10 Apr Introduction: Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life: Where is Our Joy?
Henry David Thoreau, tucked away in his Walden cabin, famously said that most of us lead lives of quiet desperation. That was in 1845. Today, things are not so quiet in the United States. Anxiety and depression are regular rites of passage from which millions never graduate. Civility meanwhile has long been dropped from our national discourse. It’s a sad indictment of a country where so many people celebrate a Christian heritage. We have the highest levels of church attendance in the world. Almost eighty percent of us say that we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, where is our joy? Where is our vitality? Where is our peace of mind?
The Son comes to complete our happiness in THIS life,1 yet it’s clear not many are receiving “the good news”. Instead, we are sold a gospel that forsakes the living hour for a future heavenly reward: a spiritual reckoning that asks for little and receives even less in return. Simply accept Jesus Christ as your savior, we are told, and you’ll be hanging out with the good Lord for eternity. If it were only so easy.2
Jesus of Nazareth didn’t teach the idler’s path to God. He said that because much has been given us, much is expected.3 He described the kingdom of heaven as a place that doesn’t suffer fools.4 And he asked that his followers become as perfect as their Father in heaven5 —a seemingly impossible task, if it were not for the fact that all things are possible with the help of God.6
The Lord’s Prayer & Clear Thinking
The first step toward perfection, according to Jesus, is to love God with all our heart, soul, AND mind.7 The mind gets short shrift from many Christians today. We forget that Jesus amazed people with both his miracles and his wits.8 All who listened to him marveled at his intelligence and his answers. He was a man, we are told, whose wisdom grew as he grew in years. Only after reaching maturity did his intellect surpass that of the legendary King Solomon.9
Clear thinking is essential for Christians because Jesus asks that we decide for ourselves what is right.10 Making those correct choices requires intelligence and learning, as well as faith and a loving heart. God did not bless us with extraordinary minds, whose complexity dwarfs that of any computer, only to have us park them in storage. Instead, we are called to develop our logic and reason—to transform our minds into Christ’s “winnowing fans.” So that the chaff might be removed from the wheat11 the dead teachings from the living Word.
Like Jesus, we are asked to sweep away the dictates of the billy-club faithful, the literalists whose passion for scripture12 is but another form of idolatry. The Pharisees and Sadducees may be historical footnotes, but their modern day equivalents litter the airwaves and pulpits of America—preachers of wealth and brimstone who chop up Biblical passages to feed prosperity theologies and end–time prophecy. And who bludgeon the confused with decrees on personal behavior, sexual orientation, and the evils of science. Like the “hypocrite” teachers before them, they turn the kingdom of heaven in our faces—refusing to enter that realm themselves, while barring entrance to those who try to do so.13
Christ comes bringing both love and truth,14 but discerning the truth has never been easy. Jesus’s first followers failed rather dramatically. Instead of pouring his “new wine” into fresh bottles,15 they refused to give up their Old Testament belief system that the Father plays favorites: that the people of Israel were God’s chosen, and that they would soon be rewarded with an earthly kingdom ruled by Christ, the Son of David.16
The Lord’s Prayer & The Kingdom of Heaven
Jesus didn’t buy into their narrative. He was all about breaking Israel’s religious traditions, not preserving them.17 Rather than toe the Mosaic line, he replaced the law of an “an eye for an eye” with turn the other cheek, and “honor thy father and mother” with honor only thy Father in heaven.18 He revealed the hypocrisy of sin-based laws and punishments.19 And most importantly, Jesus taught that God’s kingdom was no longer a future reward for the race of Abraham; but the divine birthright of all mankind, since the beginning of the world.20 If we had the eyes to see and the faith to believe, Christ would reveal the kingdom of heaven that exists within us21 and around us, right now, at this very moment.22
Jesus’s disciples found this hard to accept. Nothing could persuade them from seeing their teacher in any way other than Israel’s earthly Messiah.23 Or dissuade the gospel writers from retelling stories about Jesus that are completely out of character: such as when he is said to initially refuse help to a woman with a sick child because of her race,24 or when he is quoted as saying that carnival acts like speaking in tongues and juggling snakes25 are signs of Christ in action.
