The Pastor’s Pen – August 4, 2019

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Lord’s Prayer – Our Prayer

Part 2

August 4, 2019

Scripture: Based on Matthew 6:9-13    

Let us pray.  Dear Lord of ours, open our minds, our hearts to hear your word.  But more…help us to hear your call upon our hearts to walk in ways that show others the hope we find in you…in your name, and in your very presence we pray, amen

        Last week we began to look closely at the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples.  We looked at the introduction and the first three petitions which are directed towards the plans and purposes of God.  We saw that the word “our” which begins the prayer was deliberate…and though the prayer is also intended to be prayed individually and personally, at its heart it is a communal prayer, to be prayed, and lived out by the whole community.

        We heard that the word in the Aramaic language that Jesus used to address his father was Abba, which is an affectionate and intimate name, such as Daddy or Papa. A name chosen by Jesus to show his disciples that our God wants to be in a close and loving relationship with each one of us…our God wants to be known as a loving papa…as dependable and ever-present, watching over and keeping us close each and every minute of the day.

        We learned that “hallowed be” was a prayer that God would act to make his name holy on earth, that God’s name, God’s fullness and presence would be seen here and now, visible for all to see.

We learned that the ‘Kingdom of God’ was seen differently by Matthew’s and Luke’s worshipping communities, depending on their history and circumstances…and that on the one hand, it is possible to see the Kingdom of God as one’s own personal possession and right…or, on the other hand it is possible to see the Kingdom of our Lord as an invitation to all peoples to join together at one common table in human fellowship…as one theologian offered, the “kin-dom” of God.

        And finally we looked at the petition ‘thy will be done’…a call for our Lord’s will and purposes to be accomplished not only through our actions and words, but also in spite of the choices we make as a consequence of our free will…that God would continue to bring about the fulfillment of his good and glorious designs for us and for all of Creation even though we may not always make choices or take actions that are pointed in those same directions.

        Last week we finished up the first three petitions and prayed the first half of our Lord’s prayer as: ‘Our papa, make your name, your fullness present in our sight.  Hasten the day when all can see and be a part of the kinship of your family, and work through our stubbornness and weakness to bring the flower of your love on earth into fullest and fairest bloom for all to see.  Papa God in heaven hear this our prayer.’

        Today we move on into the remainder of the prayer taught by Jesus, looking at the remaining four petitions, the ones that are more personal, the ones that ask God to deal directly with us and with our lives as his followers…with our lives as ‘Papa’s’ children.  So today we are going to pick up at verse eleven of Matthew’s gospel, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

        This line of Jesus’ prayer has been discussed and debated from the very beginnings of biblical study.  In part because bread itself figures so prominently throughout both the New and the Old Testament accounts as a symbol of God’s provision and care for humanity.  From the manna in the desert given to Moses and the wandering Hebrews, to Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand with just simple a few loaves and fish.  From Jesus’ declaration that “I am the bread of life”, to the Last Supper where Jesus broke bread and gave it to his disciples, bread has been seen as an essential part of our sustenance and a prominent symbol of our faith. 

As a result, many saw this line of the prayer as a call for God to bring about the fulfillment of his Kingdom and to once again offer to us the bread of divine deliverance.  Others however heard a different plea.  There are very few words in the scriptures whose meanings are not quite clear to students and scholars.  Most of the words and phrases have been translated and understood because of numerous cross references across the whole body of available texts and references from ancient times.  And with the advent of computers into the quest, searching for and finding cross references for various words or phrases has become much more thorough and efficient. 

Virtually all of the ancient Greek texts, both sacred and not, have been put into the mix and very few words or phrases, in fact only a handful, are still unclear as to their exact meaning.  The word for ‘daily’ in our scripture today is just such one of those.  The Greek word Jesus used is “epiousios”, and its meaning has been the subject of debate since the beginning of biblical scholarship.  The only other reference we have for this word, in all of the ancient texts, was found on a scrap of parchment dating from the fifth century and it appears to be some sort of listing of things the writer was intending to get…almost like a shopping list.

And so, the closest meaning we can glean from this reference is that Jesus seemed to be telling his disciples to ask for “bread for the day”.

So, for many who study the bible, “daily bread” is understood as bread, or provision sufficient for the day at hand…not for the future…not even for tomorrow…but bread sufficient for this day.  Bread provided by a Papa God for our immediate needs, not extra bread to carry, extra in fact that might burden us down on our journey, but rather, just enough bread for today…for tomorrow’s bread can be prayed for tomorrow!  For this God of ours is a God who seeks to be in close and dependent relationship with each one of us…so close that we can trust him to be our guide and provider each step of the way, one day at a time.

