Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

IMG_4751This is not my normal kind of post, but it seemed the easiest place to make this available for those who are interested. The Church of England has devoted this week before Pentecost as a week of prayer. They have named the initiative, “Thy Kingdom Come.” I was asked by the chaplain of our congregation lead the church in this week and as a result I wrote these daily reflections on the Lord’s Prayer. These are things I have come to know and continue to learn. It was a joy to write. I am grateful for the chance to share my heart. I am grateful for those of you who have walked alongside me and taught and encouraged me along the way.

Thy Kingdom Come
Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

Sunday, May 8: An Invitation

There was a time when people united together to build a tower to reach towards the heavens. Their desire was not to be close to God. The desire was for power and protection and to make a name for themselves. It is what we so often find ourselves about. But it is not what God desires for us. He came down and frustrated their work, confused their languages, and they found themselves scattered and in a place of wandering. We often find ourselves here too.  But our God is a God of redemption and even from this early time of scattering he had a plan for drawing people together again. He would work through history, choosing a people, putting rulers into place, working to set the stage for his own coming. We have heard his promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him. In the fullness of time, Jesus came, not to a fortress or a palace but to a stable, humble and dependent. We have celebrated his arrival, his life and his passion and his resurrection. We have heard the witness of his return to the Father’s right hand and we anticipate the celebration of the fulfillment of his promise-the coming of his Spirit. At Pentecost we see the very opposite of what we saw at Babel. We see again a gathering of people, but they are not seeking a name for themselves. They are gathered together praying. They are as Jesus came, dependent and humble. And in that place, in that posture, the Spirit of God descends and rests on them. What happens? They begin to speak the Good News of God. Who do they speak to? Many people from many nations living in Jerusalem come to where they hear a commotion. What do they hear? Fishermen and tax collectors, ordinary men, are speaking not of themselves but of the wonders of God, and everyone hears in their own language!  The confusion of language at Babel on Pentecost is suspended. Everyone understood and they were amazed. Peter goes on to preach and thousands receive the good news of the Gospel. The Church is born, not from one language group but from many.

We have been invited and encouraged to join with others around the world to pray in this week leading up to Pentecost for the coming of God’s kingdom in the places where we live and work, in our own lives and the lives of those around us. The pattern for prayer that has been laid before us by Jesus will be our guide. God has gifted us each differently. Each of us made in his image, we have different aspects of his love and character to show to the world. We have different passions dear to our heart that we can pour ourselves into. Some may be called to pray for governments. Some for victims of abuse or trauma. Some for people who are enslaved to an addiction. Some for the health of marriages and families. Some for those who have not heard the Gospel and those who have heard but not received. Some for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. In all of these places we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom. In the book, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy sets out on a mission to find her way back home. She meets several people along the way, people very different from herself and from each other, but they all agree to set themselves to the same goal—to see the Wizard of Oz who is said to be able to help them each with their own need. They meet many difficulties along the way, but with every difficulty there is one of them who has been equipped to handle it. By doing so, by using what they have been given, they preserve each other along the way.  It is true for us also. We need each other. We need to hear each other’s voices and share our hearts that we may more fully know the heart of God for ourselves and our world. We are called together to participate in God’s establishment of a new kingdom. Not a kingdom to make a name and glory for ourselves, but one in which the King of all Creation is lifted up, and people of every background and language and nation are drawn together to dwell under the protection and rule of the One who made and loves them best of all. So may we come, dependent and humbled before the Only God who can give life and freedom and hope. Let us pray together for his Spirit make Himself known and to bring the kingdom of God into our midst.

Monday, May 9: Our Father, who art in Heaven

We find a story in the Gospels of a man, Jarius, the ruler of the synagogue, who comes to Jesus to plead for his help because his 12 year old daughter is dying. He is an important man and Jesus is already a somewhat of a controversial figure. But it doesn’t matter. His daughter is dying. Everything else in the world is on hold. But Jesus is coming and he has hope. And hope, however slim, has a way of holding our hearts.

