Lord’s Prayer 1 May 21, 2006
It has kind of become tradition in the last couple of years for me to plan a series of sermons for the summer months to try to connect the dots on those lazy hazy days. I believe last summer we worked on the Lord’s Prayer, but if I can’t remember, I certainly can’t expect you too. For this summer, Iam really excited about my plan to work through the Lord’s Prayer.
The State of Prayer
To begin though, it is important to take note that the Lord’s Prayer and Christian Prayer in general have seen happier days. It is not that the Lord’s Prayer itself isn’t well known. In fact, if there is one piece of Scripture known by people, it has to be the Lord’s Prayer. For many years it was arequired part of elementary and secondary school education in Canada in other western countries.
But that is part of the reason why it fell out of favour. In some countries if you were Jewish you were called out of the classroom rows and made to stand by the side of the room till the prayer was over. If you weren’t religious but with a Christian background, you were forced to pray the prayeranyways.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that the Lord’s Prayer brings so many negative feelings for so many. “The prayer people have been forced to pray whether they believed in it or not.”
And then there is the whole state of prayer in general. Two many people have come to notice examples of how prayer in general has been misused. We have all seen examples of extreme public prayer that seemalmost hypocritical: TV evangelists and city prayer breakfasts and government prayers full of big words, words meant for show. That is nothing new of course. Jesus saw people like that already in his day: “the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”
There are others who are too embarrassed to pray at all except in church. “What willpeople think?” they fear, as if their secret of faith will lead to their martyrdom.
Then there are those who pray as a substitute for action... As someone once mentioned to his friend, “I’d like to ask God why he permits so much poverty and suffering in this world.” His friend questioned, “Why don’t you then?” The answer: “I am afraid God will ask me the same thing!” Prayer as a substitute foraction. And so people pray, “God please help the poor people” (because I am too busy or too tight with my money”, they might add.)
And then there are those who pray when they are in a very tight bind, like this prayer: “God, this bull is about to charge me. But if you stop him God, I promise to give all his meat to the poor when I am done with him.” I like to call this type of prayer “soapopera prayer”, since the only time you hear about prayer in a soap opera is when someone is in a lot of trouble. In this type of prayer, people fall on there knees when there is absolutely no other thing that can be humanly done to improve the situation. The story is told of a ship that was starting to sink. The captain walks over to the ship’s chaplain and says, “Reverend, there is nothing else wecan do but pray.” And the chaplain cries out, “Are things really that bad?” Prayer as a last resort!
So if we take all of these things into consideration, it is not surprising that prayer, including or maybe especially the Lord’s Prayer, has been having a rough ride as of late. I have to admit that until fairly recently, I too was somewhat ambivalent about the Lord’s Prayer. But then Istarted to notice the power of that prayer in pastoral situations. And then this last winter I began to study it more intensely, trying to understand what Jesus had in mind, and the more I studied it, the more exciting and powerful that prayer became for me.
I hope you too in the course of this summer can feel some of that excitement and appreciation for the prayer. It was recorded that the early...