The Lord’s Prayer

It is a particular shame that we have ruined the Lord’s Prayer.  When the disciples came to Jesus to ask Him to teach them how to pray, He gave them something simple.  But first, He told them not to pray like the hypocrites and the heathen.  How did the hypocrites and the heathen pray?  Well, they prayed so that others could hear them and they repeated the same words over and over without regard to what they were saying.  Some of them thought they would get special blessings from many repetitions.

So Jesus said not to pray like that.  But what did we do?  We took the words, the example, He gave the disciples and we memorized it so we could say it together in church.  We made the Lord’s Prayer a vain repetition.  But it wasn’t meant to be that.  It was meant to be an example.  Jesus said: When you pray, pray like this.

Read the words of the Lord’s Prayer as given in the Message.  See if it doesn’t feel a lot more like a friend talking with a friend:

Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.

Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

You’re in charge! You can do anything you want!

You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.

Matthew 6:9-13

What do you think?  Would that pass the muster as an example of prayer today?  It is almost random in structure, just like our thoughts.  It is simple, just like we are.  It is specific and general at the same time, just like our concerns.  I think Jesus gave us an “off-the-cuff” prayer, not something for us to formalize and make the official prayer of our faith.

Sometimes an impromptu prayer is the very best kind.

What do you think?

6 Comments

Filed under Freedom, Legalism, Relationship

6 responses to “The Lord’s Prayer

  1. With regard to the verse following the Lord’s Prayer, ‘for if you don’t forgive….neither will God…’ Maybe you have taught on this previously. If not, would you share your thoughts? Love to read your posts and look forward to them daily.

    • Marsh, Check this out. I posted it in February…

      Forgiveness belongs to the Lord. When you came to Him, you gave Him the right to all offenses against you. That may sound strange, but think of it as coming under His care. You died to the past and to all the things you held onto in order to feel alive. Instead, you found life in Him and He filled you with His life. All your sins of the past (and present and future) were forgiven in Him and washed away from you at that time.

      Now, you maybe didn’t know all that happened. That’s okay. I think we will continue to learn and understand the things that happened as we entered into a real relationship with Jesus. The church does a poor job of teaching people things like forgiveness and freedom and victory, but that doesn’t make them less true. We are rooted in Him, drawing our life from Him, but we have a great deal to learn about Him and about what He has done for us.

      So, we understand that He took our sins away from us but do we understand that He took the sins of others against us away from us also? I think that’s what the Lord’s prayer means when it says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” It isn’t cause and effect—that we are asking Him to forgive us in the same way we forgive others. That would be a very difficult thing to pray. No, it is that both things happen in Him. He forgives us and He relieves us of the burden of the offenses against us. In Matthew 11, Jesus ties the two together and most teachers read it as though we will remain unforgiven until we forgive. But think about that. If our salvation is a free gift that we neither deserved nor earned, then how can our lack of forgiveness toward others hold back His love and work for us? Almost all believers agree that forgiveness is what salvation is all about. So do we have it or not? If we do, then it does not hinge on our forgiveness toward others. Instead, Jesus ties the two together. If you do not forgive, then you are not forgiven. Reverse those and you have something quite different: If you are forgiven, then you do forgive others.

      I realize this is probably something you have never heard. Let’s say it this way. You are in Christ and Christ is in you. If the people who hurt you are in Christ, then their sins have been forgiven in Him. If they are not in Him, then He offers them forgiveness in Him. In neither case is it about you. When you came to Christ, you confessed your sinfulness. That means that you agreed with Him that what you did was wrong and you gave Him the right to deal with those things. He took your sins to the cross and washed them away from you. But this same thing happens in regard to the sins of others.

      Now, I think this is a moot point, already accomplished, for believers. I think we can say we already forgave those who have offended us because we are now in Christ and He forgives. But I know that it doesn’t feel like it. So I suggest that you go to the Lord and tell Him that you understand He loves the people who hurt you and you agree with Him that all sins are really against Him. Then agree that He can deal with those people in whatever way He desires. Give the whole thing over to Him.

      He has completely forgiven you—past, present, and future—and He bears the burden of the sins against you. Isn’t that amazing? Just think of the power that is taken away from the evil one when we understand this!