Fortunately, such passages are easily rendered false by juxtaposing them against Jesus’s true gospel: that Christ, the Son of God, is not the son of David;26 that none who seek the Son are ever turned away;27 and that those who seek physical “signs” of the Christ are woefully misguided.28
That we must take a critical eye to what appears in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John should come as no surprise, considering how Jesus’s closest confidants rarely could make heads or tails of what he said.29 In their confusion, the 12 apostles (like everyone else) filtered their master’s words through the spectacles of old prophecy, making absurd suggestions to Jesus like: Hey, you want us to burn down that village because its people didn’t welcome you?30 We can almost see Jesus rolling his eyes and hear his sigh, as he is forced to rebuke his disciples once again.
By the time of the Last Supper, we hope for Jesus’s sake that his hand-picked students have finally learned something. But instead we find the apostles petty and ego-driven, arguing over who among them will be greatest in the coming kingdom.31 After dinner, they can’t even stay awake for a few hours while Jesus prays in the garden.32 Then, when soldiers arrive and Jesus is seized, one apostle turns violent and cuts off somebody’s ear.33 It couldn’t get much worse, but Peter gives it a shot. Even after witnessing his Lord’s miracles first hand, this trusty disciple (the so called “rock”34 on which the Roman Catholic Church is built) can’t even bring himself to mumble, “Yeah, I know that guy.”35
The idea that these twelve men held the keys to the “mysteries” of God’s kingdom36 is as believable as Jesus’s alleged racism or the idea that the Nazarene rose from the dead so that he could tell this ragtag bunch to conquer the world as missionaries.37 The gospel book that ends on the most realistic note is Luke, where we find the risen Christ telling the now 11 apostles (minus Judas) that they better stay home and hang out in Jerusalem until they are worthy of the power from on high.38 This band of players clearly was not yet ready for prime time.
How to Pray & The Power of Prayer
Which leads us to the subject of this book: how to work with Christ in the living hour; how to prepare ourselves for God’s kingdom. For far too long, we have turned solely to church leaders for these answers. But as children of God, each one of us is called by the Holy Spirit to interpret the gospel for ourselves,39 not hand that football off to the clergy. Christ is revealed through our personal relationship with the Father, not through middle–men in colorful robes or public hallelujas.40 Jesus didn’t pray in temples but in secret,41 retiring to “lonely” places42 like deserts, gardens, or mountaintops to commune with God.
It is through the power of prayer that we prepare our seat at the Father’s table. And no prayer is more powerful than The Lord’s Prayer: the Rosetta stone of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With it we can transform our lives, and the lives of those around us. With it we can turn the lock on the doors to the kingdom of heaven and a life more abundant.43 With it we can grow closer to God and our true selves. But before we begin, we must first understand the prayer’s meaning. So that when we do pray, our hearts, minds, and souls are united, making a welcome home for the Holy Spirit.
In the coming pages, we will walk together through The Lord’s Prayer: word by word, thought by thought, and line by line. We will take the prayer off the page and into the living hour. We will walk together to the water’s edge and let you decide what’s next.
Read Chapter 1 of The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life: Our Father Who Art in Heaven (Understanding Our Relationship to God)
- I have told you all this so that my own joy may be yours, and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:11 [↩]
- Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 7:21 [↩]
- From everyone to whom much has been given much will be expected, and to those whom much has been entrusted the more will be demanded. – Luke 12:48 [↩]
- Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps, but took no oil with them; 4 While the prudent ones, besides taking their lamps, took oil in their jars. 5 As the bridegroom was late in coming, they all became drowsy, and slept. 6 But at midnight a shout was raised: ‘The Bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all the bridesmaids awoke and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the prudent: ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent ones answered: ‘No, for fear that there will not be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell it, and buy for yourselves.’10 But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom came; and the bridesmaids who were ready went in with him to the banquet, and the door was shut. 11 Afterwards the other bridesmaids came. ‘Sir, Sir,’ they said, ‘open the door to us!’12 But the bridegroom answered ‘I tell you, I do not know you. – Matthew 25:1-12 [↩]
- You, then, must become perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48 [↩]
- With men it is impossible, but not with God; for everything is possible with God. – Mark 10:27 [↩]
- And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. – Mark 12:30 [↩]
- And Jesus grew in wisdom as he grew in years, and ‘gained the blessing of God and men. – Luke 2:52 [↩]
- She came from the very ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and here is more than a Solomon! – Luke 11:31 [↩]
