"You should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,(Pericope 073: Jesus teaches about prayer; Matt.6.9-13, CEV)
help us to honor your name.
Come and set up your kingdom,
so that everyone on earth will obey you,
as you are obeyed in heaven.
Give us our food for today.
Forgive us for doing wrong,
as we forgive others.
Keep us from being tempted
and protect us from evil.
Discipleship means Believing, Thinking, Being, Doing
I take it as given that Jesus didn't provide this model prayer just for rote recitation Sunday mornings in church. Though conventionally known as the Lord's Prayer, it is really the Disciple's Prayer (which i'll call Our Prayer): a model from our Lord of how we should pray as his disciples. As a model, Our Prayer has implications both for how we think (cognitive aspects) and how we act (behavior). As disciples, our prayers are both requests of our Lord, but also expressions of what we believe and want to be true. We have so institutionalized Our Prayer that we easily miss what praying like this means for us.
The cognitive side of being a disciple includes at least two things: our view of reality and the world around us (our worldview), and our values. (By the way, if you've never read James Sire's Universe Next Door, go order it now and read it: i'm not kidding, it's that important!) Our values overlap with our worldview to some extent, but also include what we consider important. Another cognitive dimension of Our Prayer is adjusting our priorities: in our increasingly ADD, entertainment-addicted, data-smogged, multi-tasking society, what we pay attention to can be more important than what we say we believe (but ignore in practice).
The behavioral side includes both our attitudes and our (external) actions. Just because attitudes are internal doesn't mean they're not behavior: how we think about something is still a choice.
Reflecting on Our Prayer
This quick sketch doesn't do justice to the complexity of human psychology and behavior: it's just a simple scaffold for this reflection. Jesus assumes we will pray, whch would have been true of the majority of his hearers, though by no means the majority of people today! Given a worldview that includes prayer, and the practice of praying, Jesus here instructs us as to how we should pray. Clause by clause ...
- "Our Father in heaven": on the cognitive side: God cares for us intimately, as a father for a child, and we have a close relationship with Him.
- "help us to honor your name": in our worldview, God's name ought to be respected. We adopt an attitude of desiring this to be true, and implicitly acting in such a way that our Father is honored.
- "Come and set up your kingdom": we assert the priority of God's kingdom, and desire its completion and fullfilment. Again, this implies an attitude of cooperative effort to make this true.
- "so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven": this phrase clarifies the scope of the previous one. God is global and universal in his dominion. Again, we implicitly commit ourselves to obedience.
- "Give us our food for today": we understand our dependence on our Father for our most basic needs, and see him as our provider. Note this is the first point in the prayer where our own practical needs enter the picture.
- "Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others.": we fall short of God's standard of righteousness, so forgiveness is as fundamental a need as our food, and our Father is its source. We are committed to forgiving others.
- "Keep us from being tempted": we are subject to temptation, and we desire to avoid it, with our Father's help (and He is able to help us in this way).
- "and protect us from evil.": Again we acknowledge God's control of the evil forces around us. (more exegesis would be required to clarify the protection we are to ask for)
[Note the conventional ending -- "The kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours forever, Amen." -- isn't found in the oldest manuscripts, and is therefore not included in most modern versions of Our Prayer. Luke records a very similar version(Pericope 165: Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray), but on a different occasion where an unnamed disciple requests a model of prayer, comparable to what John the Baptist and other teachers apparently provided for their disciples.]
Our Prayer and Making Disciples
Our commission from Jesus to make disciples (Pericope 354: Jesus gives the Great Commission) means working to conform people to God's intentions for them as his creation. It is not the same as making converts. While conversion is a critical threshold in entering God's kingdom, our discipleship does not stop when we are converted. In the fullest view, discipleship is a transformation of worldview, values, priorities, attitudes, and behaviors: some aspects begin before conversion. For example, our worldview must change before we are ever ready to be born again. "Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb.11.6) is a statement about worldview: if we don't believe God exists, how can we come to Him for salvation?
So Our Prayer describes some of beliefs, attitudes, and actions that Jesus desires his disciples to live out. As such, it defines outcomes that should result from our own discipleship, and should be equally true of any disciples that we make in obedience to Jesus' mandate. Specifically,
- We believe in a heavenly father who deserves honor. His kingdom will one day encompass all the earth in obedience to His will. We understand ourselves as needy, sinful people. He provides us with forgiveness, protection from temptation and evil (or the Evil One, an alternate translation)
- We desire honor for His name, establishment of His kingdom, and obedience by all to His will. We trust Him for our food, for our forgiveness, and our protection from sin and evil.
- In our actions, we forgive others.
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