There is another face in the crowd, one that people may shy away from. She also has eyes only for Jesus. She has exhausted all other hopes seeking a cure for her illness, an illness that excluded her from worshipping at the temple for 12 years. If people touched her, they were unclean. She had spent every cent trying to be well but she only grew worse. She has no money left. But she too has hope—she too has heard about Jesus’s ability to change lives and she thinks, “If only I can touch his clothes, I will be well.”  And she is.

It always surprises me that the telling of her story doesn’t end there. She was healed. She received what she had hoped for. But Jesus wanted to give her more than physical healing. And so he stopped his journey to heal the daughter of Jairus and asked, “Who touched me?” It was a surprising question. The crowd almost crushed him. His disciples thought he was crazy to ask. I wonder what Jarius thought of the interruption. How could it matter who touched him? His daughter was dying. They needed to hurry! But Jesus didn’t hurry. “Someone touched me. Power has gone out from me.” The woman knew, and she came forward trembling and fell at his feet. What did she feel in that place? Shame? Judgement? Fear? In front of everyone she told of her uncleanness and her hope and her healing. Of all the things Jesus could have said to her, this one I think must have reached straight into her heart. To the people there she was another face in the crowd. She was unclean. She was an interruption. She was poor with nothing to offer. But not to Jesus. He calls her, “Daughter.” He gives her a new identity in this one word. After 12 years of exile, she is brought in. She becomes family. I wonder if he looked at Jarius before he said it. I wonder f he thought about Jarius’s love for his daughter and his desperation for her, and thought, “I love this woman. I want her to live.” He names her and he praises her and he sends her out with blessing.

We only get a few sentences of Jesus’s words to her. Perhaps that was all he said. Perhaps there was more. But while he was speaking people come to Jarius and tell him not to bother Jesus anymore, that his daughter is dead. They are crushing words. Words we all dread hearing. “It is too late.” But Jesus has not forsaken Jarius for the woman and when Jesus hears these words spoken he answers gently, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe. She will be healed.” Sometimes our grief and fear blind us to any hope that is left. Sometimes numbness takes over. I wonder if Jarius, who was in a hurry before now walks slowly, not wanting to face the reality of his dead daughter. I can imagine the walk. I see Jesus walking beside him on the road as they get closer. I can imagine the feeling that all hope is lost as he gets close enough the hear the cries of those who mourn for her. I wonder how many times Jesus whispered  again, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” I wonder if he held his arm as they walked together. I wonder if the woman’s story even registered in his mind, that someone had been healed simply by touching Jesus’ clothes.  I wonder if he could believe.

They enter the house, Jarius, the child’s mother, a few disciples and Jesus. Again, Jesus speaks to one for whom we would say all hope is lost. “My child,” he calls to her. “Get up.” And she stands up. The child who was dead lives.

“Our Father, who art in heaven.” Jesus teaches us to pray this. It is an important place to begin. It is a recognition that though we are unclean and poor and try every resource we have but cannot make ourselves well, we are loved by the God to whom we pray. He has chosen us as his children. He has called us son. Daughter. My child. It is to this one who speaks so gently to us, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe. Healing will come.” that we pray.

What are you afraid of? What thread of hope is your heart holding to? What situation feels so far gone that it seems unredeemable? What place in your life have you poured every resource you can muster and is worse off than before? What do you need of Jesus? We are invited in prayer to stretch our our hands to touch his garment. Prayer is our act of faith that invites the power of God to go forth.

Think for a moment of Jarius’ daughter. She was 12 years old. She was dying. She was dead. It was the willingness and love of her earthly father that brought Jesus to her death bed. It was because he beseeched Jesus for her that her life returned. Who can you plead for who is unable to plead for themselves? Those struggling with addiction? Those who are sick? Those oppressed and abused by others who are stronger and more powerful? Those who have not heard the Gospel? Those who have hardened their hearts? Those who are so filled with pain that they cannot see any hope? Plead with your Father in heaven for these.

