Brief, Intense and Frequent. That is the way that Bible teach Dale F Brunner describes Jesus' teaching on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. Rather than trying to impress others by loud public shows of devotion or incessant ramblings and flowery, elaborate speech, Jesus encourages his followers to live a life of quiet devotion and prayer. Prayer is an intimate relationship with God more than it is a display of spirituality.
That is why Brunner summarizes Jesus teaching on prayer this way:
Not for show - God is watching
Not much - God is wise
One author described prayer as spiritual breathing. It is necessary for our spiritual life and should come as automatic reflex, not as contrived showiness or wordiness. The main point of Jesus' teaching is that daily prayer is to be an integral part of the disciple's everyday experience. "When you pray, you should pray like this" does not mean "on rare occasions, and only when you are in desperate trouble, pray this prayer. Instead, it is to be taken as a description of a believers lifestyle of prayer.
Further, the Lord's prayer, while providing words that can be used in prayer,even when we don't know how to pray, does not require that these exact words be used. It forms a framework of prayer; a paradigm for what we should be praying for. Again, Brunner says, "it is a kind of handrail along which to proceed in forming our own words, or we can pray this prayer exactly, using these very words thoughtfully." Praying the Lord's Prayer helps us when we are at a loss for words.
As we at Calvary continue to consider what it means to live as Kingdom people, we need to recognize that "The Lord's Prayer" is at the very center or apex of the rest of the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. When we ask how do we find the strength and grace to live as disciples; to love God and to love our neighbors, the answer is generated in this prayer. It is to be the nucleus of our spiritual life.
Further more, it should be noted that at the very center of this prayer we are further taught to pray for the forgiveness of our disobedience and sin and to find forgiveness for those who have offended and hurt us.
This weekend, Calvary, along with churches around the world, will observe the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We call it World Communion and it is a chance not only to receive the perpetual symbols of God's forgiving love in our own lives, it is a call to recognize that as disciples we are part of a much grander scheme. We are part of God's invisible church made up of persons from every walk of life, every age, every tribe, every tongue. Our spiritual life in Christ and our devotion to prayer is not just about our own intimacy with God but with our solidarity and union with other Christians everywhere and of every age.
And so, we are told not only to pray for forgiveness, and for daily bread. We are told to petition God that God's Kingdom would become a reality in this world just as it is in heaven and will one day be when Christ returns. When we pray for God's kingdom to come, we are really praying for his rule to be established everywhere in this world, beginning with our own life. It is a prayer of submission to divine sovereignty. It recognizes the holiness and rule of God and not just God's gracious providence.
We cannot pray the Lord's prayer without thinking that God, in some way, wants each of us to live as witnesses to his kingdom rule through Christ. We can't help but realize that for that kingdom to become reality, it has to begin with us forgiving those who "have trespassed or sinned against us." And we can't help but come to the startling conclusion that we in fact, do live in a global community where we bear no small degree of responsibility for brothers and sisters in places like San Ramon Nicaragua, Port au Prince, Haiti, Lusaka Zambia, Finetown, South Africa and Juarez Mexico. If we live as kingdom people and pray the way Jesus taught us, we will realize God is up to much more than we can imagine in our own sheltered experience.
Here is the way I have been praying the Lord's Prayer this week:
God in Heaven - you are our loving father, but you are also holy and majestic; sovereignly watching over all that you have made, please make your kingdom rule a reality in the lives of people around the world just in the same way it is a reality in heaven. May your kingdom be real in the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world today.
We trust you to provide for us today for the things we need, not necessarily the things we want. Help us to be satisfied with daily bread and not so consumed with stockpiling material wealth to excess.
We are sinners and we know you forgive us when we sin against you. We owe you a debt we can never repay. All that you ask is that we forgive those who have hurt or offended us. In that way, we can be free to experience the freedom and grace that comes from your forgiveness.
Help us all have the strength and courage not to fall into the temptations of our culture and our world. Deliver us from the evil that is around us and help us to be agents of change in our world because you love the world and you are deserving of our very best. Lord God, you are glorious, you are powerful. Your kingdom is forever. So be it.