- Why do not you decide for yourselves what is right? – Luke 12:57 [↩]
- His winnowing-fan is in his hand, that he may clear his threshing-floor, and store the grain in his barn, but the chaff he will burn with inextinguishable fire. – Luke 3:17 [↩]
- So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked Jesus this question: “How is it that your disciples do not follow the traditions of our ancestors, but eat their food with defiled hands?” 6 His answer was: “It was well said by Isaiah when he prophesied about you hypocrites in the words: ‘This is a people that honor me with their lips, While their hearts are far removed from me; 7 But vainly do they worship me, For they teach but the precepts of men.’ – Mark 7:5-7 [↩]
- But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are! You turn the key of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you do not go in yourselves, nor yet allow those who try to go in to do so. – Matthew 23:13 [↩]
- And the Word became Man, and dwelt among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the only Son sent from the Father, full of love and truth. – John 1:14 [↩]
- And no one puts new wine into old wine-skins; for, if you do, the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine itself will run out, and the skins be lost. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh skins they insisted on dumping it into the old casks of scripture. – Luke 5:37-39 [↩]
- The crowds that led the way, as well as those that followed behind, kept shouting: “God save the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! God save him from on high! – Matthew 21:9 [↩]
- Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus, and said: 2 “How is it that your disciples break the traditions of our ancestors? For they do not wash their hands when they eat food.” – Matthew 15:1-2 [↩]
- If anyone comes to me and does not hate their father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes and his very life, they can be no disciple of mine. – Luke 14:26 [↩]
- He that among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her. – John 8:4-9 [↩]
- Come, you who are blessed by my Father, enter upon possession of the kingdom prepared for you ever since the beginning of the world. – Matthew 25:34 [↩]
- Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:21 [↩]
- Now is my kingdom, not from hence. – John 18:36 [↩]
- At that moment she came up, and began publicly to thank God, and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the deliverance of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:38 [↩]
- Take pity on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is grievously possessed by a demon.” 23 But Jesus did not answer her a word; and his disciples came up and begged him to send her away. – Matthew 15:22 [↩]
- In my name they shall drive out demons; they shall speak with ‘tongues’; 18 They shall take up serpents in their hands; and, if they drink any poison, it shall not hurt them. – Mark 16:17-18 [↩]
- “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “David’s,” they said. 43 “How is it, then,” Jesus replied, “that David, speaking under inspiration, calls him ‘lord,’ in the passage: 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I put thy enemies beneath thy feet”‘? 45 Since, then, David calls him ‘lord,’ how is he David’s son?” – Matthew 22:42-45 [↩]
- No one who comes to me will I ever turn away. – John 6:37 [↩]
- A wicked and unfaithful generation is asking for a sign, but no sign shall be given it except the sign of Jonah. – Matthew 16:4 [↩]
- The apostles did not comprehend any of this; his meaning was lost to them, they did not understand what he was saying. – Luke 18:34 [↩]
- Master, do you wish us to call for fire to come down from the heavens and consume them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. – Luke 9:54 [↩]
- And a dispute arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded the greatest. – Luke 22:24 [↩]
- Then he came and found the three apostles asleep. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could not you watch for one hour?” – Mark 14:37 [↩]
- One of those who were standing by drew his sword and struck at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. – Mark 14:47 [↩]
- Yes, and I say to you that your name is Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of the place of death shall not prevail over it. – Matthew 16:18 [↩]
- “Why, you were with Jesus, the Nazarene!” 68 But Peter denied it. “I do not know or understand what you mean,” he replied. – Mark 14:67-68 [↩]
- “To you,” answered Jesus, “the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given, but not to them.” – Matthew 13:11 [↩]
- “All authority in heaven and on the earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the faith of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:18–19 [↩]
- You must remain in the city of Jerusalem until you have been invested with power from above. – Luke 24:49 [↩]
- “Blessed are you, Simon, Son of Jonah,” Jesus replied. “For no human being has revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 16:17 [↩]
- Take care not to perform your religious duties in public in order to be seen by others; if you do, your Father who is in heaven has no reward for you. – Matthew 6:1 [↩]
- When you pray, go into your own room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who dwells in secret; and your Father, who sees what is secret, will recompense you. – Matthew 6:6 [↩]
- Jesus used to withdraw to lonely places and pray. – Luke 5:16 [↩]
- I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. – John 10:10 [↩]