Scripture reference: Mark 5:21-43

Tuesday, May 10: Hallowed be Thy Name

I heard a sermon once a few years ago on the Lord’s Prayer given by a friend of mine. She spoke of praying “Hallowed be thy name” and what that means. She spoke of how God’s name is already holy, but it has been profaned in the eyes of the world through acts done in his name that are not in keeping with his character. It is profaned in the false images of God that we hold and share. And so as we pray for his name to be holy, we step into another invitation. There is an invitation to repent for the ways we have profaned his name. We are all guilty. There are areas of hypocrisy in all of us. We are all guilty at times of saying we believe in the power and the goodness of God, but living as agnostics or atheists. We have all acted in ways contrary to the nature of God, and do so at times in his name. I am reminded of Nathan’s words to David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. He says to him that his sin gave opportunity for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme him. So does ours. Ask the Lord to search your heart and bring into the light what needs to be revealed. Repent of these things.

What images of God do you hold? What words or images come to mind? From the beginning in the garden Satan has sought to give us a false image of God to believe. He would have us believe that God does not love us, that he would keep us from what is good. He would have us believe in God is like us. Those of us who have grown up in church are very good at giving the answers we have been taught, but our hearts don’t always agree with our minds. Be honest with yourself and ask God to show you what you believe about him. Is your image of him true? Are there things that your heart believes to be true of God that are not in keeping with his revelation of himself in the Scriptures and in the life of Jesus? If so, confess these things to him. Write down your favorite verses that speak of the nature of God. When we pray for God’s name to be made holy, we are asking him to make himself known to us and to the world for the God he truly is. We are asking him to burn away the false images that we hold and replace them with the truth. Ask God to begin or continue this work in you and for others that he lays on your heart.

Scripture Reference: 2 Samuel 12:13-14

Wednesday, May 11: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven

Jesus speaks often about the kingdom of God.  It is like a mustard seed. It is a pearl of great price. There are farmers sowing in the fields. It is like yeast worked into dough. He said often the kingdom of God is coming. The kingdom of God is here. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come what are we asking for? What happens when the kingdom of God comes in our lives? What happens when it comes in the lives of those around us?

There is a story of Jesus in Nazarath. He goes to the synagog and stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah.  Jesus reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  He rolls up the scroll and says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  And his ministry reflects the truth of this. We see blind people receive their sight. People are set free from demons, from sickness, from death. The weak and despised and outcasts are welcomed and given a new identity. Their lives are forever changed.  They are given a new life, a chance to live in a whole new way of being.

Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus’s promise to send his Spirit to dwell in and with his people. It is the same Spirit that was upon Jesus.  We look at the events for Jesus’s life and the days recorded in Acts and we are amazed at the work God does among the people. Why is it different now? Why do we not expect healing and freedom and deliverance and the salvation of thousands? We have the same Spirit. We can pray the same prayer: Thy kingdom come!

It feels significant that in the stories we have in Scripture there are times that the people who receive healing are first asked if they wish to receive it. Why wouldn’t they want to?
When the kingdom of God comes, our lives are disrupted. We can no longer live in our old way of being. The lame and the blind who had begged for their living had to find new work. Those who’s sins were forgiven were told to leave their lives of sin. The disciples were called to lay aside their fishing nets and learn to fish for men. Those who stole from others made restitution and stole no longer. The man delivered from the legion of demons was told to go home and proclaim what God had done for him. In Paul’s epistles he gives pretty clear distinctions between our lives before and after the kingdom of God comes in our lives: Put off falsehood and speak truthfully. In your anger do not sin. If you have been stealing do so no longer, but work so you can share with those in need. Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but build each other up. Get rid of bitterness and be kind and compassionate and forgiving. We can not be the same. We are called out of Egypt, out of our slavery to sin, to live and walk in freedom. And sometimes it is scary. Sometimes it is hard. And sometimes like the Israelites we want to go back to Egypt, back to a place that is familiar even if it is oppressive.

