"When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. "Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one." NRSV MATTHEW 6: 7-13
Each day, just as I wake up, I get ready for church, I get dressed up, I put on the most colorful and coordinated socks I can find, put on my sunglasses, coordinate my shirt and pants, maybe my shoes (although I look for comfort in those first) and I pray the Lord's Prayer. What a picture... what an image!
Yes, every day, before anything else enters my mind, I pray the Lord’s Prayer. Then throughout the day I pray the Alphabet prayer. I go through the alphabet praying each name I can think of, or deliberately name and stop to ask for God's continual blessings and embrace/support.
Today, as I sat in Fellowship Hall, I kept going back to the Lord's Prayer and I didn't go too far into it. Our Father... Jesus is teaching us to pray...he says something outrageous; he asks us to call God FATHER, not your Excellency, not Lord, not Master, but FATHER.
There are some that get offended that we are taught and say or address God as Father. I do try to be conscious of that when I speak of God and remembering the patriarchy that has been with us but I believe the greater problem or transgression is the word that precedes Father…OUR.
Jesus is teaching us to pray not as individuals but as a church; not with God as our possession … God is not our property. “Our” is lifted up because we recognize that the omnipotent creator of the universe and all things in it, this God of heaven and earth, has called us to be his people as we call God our God.
God reached out to us, claimed us as his own while promising to make us his people. We did absolutely nothing to deserve this but God did everything. Everything was done in Jesus Christ and by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Aquinas said that we were created for no greater purpose than to have friendship with God. So, we are children of God but we are also friends with God. Jesus told us so. Remember the text from about three weeks ago, John 15:3-16.
Think about that for just a moment. Jesus, the Son of God, and even God, just told us to pray to "OUR FATHER." Jesus is asking us and telling us that we are children of God and should pray as such, but he is now showing that we are friends, adopted children, sons, and daughters of God. As C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Harper Collins, 1942): says, "We are putting <ourselves> in the place of a son (or daughter) of God. To put it bluntly, we are dressing up as Christ." We are privileged to say, “Our Father” and we are not just reflecting Jesus inside and outside the four walls we are children of the most high. A loving God that accepts us as we are even when we are in disguise. We are dressing in God's image. We are Jesus' image.
Let's face it, we cannot be Jesus Christ. We can strive to live to his teachings but with our self-centeredness, our greed, our fears, our self-doubt, our pettiness, our gossiping, our holding back, our not standing up, our wants... folks, try as we may, we are not even like the Son of God. Listen to and read those words one more time, OUR FATHER... Jesus is commanding us to be just like him.
Jesus teaches us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. Since, we are sons and daughters of God AND we love our neighbors as ourselves we then, and only then, love God fully and completely. If we do not love our neighbors, even the ones that to us might be unlovable, then we do not love God fully. The two commands are just plainly linked one to the other. They cannot be separated.
If you doubt what I say, look at verse 8... go ahead I will wait.... did you read it... look at the second segment of the verse... for YOUR Father knows... Jesus starts with your father and then immediately links us right to him... OUR FATHER.
We are never more like God than when we give and forgive. We can never honor our Father more than when we do something good for someone who can never repay it and we immediately wipe the debt clean and from our minds. We cannot afford to and cannot be expected to be the center of the universe thinking it's all about me and everyone should step aside for me...in a sense give to me!
True love, true joy and true peace comes from knowing that we are sons and daughters of God. Called to be kind and loving to one another and never missing the opportunity to do good and give. Give a smile, give kind words only, give affirmations always, give love to everyone. Because true love is always backed up by our actions. Only God can see our heart. Our neighbors see our actions and reflections of OUR FATHER, Jesus the Son of God in all that we say and do.
Remember, it's all about image!