unlovingly to us, and all the human evil that characterizes living in a fallen world is to be forgiven. This is what God has done for us. This part of the prayer is my great struggle. I struggle to forgive those that do evil. Yet I know that if I dare to continually come before God asking him to actively forgive my debts then I must have already actively forgiven those who have sinned against me. Jesus declares that the two are so linked that we can not separate them without risking loosing both. This is the gospel and it is the part I don’t like because it demands that I forgive when all I want is retribution.
There is a story of a Corrie Ten Boom whose family was imprisoned for hiding Jews from the Nazis. Her family was arrested and while in Ravensbruck Concentration camp both her father and her sister die. Long after her liberation she spoke of how her family sacrificed much in the name of God and she hoped for healing to come from such great evil. She believed that this could only be done by practicing divine forgiveness. After one such talk a old Ravensbruck guard surprised her as he stood before and asked her for forgiveness for his sins against her and her family. This man that had contributed to her father and sisters death asked her for forgiveness. Her body was repulsed by the idea yet this is how she responded. “”I forgive you brother! With all my heart!” She forgave because she knew she had been forgiven. She possessed the heart of Jesus. The last words of Jesus on behalf of those who killed him were “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” If we really want to be like Jesus then we must forgive.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
The prayer begins with a concept of a holy God and his kingdom. It ends with a petition to deliver us from the human condition. It begins with lofty language of a universal fatherhood and ends with the universal despair that can only be overcome by God’s leading. I struggle with this too because I want to be my own deliverer. I want the glory for overcoming my sin but the reality is only God can deliver us from evil. The children of Israel use to sing “My Deliver is coming, my Deliver is coming back.”
The offer of Jesus on the day when he offered the model prayer was for all those who were far off to come to God and be delivered through him. He was God’s Deliverer. This prayer has parts that I struggle with but I trust that my Deliver can sustain me through as my Father’s Kingdom comes even in my own life and struggles and eventually will once and for all end evil in this world. When the Kingdom fully comes evil will be judged by the only Righteous Judge. This is the gospel and it is the story that I struggle with and love.