I love the way Luke’s telling of Jesus instructing us on prayer reads. He first opens with this abbreviated version of what we call the Lord’s Prayer, but this abbreviated version still hits the core stuff of prayer, doesn’t it? Lifting up God’s name, ushering in God’s kingdom, asking for daily provision, seeking and giving forgiveness, and asking to be spared of trial. It’s all there, and it’s all good.
Hallowing God’s Name: This is one of those phrases that I wonder if we ever really think about its meaning. The word “hallowed” is the Greek word hagiazō (ἁγιάζω), which is often translated as “sanctify” or “consecrate”. Another way of thinking of it to set apart or set aside. The word speaks to taking something and setting aside for distinct and separate purposes. Then there’s “Thy name”. We read about all kinds of things happening in “God’s name” or in “Jesus’ name” in the scriptures, but what does that really mean? Biblically speaking one’s name spoke to their character and nature. So as I think about and pray “hallowed by your name”, I like to think I’m saying, “Lord, may who you are, may your character and nature be set aside for your work and your work alone.” Another way of thinking about that is “may your name not be used for my own good, but yours.”
Your Kingdom Come: Brain McLaren opened my eyes to this about this ten years ago (see video below) when he pointed out that when we pray this, we don’t pray “Lord, may we leave here and go to where your kingdom is”, but we pray, “may your Kingdom come” (and Matthew adds, “on earth…”). When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are demanding (the verb form in Greek is in the imperative, that is, it is a command) that the Kingdom of God come. And what the Kingdom of God coming speaks to is a kingdom of wholeness, peace, shalom coming to our earth. May we never tire of this prayer.
Give Us Daily Bread: This one’s tough. It doesn’t say, “give us a week’s worth of bread”. It doesn’t say “give me a one year contract of bread.” This portion of the prayer has buried within it that nothing of tomorrow is promised. All we have is today. I have a veritable storehouse of food in my kitchen right now. May we, for whom most of us fully expect to be fed tomorrow, become acutely aware of that abundance and give thanks to God for it.
Forgive Us & May We Forgive: Forgiveness is one of the key tenets of Christianity. It is who we are. We are grateful for God’s forgiveness of us for our shortcomings, but we also practice forgiveness in the world. And sometimes doing that begins with prayer. Forgiveness is often among the most difficult things we can do, and it may require seasons of prayer before our hearts and souls are ready to do it.
Keep Us From Trial: There’s no guarantee that trial won’t happen. In fact, it probably will at some point or another. What’s key to understanding here is that trial doesn’t mean hard things. It means the temptation to do wrong. Hard things happen. They just do. But temptation? That can happen both in hard times and good times. In fact, there is a LOT of temptation in good times: Temptation toward greed, gluttony, judgement, sloth… When we pray “do not bring us to the time of trial” we are not saying “spare me of hard times” as much as we are “in all times, Lord, guard my heart, mind, body, and soul that I may love and honor in you all things.”
Then Jesus closes by making it clear to us that God is not vicious. God desires to give us what we need. But these ending images need to be read in the context of The Lord’s Prayer. “Ask and it will be give to you” does not mean “ask me for anything and I’ll give you anything”. It means, “pray that prayer, and I will provide.” We say it every week in worship. May the words never go dry.