LOOKING FORWARD

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Episode 3: The Centrality of Community

 

“‘Our…”

 

Jesus could have instructed his disciples to pray “My Father in heaven.” But he didn’t.

 

This is because our relationship with the Father, while personal, isn’t private. We know this because the Ten Commandments—which summarize the rules for godly living—contain four vertical commands about our relationship with God followed by six commands about our relationship with one another. Our devotion to God is inextricably intertwined with our commitment to those around us. That is why the apostle John will later write: Continue Reading

“This, then, is how you should pray:”

 

Day in and day out, Jesus’ disciples saw him steal away to spend time with his Father. They understood that his supernatural power and peace came from prayer. They not only wanted to have what Jesus had, they wanted to become what Jesus was. To walk in his footsteps meant they would have to join him on their knees.

 

Throughout Scripture, we see prayer as having several distinct but interrelated dimensions including praise, pardon, and petition. Continue Reading

The New Testament text that we know as the “Lord’s Prayer” (or the “Model Prayer”) is recorded in two places in the Gospels. In Luke 11, Jesus’ disciples come to him after he has finished praying. They ask him to instruct them to pray as John the Baptist taught his followers. Luke records what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer,” followed by a teaching about persevering in prayer before a gracious Father. In comparison, Matthew records a slightly longer version of this prayer in the middle of The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Here, the Prayer is bookended by Jesus’ teaching about what living by grace really looks like.

 

These two accounts are distinct but not contradictory. Luke tells the story of Jesus responding to the disciples’ private inquiry while Matthew recounts Jesus’ public teaching to a large crowd gathered on a mountainside. If anything, the fact that these accounts are almost identical supports the reliability of its witnesses and the veracity of the texts.

 

Here is Jesus’ prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:

 

9 This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

 

Older translations such as the King James Version include an additional phrase at the end of verse 13: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Though traditional recitations of the Prayer end with these familiar words, most modern translations note that the earliest manuscripts omit this phrase and that it was probably added later. Nonetheless, this phrase is a fitting, biblical finale to the Prayer, paraphrasing 1 Chronicles 29:11 where David proclaims,

 

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

 

Now that we’ve had a brief introduction to the Prayer, in the next section we’ll consider why prayer was so indispensable to Jesus’ disciples—both then and now.

The Lord’s Prayer is elegantly simple yet magnificently profound.

 

  • As we meditate on it, we understand better who God is and who we are. It is therefore theological.

 

  • As we obey it, we discover the Lord’s direction for our real-life circumstances. It is therefore practical. 

 

  • As we believe it, we abandon ourselves to the life of faith that comes by trusting in Christ alone. It is therefore soteriological; that is, dealing with our salvation.

 

  • As we pray it, we are recreated in Christ’s image as his Spirit sanctifies our hearts. It is therefore transformational.

 

  • As we embody it, we become agents of God’s mercy in a world that is desperate to know the love of the Father. It is therefore missional.

 

  • As we hope in it, we anticipate the inevitable renewal of the new heaven and new earth. It is therefore

 

  • As we experience it, we are overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace and respond in worship and praise. It is, from beginning to end, doxological.

 

All this in just five simple verses.

Sometimes I feel as if life is conspiring against me…that no matter which way I turn, my path is blocked and my goals are thwarted. Do you ever feel this way?

 

These situations make me cry out to God in anger, in confusion and even betrayal. Why, God? How can this be part of your plan? I thought you were on my side?

 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve been looking at this wrong all these years… Continue Reading