So now our prayer reads… Our Papa, make your name, your fullness present in our sight.  Hasten the day when all can see and be a part of the kinship of your family.  Work through our stubbornness and weakness to bring the flower of your love on earth into fullest and fairest bloom for all to see.  Give us we pray, sufficient provision for this day and teach us to trust in your constant care for us as we walk forward seeking to do your will…

        The next petition is also one that can be seen in a couple of different ways… ‘forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’.  Actually, our translation and others read, ‘Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors’.  And that difference is significant.  For if we read it as we normally say the prayer, ‘forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’, it is possible to put the focus on the word ‘as’, and to make the petition a conditional one.  In other words, to read this line as “forgive us our debts, as, or when, or if, or, to the same extent that we forgive our debtors…sort of like ‘God, you are a good, but, also a stern and judging God. Therefore, we are sure that you keep score and if we do not forgive others from the heart then you will most likely not forgive us, for that is only fair of course’…however, that is not exactly in keeping with a God known as ‘Papa’ is it? 

        However, if we read it as it is translated and given to us in our Bibles the meaning is quite different…forgive us as we have already forgiven implies a deeper and more personal relationship.  Instead reading something like this; ‘Since we have, as a result of the mercy and love you have poured into our hearts, already forgiven those who may have wronged us, since we seek to mirror your forgiveness and love, please Lord, look upon our own shortcomings and miss steps with that same constant mercy and loving kindness.  Not because we deserve it, but because your love is unconditional and complete.  Teach us Lord to remain in a place of extending the same forgiveness towards others that you have so graciously extended to each one of us.  Keep us Lord fully out of the judgment business, for it is no business of ours. 

If my Lord, you can forgive me, then I have no grounds, no reason, no right to somehow withhold from others the same grace and love.  Forgive us again Lord, for we know you and follow you and are in the habit of extending your grace to others who may test and try us.  We are all your children Papa, and we are all unworthy, and loved just the same…Glory be to God!’

 ‘Lead us not into temptation’…we ask next…another line from this prayer of our Lord’s that has given folks trouble over the years…for it seems as though it is not fair to begin with, for God to lead us into places we will struggle in.  Truly this can seem to be a troublesome line…unless we look at the world around us, unless we are honest about what we see and face every day.  Times are hard, and there are many, many opportunities to bend the truth or to shade some meaning just to get by.  ‘Life is hard’ we say, ‘it won’t hurt just this one time to do it this way, or to make sure that my own ‘slice of bread’ is secure’.  In truth, life is filled with many temptations and it is a constant struggle to walk in a way that is without fault or weakness.

So, what are we praying for here?  The prayer seems to be saying that, ‘since we are constantly bombarded with opportunities to do things the easy way, or the sort of right way, or the it really doesn’t matter that much way…since that is our daily walk, Dear Papa, we ask that you will continue to patiently and lovingly guide us by the intervention of your Holy Spirit deep within our hearts, enabling us to see the pathway through and around those temptations’.  We ask that we might be strengthened to endure, to hold fast, and to listen to that still small voice of the Spirit deep within our soul that counsels. “Here is the path, follow it”.  Lead us in ways of strong relationship with you Lord such that in times of hard testing we may turn to you and find the guidance and strength to continue our walk towards you. 

And then finally, ‘Deliver us from evil’.  It really doesn’t matter how you view evil or what the source of that may be…the fact is, that there is real evil in the world all around us.   And so this final petition acknowledges that evil presence and asks that God would keep us safe from the power and effects of the destructive forces at work in the world around us today.  It asks for deliverance from that power, but at the same time, it does not allow us to run away and hide in the folds of Jesus’ robe, simply closing our eyes and hoping it goes away.  For that is not what Jesus did.  In fact, he stood up against all the powers of evil when he was present here on earth, stood fast against all powers and systems of oppression and injustice to the extent that he was arrested, crucified, and murdered because of it. 

So we are not asking here to be freed from the obligation to engage the powers of evil still present in the world, but rather to be strengthened in that struggle by the power and love of our Lord Jesus, and ultimately one day to be delivered from defeat at the hand of those same forces that seek to destroy all that is good and loving and holy within God’s creation.  Keep us safe Lord as we toil and struggle in your name to make your love the victor in our day.

So, as we can see, this prayer is a very full, and very deep and powerful one.  It is not a prayer that should be prayed lightly for it asks much of us…just as it acknowledges the depth and breadth of Papa God’s unconditional love for each one of us, His beloved children.

And so, with this fuller understanding of all the meaning within it, we pray the prayer Jesus taught as: Our Papa, make your name, your fullness present in our sight. Hasten the day when all can see and be a part of the kinship of your family.  Work through our stubbornness and weakness to bring the flower of your love on earth into fullest and fairest bloom for all to see.  Give us, we pray sufficient provision for this day and teach us to trust in your constant care for each one of us as we walk forward seeking to do your will.  And when we stumble and fall dear Lord, continue to forgive us and to extend your unconditional love towards each one of us, teaching us Papa how to offer the same love and forgiveness to those around us.  And dearest Lord, help us each day to look to you in times of testing and temptation and to remember that you are there and wanting to lead us in paths of joy and grace.  In those times and always, help us to endure for the sake of your love.  And finally, Lord Jesus, as you have called us to work tirelessly on your behalf, to continue your liberating work of freeing all of creation from the ravages of evil, walk beside us and keep us safe this, and every day.  Oh Lord, Papa God, hear this our fervent prayer…amen

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