Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 7 October 2015

“When you pray, say ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come, You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us day by day our daily brad, and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’.”  Luke 11:2-4 NKJV

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, has been a thorn in the flesh for many.  Maybe even more aggressive than the ACLU, this group sets its sights on anything religious within the public realm.  I personally find their tactics and their arguments shallow at best, and I personally think those who contact this group to complain about being “offended” by Christianity or Christian practices in public will find something else to complain about if they manage to successfully drive Christianity completely out of public.  I can easily say this, however, because I am a Christian.

Something occurred to me this morning, however.  By the way the text is written, Jesus seems to be asking His followers to commit this prayer to memory when He tells us to “say” it.  No harm in memorizing Scripture.  The Lord’s Prayer is (or should be) a significant part of worship liturgies, but I think there is much more to this Prayer than just being able to recite it from memory.  Like most Scripture passages we commit to memory, we do more harm to the spirit of the passage when we remove it from its context or if we do not look more closely at the passage itself to find even deeper meaning than what is only in the words themselves.

In the case of The Lord’s Prayer, there is much more than a memorized portion of worship liturgy.  There is a principle being conveyed to Jesus’ disciples (then and now).  We are being asked not to merely “say” the words; we are being challenged to fully submit to The Lord.  We are asking The Lord for mercy as we extend mercy.  We are asking The Lord to provide for our needs.  We are praying for The Kingdom to come, and we are asking that The Lord protect us from evil’s influence.  The principle of the whole passage strongly suggests we must be prepared to fully submit to the sovereignty of the One who can provide all these things – and – that we are willing to put self aside in order for our prayer to bear fruit for the glory of The Lord.

What happens to the principle, then, whenever we pray strictly in defiance of those who propose to silence us?  What happens to our hearts if we are not earnestly seeking The Lord’s “will be done” but are instead expressing our own will only because we can?  The prayer itself then becomes an act of political protest rather than an earnest plea.  We are not submitting to anyone or anything but are, more often than not, simply bucking for a fight.  We are still “saying” the words, but the principle of fully submitting to The Lord is lost on us. 

This is not to suggest we should be afraid to pray in public (incidentally, there is no law that prohibits praying in public) nor should we ever refrain from calling upon The Lord for help, for guidance, for strength, or for mercy.  What must be considered, however, is what we intend by our public prayers.  Is our primary purpose to stick a finger in the eye of the ACLU or the Freedom from Religion folks, or are we fully prepared to submit to The Lord’s sovereign authority?  Like by showing mercy even when mercy does not seem warranted?  You see?  The Lord is asking much more from those who claim to trust Him than from those who do not know Him at all.

“Pray without ceasing”, indeed, but let us be fully about calling upon The Lord “without ceasing” and earnestly being prepared to abide by His Will rather than our own.  Our God “shows no partiality”, so we should not expect The Lord to show us favor if we only invoke The Holy Name to serve a political purpose.  To merely “say” a prayer is not quite the same as being fully prepared for how The Lord may answer our plea.



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