THE LORD’S PRAYER
Today we hear from Jesus on prayer. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is a little different than the one we’ve all memorized, but essentially the same. It is the example, or model prayer for disciples of Jesus to pray. It teaches us how to pray, how to think about prayer, what prayer is all about. But not just prayer – in fact here we learn much more about our relationship with God.
Grace, mercy and peace. Forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ. Salvation. Eternal life. A clear conscience. The guidance of the Holy Spirit. These things we know are God’s will for us. These are the good gifts he guarantees.
How can God make such promises? Why does he esteem us, poorly behaved children that we are? On what basis does he provide so many and wonderful gifts to such petulant and wayward children? It’s because of Jesus Christ, of course.
Jesus who died on the cross – and there crushed the head of the serpent. Jesus who drank the cup of wrath, according to his Father’s will, that cup filled not with scorpion’s venom, but with the poison of our sins. He takes what is evil and sinful and wicked, and in return he gives us all good things.
And he calls on us to trust him, as in our prayers. That we would look to him for good things. For as an earthly father wouldn’t give his children something to harm them, how much more our Heavenly Father will give us good things.
I want to review parts of the Prayer with you.
“Father” or “Our Father”. Neither Judaism nor Islam teaches that we should approach God in prayer as Father. But our God is the Father – not only our Father by virtue of creation, but also the Father of the Son. And it is only by virtue of the Son that we come to the Father, as Jesus taught. Let’s not pass over too quickly that our loving Father would have us wayward and disobedient children turn to him in prayer, and ask him as dear children ask their earthly fathers for good things. He won’t give us scorpions and snakes. He’ll give us far more than we could ask. He gives us even his own Son, Jesus Christ.
“Hallowed be thy name”
We are reminded of the Second Commandment, and how often we dishonor and abuse God’s name, taking it in vain. As people who bear his triune name in our baptism, everything we do reflects on him. Every time we sin we sully the family name. But nonetheless, God’s name is holy, and we pray here that we would keep it holy among us. That we would devote ourselves to growing in his word, in our faith, that all things connected to him, his name, his identity, would be kept holy by us and be a blessing to us. It is no small thing that God tells us his name, and invites us to call upon him. A command, to be sure, but a blessing all the more.
“Thy Kingdom Come”
God is king over all, but not all know it, like it, believe it. For us, we acknowledge him as our benevolent ruler who is not only a law-giver but protector and defender. And he rules not with an iron fist, but through his word, even his gospel. He would extend his reign of grace over the world, expanding the horizons of his kingdom through making of disciples, baptizing, teaching. So we have been brought into the fold. So we send missionaries, pastors, teachers and others to carry on the expansion of his kingdom. And we pray that God’s reign would grow and strengthen, first in our lives, and from there… to all.
“Thy will be done”
Not mentioned in the shorter version here, but still worth mentioning – that God’s good and gracious will is that sinners like you and me would come to faith in Christ. When we pray this petition, we’re not so much asking God to direct us in what to have for dinner or where to send our kids to school. We’re praying the prayer of faith – that God would work repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ – in my life, and in the lives of others. This is his good and gracious will.
and now… “Daily Bread”
All that we need to support this body and life. And yet we turn our bread into an idol. We twist the good things in life, food and drink, house and home, cars and clothes, computers and smart phones… and we make them into little golden calves and put them on our pedestals of worship. But still, God provides. He gives graciously and lavishly, everything we need and more. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for if God clothes the flowers and feeds the birds so well, won’t he care for you who are much more valuable. And if he cares for these our lesser needs of earthly things, won’t he care also for our greatest need – the one we pray for next?
“Forgive us our sins” or “trespasses” or “debts”
And here is the heart of it, friends. You and I are in a predicament. We are poor, miserable, sinners. We are wicked and rebellious by nature. We are dead in our trespasses. We are beyond help. At least in ourselves.
We rebel against the Father. We dishonor his name. We trample his kingdom. And we could care less about his will. We abuse our daily bread. And we rack up the sinful debt that is beyond count. Oh and remember we don’t even pray as we ought.
But the Lord Jesus Christ who tells us to pray for forgiveness does so with good reason. For he himself, on the cross, would procure that very thing. “Father”, yes, Jesus prays to the Father, too, “Father, forgive them. Father into your hands I commit my spirit. For it is finished”.
The Father, our Father, has given his Son. And the Son forgives. And the Son lives. And the Son gives us life. And the Spirit is sent to us, also, to renew and strengthen our faith, and bring us always to the cross of Christ for even more forgiveness. To remind us of our baptism, where our Father made us his own.
And then there is the Supper – for God provides not just daily bread, but here in this holy meal – heavenly bread, and festival wine – that is not just bread and wine, but his own Son’s body and blood. Here he forgives our sins, strengthens us against temptation, delivers us from evil.
You see, the Lord’s Prayer, this wonderful teaching of Jesus, is not just for us to mumble together in a show of Christian unity. It is not just a handy prayer to teach our kids should they ever get into real trouble. Nor is it just a sentimental topic for a needlepoint pattern.
In this prayer Jesus teaches us. And he teaches us not only how to pray, but why we need to pray – for we are sinners. And not only that, but he also teaches us about himself, and his Father, our Father. That our gracious God delights in our prayers. And as a loving Father he wants to give us good things, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
So pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray freely and joyfully, in faith, to the Father who wants to hear you. Who wants to give you good things. Pray in humility, for Father knows best, and will give you what you need. Pray confidently in the name of Jesus, who makes our prayers and our very selves acceptable to God, through his life and death for us all. Pray in him, and live in him, even into the kingdom to come.