It is also true that it disrupts the lives of the people around us. The owners of the slave girl healed of the demon, lost their livelihood from her fortune telling. The owners of the herd of pigs lost all their pigs that drowned in the water. Fathers lost the aid of their sons who had worked alongside them. It is interesting to note the responses of the people in Nazareth that day in the synagogue. They started out amazed at the words of Jesus, but as he continued to reveal to them their own hearts, they grew angry. So angry they ran him out of town and intended to throw him off a cliff. The kingdom of God is not always received by those around us. And to be honest it is sometime hard for us to adjust to the kingdom of God coming in the lives of the people around us, because it disrupts our world also.

There is a surrender that must come with the prayer, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  There is an acknowledgement that in some places in our lives, our homes, our work, our world, God’s kingdom is not established. He teaches us in this prayer to invite him to come in power, in Lordship, in mercy, and establish his kingdom. We invite him to root out the places in our lives where he is not King, and set up his reign there. We ask him on behalf of others, to let them hear the Good News, to receive sight, to be set free, to know his favor. Listen today, as you go about your day, for the people and places that God speaks to you about, and pray for the coming of his kingdom and the accomplishment of his purposes. Ask him to search your own heart and make known the places you need to invite him into. He has called you his own. He has sealed you with his Spirit. And he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. Live into the life to which you have been called. Walk in the power of the Spirit you have received and find joy in his fellowship.

Scripture reference: Luke  4:16-30

Thursday, May 12: Give us this Day our Daily Bread

As I have asked God to give me words to write, I have received two gifts.  One came from a book that I am reading that challenges how we think about God and money and proposed that perhaps we are more stingy with ourselves than God is toward us.  The second came from a friend, who meets with a group of writers and write about a word or phrase for the next meeting. This time she felt compelled to send me what she wrote. The word was extravagance. These gifts came as I was pondering “give us this day our daily bread.”  And these ideas of abundance felt to me like a contrast. In my friend’s writing she pointed out that Jesus, when he made the wine for the wedding, made the best wine that had been served all night. It would have been okay just to have some wine, just to remove the shame of not having enough. But Jesus provided the best. She spoke of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, how her actions were met by others with judgement and jealousy, but for the one who gave out of love, for Jesus who received her gift and honored her for it, it was not extravagant. It was delightful. And then I thought about the loaves and fish, how Jesus multiplied them not to only give the people enough to keep them from being so hungry they might collapse on the way back, but provided enough that everyone ate until they were satisfied and still basketfuls were left over. I thought of the manna, that the Israelites could gather and use all they could eat for the day. And I thought of God, who did not spare his own son for us. Could there be a more extravagant gift?

I realize that I have always read and prayed this prayer with a view of frugality, perhaps even survival. I have held an image of destitution, and coming to God pleading for enough to keep me alive for this day, of the bread and water given to a prisoner to keep them from dying. Is that what Jesus is teaching us? Jesus said he came that we might have life, and life abundant. We have been called heirs with Christ. There is no picture here of destitution or begging for survival. He has in fact promised everything we need for life and godliness.  So what is this prayer about?

Could it be a reminder to us that we are indeed dependent on God for our provision? I think so. Perhaps it is also a reminder to us of the lives we are called to.  God told Abraham, I will bless you, and you will be a blessing to all the nations. Could Jesus be saying to us, after teaching us to ask for God to let his kingdom come, ask also for what you need for this day, to do the work of God’s kingdom that he has prepared for you to do. What do you need, to be the person God formed you to be? What is needed for you to do the desires of your heart that God has given you?  Ask God for these things. Recognize that every good and perfect gift comes down from his hand and he is extravagant in his love and provision for us. What do you need for this day, not just to survive, not just to get by and maintain the status quo, but what do you need to really live? Ask your Father to supply it. Expect to be surprised by his kindness and extravagance. Accept his provision and his blessing, that you may have what you need to be a blessing to those you encounter this day.
(Scripture References: John 2, John 12, Mark 6, Exodus 16)

