Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Lord's Prayer | God's Will on Earth in Us and Through Us as it is in Heaven by Stanley Hauerwas

Prayer is perfect activity because it is done for no other purpose than itself. We pray to the One whom Jesus has made known, and so we learn to pray by following Jesus, who is the Father's prayer for us. Prayer, like Jesus, makes the Father's will known, and the Father wills that we learn to pray. + Stanley Hauerwas

The Lord's Prayer is an abridgement of the entire Gospel. + Tertullian, early 200s A.D.  
There may never have been another prayer written that was not already contained in the Pater ("Our Father" or "Lord's Prayer"). + Simone Weil
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. + Marcel Proust

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

We are to pray to our Father, but that is learned from the one alone who knows the Father. Jesus will tell us that "all things have been handed over" to him by his Father; "and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27). Whatever it may mean for God to be omnipotent, omnipresent, all knowing, eternal, infinite  none of these descriptions are more important or significant than Jesus teaching us to address the Father. We do not call God Father because we have had or have not had a positive experience of being a father's child. Rather, all human fathers are measured and judged by the Father's love of the Son. To pray to God as the Father challenges the status quo of human fatherhood, just as calling the church our family challenges the limitations and sins of our human families. Jesus not only tells us that we must be taught to pray, he teaches us the prayer we must learn to pray. His prayer begins with "Our Father." And though we may pray in secret, we always pray with others. We begin to learn to pray by praying to "our" Father. We are never alone when we pray because we pray as children who have been taught by the Spirit of the Son to cry "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:6). Through the Spirit our prayer is joined to Jesus's prayer so that when we pray it is with the whole communion of saints who surround the Father in heaven.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

"Hallowed" be your name," the name we have learned from Jesus, is at the heart of what it means to be called to holiness. To hallow God's name is to live lives of prayer. It is to pray that we lead lives that glorify God. When we pray this prayer we do so as those commandeered by God, sanctified, set apart, ordained, made holy. We are commissioned to live lives that make visible to the world that the holy God, the same God before whom Moses hid his face when he was told God's name (Exodus 3:6), reigns. God the Father has redeemed creation through his Son. God has regained his territory from the enemy. God's newly won territory is those who pray, "Hallowed be thy name."

Thy Kingdom Come

The same people who pray, "Hallowed be thy name," pray that the disruption begun in Jesus, a disruption called the kingdom of God, continue. They pray that the kingdom come because they have become part of that coming. The devil left Jesus after failing to defeat him in the desert, but the struggle continues. So Jesus teaches us to pray for an end to the kingdoms of this world dominated by sin and the power of death. We are able to pray that the kingdom come because we now know we live between the time of Jesus's initial victory and the consummation. The prayer that Jesus teaches us, this prayer most appropriately prayed during our eucharist celebration in which we affirm that "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again," is the prayer required for the battle he has initiated.

Thy Will be Done on Earth as It is in Heaven

Our wills, the will of the world, will nail Jesus to the cross. But God defeated our willfulness, making it possible for us to pray that God's will be done on earth.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Just as God supplied Israel daily with bread in the wilderness, so followers of Jesus have been given all they need in order to learn to depend on one another on a daily basis. Without the community that Jesus has called into existence, we are tempted to hoard, to store up resources, in a vain effort to insure safety and security. Of course our effort to live without risk not only results in injustice, but it also makes our lives anxious, fearing that we never have enough (Matthew 6:19-21). In truth, we can never have enough if what we want is the bread that the devil offered Jesus. But Jesus is good news to the poor (Luke 4:16-19), for he has brought into existence a people who ask for no more than their daily bread.

And Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive our Debtors

Jesus's proclamation of the jubilee year is unmistakably present in the prayer he is teaching us to pray. To be taught to pray is to be taught to beg. To be taught to beg requires that we recognize our status as debtors. The debts we have incurred as well as are owed us come in many shapes and sizes. In truth we find it easier to forgive than to be forgiven. We do so because so much of life is spent trying to avoid acknowledging we own anyone anything. Yet to be a follower of Jesus, to learn to pray this prayer, means that we must first learn that we are the forgiven. To learn to be forgiven is no easy lesson, desiring as we do to be our own master  if not creator. But to be a disciple of Jesus demands that we recognize that our life is a gift that requires, if we are to live in a manner appropriate to our being a creature, our willingness to accept forgiveness with joy. 

The forgiveness of debts is also at the heart of truthful memory. No people are free from a past or present that is not constituted by injustices so horrific nothing can be done to make them right. There is, for example, nothing that can be done to "redeem" the slavery that defined early America. Faced with the tragedy of slavery or to assume that the wound of slavery has been healed by African Americans being given the opportunity to become as well-off as white Americans. But the forgetfulness that money names cannot forever suppress the wound of slavery. The willingness to be forgiven, which may require that I have my "enemy" tell me who I am, is the only way that reconciliation can begin. To pray "in this way," therefore, is to become a citizen of God's kingdom of forgiveness. There is no more fundamental political act than to learn to pray this prayer. To learn to have our sins forgiven, indeed to learn that we are sinners needing forgiveness, is to become part of the kingdom of God. If we do not learn to forgive then we will not be forgiven, we will not be part of the new reality, the new people, brought into existence by Jesus. To forgive and to be forgiven is not some crude exchange bargain to "get on with life," but rather to participate in a political alternative that ends our attempt to secure our existence through violence.

Lead Us Not into Temptation but Deliver Us from Evil

Learning to pray with Jesus, therefore, is to become part of his struggle with the powers of this world. In the last petition of the prayer, however, Jesus asks that we not be brought to the time of trial and that we be rescued from the evil one. As we see in his struggle with the devil in the desert, and as we see in the cross, Jesus alone is capable of that trial. He has told us that his followers may well be persecuted, but we can survive whatever trails we may face because he has already faced the trial. Those who follow Jesus, those who have been taught to pray this prayer, will be persecuted because they must be as Jesus is. But his disciples will know how to persist in the face of persecution because they have been taught how to pray.

+ Excerpts from Matthew: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible by Stanley Hauerwas, pgs. 76-80

Previous posts on the Lord's Prayer:

Simply Good News | Praying the Good News of the Lord's Prayer by N.T. Wright 
The Divine Conspiracy | The Grandest Prayer of All is the Lord's Prayer by Dallas Willard 
Our Father | Reflections on the Lord's Prayer by Pope Francis 
How Shall We Pray? | Ethical Implications of the Lord's Prayer by Anna Case-Winters

Next posts:

Jesus' Strategy for Revolution | Shamelessly Bold & Persistent Prayer to Our Father by the Spirit by John F. Smed

Sermon on the Mount | Matthew 6:9-18: Kingdom Prayer and Power Sermon Audio and Liturgy 

Soli Jesu gloria.

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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