      • Thanks for the explanation. You’re right that I have not heard it explained the way you do. I can certainly concur with your conclusion. My take on not being forgiven unless I forgive is that Jesus is using the old Law to bury his hearers who might still try to find salvation within their obedience to the law. It is similar to the teaching on pluck out your eye or cut off you hand. I believe Jesus was raising the bar so high that nobody could ever hope to live up to its standard of holiness. Jesus lived under the old law as long as his body was still alive and the old law was still in force until he died. After his death, the old covenant was set aside and the new covenant became established with his blood. Nowhere in the new covenant does it say to believers to cut off body parts, pluck out an eye, sell everything you have and give it all away, or live under the threat of not getting forgiven if we withhold forgiveness. The new covenant says for me to forgive others the way Jesus forgave me (unconditionally), but it has no negative consequences attached should I fail to comply such as the one in the Lord’s prayer. What do you think about this line of understanding?

  2. Marsh,
    I do think there is something to what you are saying. As Jesus taught the Jews, He continually brought them back to the futility of life under the Law. Just as you say, the bar was raised to where it was supposed to be set. The teachers had lowered the requirements in many ways so the people could seem to achieve something. But that wasn’t the point of the Law.

    But I am somewhat uncomfortable with dismissing the teaching simply because it was given under the Law. If we were to do that, we would dismiss all the teachings of Jesus as being inapplicable to New Testament believers. So, while I do agree, I find myself wanting to be very careful.
    I suspect that two things are true. First, there is a simple application that is clearly under the Law. The frustration that would have come from trying to keep these “commands of Christ,” as one teacher calls them, would have been overwhelming. In many ways, Jesus puts a heavier burden on the people under the Law.

    At the same time, the Law is perfectly fulfilled in us through the life of Jesus. There is nothing in me that falls short of the perfection required by the Law, because of Jesus in me. So, unless the commands of Christ were spoken facetiously, I assume that there is some way that even those things are already fulfilled in me. That takes me to the thoughts I expressed in the post.

    There is more here worth investigating. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Shirley

    When I was a child we used to sing this as a song in primary school, and as a child it was easy as all of Jesus’s teachings were easy….

    Then came adulthood! with all those grey areas that come with it?..and reading the Gospels is not so easy to read anymore….

    I found myself not being able to forgive others ( no way after what they’d done ) or love ( although I thought of myself as quite a loving person ) hmmm?

    I’d been so hurt by the people who were suppose to be taking care of me but they all broke my trust..

    Then I read if we say we love God but don’t Love other Christians we don’t have God in us..Wow this one buried me alive as I actually hated them…

    I’m just so happy that God has been so patient with me and prompted me to pray ” Lord if I have to be so perfect then what did Jesus die for?” This prayer! and I know it didn’t come from me, was the catalyst to a new found relationship between God and myself…
    He lead me straight to Gal 2:21 “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”.

    In Eph 4;32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” Is the mirror to Mathew 6:15. ” But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”
    Much the same of every law as in the old testament we must love God and obey all his commandments, But in contrast in the new testament it says we love because he loved us first…I believe the Lords Prayer was to believers under the old law system as Jesus himself was born and lived under the Law…

    Law: Us to God..In our flesh..
    Grace: God to us..Through his Spirit..

    So what’s the problem? words are the problem…we must divide the word correctly otherwise we’ll all end up in a big fat mess…

    The Law of God I believe was God allowing his people to try and serve him with their consciences…I have found that the majority of people in the world still think this is possible?? ( either religious unbelievers or worldly unbelievers ) Christ called them all worldly..

    When Moses led the israelites out of egypt they had experienced God;s Grace in ways that most of us will never see…
    Instead of thanking him for their deliverance and not according to anything they had done whether good or bad…They chose to see him through their own consciences ( their own set of rights and wrongs ) which led them to unbelief…

    I call this the natural man or the flesh! I think God felt the same with these people as when hundreds of years later they asked for a human King…A bit like when we say if you give someone enough rope they will eventually hang themselves with it…

    God was very wise with his decision when he gave the Law as he knew full well how strong the flesh was….But to all who hunger for rightiousness Jesus is at the end of that rope (Law)..

    So the decision we have to make on this day is whether we want The Law or his Grace…
    As they are at war with one another,, this is our daily decision..”his way or our way”

    If we abandon ourselves in his finished work on the cross and believe he has our backs according to his promises ( entering his REST ) then the Christian life is an easy life…

    “We are free from the Law to live by the Spirit” the same spirit that made the universe and raised Christ from the dead is the Spirit that dwells in the believer…WOW let us meditate on this fact that the full power of God lives in our hearts…

    • Marsh

      Wonderfully said. That same understanding completely transformed my belief and therefore my life. “An ignorant person is one who doesn’t know what you have just found out.” Will Rogers.

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