Friday, May 13: Forgive us our Trespasses, as we Forgive those who Trespass Against us

We don’t live for long in this world before we meet sorrow, injustice, and disappointment. Sometimes it comes from the hands or words of strangers. Sometimes it is from those who we love and depend on the most, from the ones who love us best or should love us best in the world: parents, siblings, teachers, friends, husband or wife, other members of the church.  We perhaps see our differences in personality most when we look at the way we respond when someone commits some offense against us.  Some of us will fight, some will hide, some will run away, some will deny the reality of the pain for the sake of avoiding conflict.  Jesus, in this prayer he teaches, has a way of bringing into the light the needs of our own hearts. He gives us no room for harboring bitterness. He tells us to forgive. He teaches us to ask for forgiveness to be given to us as we forgive those who sin against us. He tells a story about a man who was forgiven a great debt that he could never repay who then went out and demanded repayment from one who owed him a much smaller debt. He refused to show mercy. When the one who had forgiven him heard how he had treated the other man, the unforgiving man was thrown into jail with the promise he would not get out until he had paid the last cent. He tells his disciples to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven. Jesus is serious about our relationships with each other. We cannot love God and hate our brother. We cannot accept the mercy of God to cover our offenses and still stand as judge over another who has sinned against us.  We know we ought to forgive the ones who hurt us.  We may truly desire to walk the path of forgiveness. But what does that mean? The words “I forgive you” can be very powerful words, but unfortunately they have no magical power to remove pain from our hearts, meet our innate demand for justice, or bring the one who offends us to repentance. What does it look like? How can we follow these instructions of Jesus.

There is not enough space here to go into great detail, but there are a few very important steps we need to know.

List the offenses. It is important to remember that Jesus never glosses over sin as though it doesn’t matter. Forgiveness is not pretending you are not wounded. It does not belittle the magnitude of what someone else has done to you. Sometime forgiving someone is a multilayer process, so it is important to be specific and name what you are  angry or hurt about.
Name these things to your Father in heaven. Acknowledge that He is the one who sees perfectly and knows the hearts of all and he is the one who judges justly. He will demand payment for the sins committed against you. For those who trust in Jesus, Jesus has already sufficiently born the punishment for their sin against you. There is nothing more that needs to be added. For those who refuse the mercy of God, they will give an account before God and will receive his judgement. Release these things to God, and trust him to judge justly. Acknowledge the payment is enough and there is nothing that needs to be added—not punishment from you, not apology, not compensation. Relinquish your right to accuse the person for these things again. You are free from the responsibility to be judge or jury. Tear up your list and throw it away.
Repent and be forgiven. There is an amazing thing that happens when we are free from standing as judge over another person. Once we are done looking at their misdeeds we can see ourselves. We can see the places we have responded sinfully to the sins committed against us. We can see the places where we have not acted in faith but acted instead out of doubt and unbelief. And we are called to confess and repent and enter in to the love and mercy of God.From that place of love, we might find that we are able to love the one who has wounded us.

Think about your relationships with the people around you, with people in the past. There may be new hurts that are close to the surface and still raw. There may be hurts from long ago that are buried deep but still bind you. Ask Father to show you people you need to forgive. Be honest with God and yourself in the process. Forgiveness does not mean that everything is the same as before. Our God is amazing at redeeming all things, but it is often not instantly laid before us. Redemption is his work and we can trust he will tell us what further steps if any we need to take. But this is the first step and one we can take every time we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Scripture Reference: Matthew 18

Saturday, May 14: Lead us not into Temptation, but Deliver us from Evil

It occurs to me as I sit to write about this phrase of the Lord’s prayer that I have heard very little teaching on it. I have looked at commentaries and writings from the Church Fathers and they speak of temptation both in the sense of being enticed to sin and in the sense of testing. Many have expressed thoughts about these things with far more knowledge and eloquence than I have, so I would encourage you to seek them out.

