Friday, July 8, 2016

The Lord's Prayer

I've been praying The Lord's Prayer lately.  When I have no words of my own, I use His.  It can't hurt.  When my heart aches in desperation to pray, the words of this familiar prayer take on deep meaning.  I feel them, and they are new, not blindingly rote.

Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.

I realize that this is my cry for the glory of God to be seen on earth, recognized, acknowledged.  Isaiah 45:22-24 says that this will happen.  Some day, even those who have raged against Him will proclaim that He alone is Lord, and be put to shame.  Philippians 2:10-11 reiterates the same thing; every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Although I long for God's justice to put an end to evil, exploitation, dishonesty, violence, sickness, sadness, danger and fear, I am thankful that God grants time for the rebellious to repent.  As I pray these words, I remind myself that I can--and must--trust in God's perfect wisdom and timing.  I repeat again and again, "Your will be done.  Do Your will, O Lord.  Bring Your will to pass."  I remember that He is good, and that His will, accomplished, will showcase His glory and pour out blessings on His people.   God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  He is not willing that any should perish.  "Your will be done, Lord Jesus."

Give us this day our daily bread.

This is the easiest part of the prayer:  Be our Provider.  Give us what we need: food, clothing, shelter, jobs.  Thank you for all You have given.  Thank you that You are the Source of everything.  Thank you for Jesus who is the bread of life, fulfilling our deepest needs.

And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

This is the hardest part of the prayer.  Right there after the easiest part is the hardest part.  It is so hard to forgive.  I wonder, do you think forgiveness is hard for God?  I don't think anything is really hard for God.  Yet, Jesus sweat drops of blood in the garden before He gave His life to purchase our forgiveness, and on the cross He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"  Dying for the sins of the world was not easy; it was excruciating.

When the Bible tells us to forgive as the Lord forgave us (Colossians 3:13), to forgive just as in Christ God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32), this is a tall order.  We will sometimes go through excruciating pain to forgive.  Jesus did.  We are called to bear the brunt and absorb the wrong, which we could never do except by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.

At the same time, to forgive as Christ forgave us is not to sweep the wrong that was done under a rug.  Christ died to forgive very real sins, very concrete wrongs that had been and would be committed.  Had the wrong not been real, no bloodshed would have been necessary.  So when we forgive, it is appropriate and good to name the offense which we are forgiving, and acknowledge the damage that was done.  We then take the situation to Jesus for repair, the glorious truth being that He can rehabilitate where no human could make restitution.

Additionally, the Bible says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from unrighteousness."  So, if we are patterning our forgiveness after the Lord's, we see a condition here in His forgiveness: confession.  There is something about confession and repentance that completes the forgiveness process.  This is not an excuse to withhold forgiveness until someone apologizes.  You have to stand with open arms, forgiveness freely flowing from your heart, just like Jesus.  However, without confession and repentance on the part of the wrongdoer, there will not likely be restoration.  The relationship will not be put right.  Confession and repentance are required in order for forgiveness to be received and completed.  Only the Holy Spirit can move someone's heart to confess and receive forgiveness.

When I come to this part of the Lord's Prayer, I generally have to stop and say, "Jesus, please help me to forgive.  Please help me to put all the unresolved hurts into Your hands, and trust You to make them right.  Please help me to promote peace in my relationships, and please protect me from bitterness.  Please help me not to displease You with an unforgiving spirit."   I'm not going to lie.  Some days, this is difficult because the forgetting part of forgiveness is connected to being able to work through latent issues that were never resolved, and whenever something triggers a memory, the battle to forgive begins anew.  Back to Jesus we crawl.  Praise Him for His patience and forbearance.

I have to get this right, because I need His forgiveness for myself.  Why do my sins seem more blurry than my hurts?  Forgive me for this, too, dear Lord.  Have mercy.

Then I go on:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Here I nearly break down into tears, for myself, for the whole world and its evil propensities, for all the people trapped in sin, and all the victims of other people's sins.  Deliver us from evil, I pray, deliver us from evil, from deception, from selfishness and pride.  Deliver us from foolishness and from all the idols we worship, from addictions and lusts and materialism and mean-spirited judgmentalism.  Deliver us from competition and favoritism, unforgiveness and bitterness.  Deliver us from the devil's traps and from our own fleshly desires.  Deliver us from evil, Lord Jesus, and show us what is good, teach us to love the good.  Teach us to long for Your beauty and worship You alone.

For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever.  Amen.

This is our hope.  The Kingdom of God will come in power and glory and reign for all eternity.  He promised, and He always keeps His promises.  Every wrong will be righted, every hurt healed.  The Lord Himself will be our light, our life, our perfect dwelling place.  This is what we have to look forward to.  This is our confidence.  We will see Him as He is, and we will be blown away by His unutterable beauty, glory and goodness.  There will be no darkness to cloud the visage of God.  As we gaze on Him, we will become like Him, perfect and whole ourselves, free from the curse of sin that drives people to hurt and be hurt.  There will be no more pain, only perfect safety and security and joy forever with our Father.

Yes.  That is what I have been praying.  Now that I've written it down, maybe I will read it when I have trouble finding words to pray.  Maybe I'll even read it aloud.

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