Instead let’s focus for a moment on the second part of this prayer: deliver us from evil, or as some translations put it, from the evil one. I think of the many encounters Jesus had with people in the Gospels who were controlled by an evil spirit. There is Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out seven demons. There is the man in Gerasenes who because of the legion of demons lived outside the city, homeless and naked and unable to even be chained. There is the boy seized by an evil spirit that caused convulsions and who hit and injured the boy. There was the little girl of the gentile woman. There was the woman who was crippled by an evil spirit that kept her bent over for 18 years. In all these cases, those afflicted were kept from living full and free lives because of the power the evil one held over them. And in all these cases Jesus brought deliverance, healing, freedom.

We tend to think differently about the spiritual world now. And we tend to fall to one side or the other—to completely ignore the reality of evil spirits or to look for them around every corner and focus on them more than the power of God. The Bible teaches us though that Satan actively roams and seeks people to devour. Just as he did with Adam and Eve, he works to teach us to believe about God what is not true. He seeks to distract us from the fullness of life God has for us, from being the image-bearers of God we are created to be. He entices us with things pleasing to our eyes and we are led away by following our own desires instead of holding to what God has set before us. He shackles us with shame and guilt so we cannot stand.

I think of Jesus’s words as he looks out over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now look, your house is left to you empty.”  And also his words, “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. Wherever they go, they will find green pastures. The thief comes to kill and steal and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”

What are you bound by? What has power over you? What drives you away from the life God has called you to? Jesus instructs us to pray for deliverance. He came to proclaim freedom for captives and deliverance for the oppressed. Pray today for yourself, for your brothers and sisters in the church, and for those that do not yet know Jesus, that God would deliver us from the evil that would bind us.
Scripture References: Luke 8, Mark 5, Luke 9, Mark 7, Luke 13

Sunday May 15: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever.

The celebration of Pentecost is here! The disciples are together praying and the Holy Spirit comes. The wonderful things God has done are proclaimed and people from many nations hear it in their own language.  Some are filled with wonder and amazement. Some laugh and mock. Peter preaches about the prophecies of God and the the fulfillment of them in Jesus and didn’t mince words when plainly stated the people’s responsibility in Jesus’s crucifixion. The people are cut to the heart and asked what to do. Peter’s answer is so full of grace: Turn from your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus for forgiveness and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand were baptized and added to the church that day. They joined with the believers and devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to sharing in the Lord’s Supper and to prayer. If you sit in the stories of the Acts of the Apostles, the things that happened following Pentecost are astounding. People are healed, thousands come to believe in Jesus, ordinary common men become extraordinary messengers of the Gospel, the church is in incredible harmony and God himself intervenes dramatically when some try to act deceitfully.

We have been given this same Spirit. We are members of God’s kingdom just as those in the Early Church were. After Peter and John were arrested they found the other believers and they prayed together. They acknowledged the faithfulness of God to bring about what he had said through David would come to pass. They prayed for boldness in their preaching. They prayed, “Send your healing power; may many miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And the building shook and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they preached God’s message with boldness. All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all.” May it be so with us also. May we be faithful to pray, to listen, to act in obedience, to walk in unity and love. May the words God has spoken to us in this week of prayer be remembered and shared together for the strengthening of his body. May the kingship and power and glory of our God be made known, now and forever.

Scripture References: Acts 2, Acts 4


About Wendy McCollum

I am a single mom to five wonderful boys. Life is an adventure, with many twists and turns. We live in hope, always, for our great God can redeem all things. There are so many funny and precious moments that slip by too fast. Perhaps here I can save them for when my own memory fails.
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