God’s words to our own ears

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer, which all Christians regularly recite and, in this regularity perhaps take too much for granted, is the prayer which Jesus taught His disciples in answer to their request in the Gospel of Saint Luke chapter 11, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

“Our Father,” are the opening words of His prayer. In these words, we invoke the supernatural concepts of perfection, holiness, and goodness. Concepts, should we fail to embrace them, will not allow us into the presence of God.

Why then  would our Lord suggest this beginning, when even the briefest self-examination will show us that it would be impossible for a perfect God to be the father of an imperfect child? Yet, Jesus tells us to begin at just this place. The answer is Christ Jesus directs us to begin our prayer with an idea of the holiness, perfection, and goodness which lays before us. We should not be able to approach this Godly perfection, yet we are told to begin where we cannot be. He wants us to know the only reason the Father will allow us to pray this prayer, is to show us the depth of love, which He bears for each of us.As we pray this prayer may we contemplate the love our Heavenly Father has for us all.

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The second Godly expression of the Lord’s Prayer are the words, “Who art in heaven.” This reminds us of the homeland Eden which we have abandoned, and to which we strive to return. However, as the prodigal son who could not return until he recognized his own sin, we cannot hope to return until we have looked into our own hearts and seen what lurks there.

Once the prodigal son makes his confession to his father, he is welcomed back into his arms. His confession makes him again worthy of the home he had left. What we must recognize is his confession of Luke 15:21, “Father, I have sinned against heaven,” and his recognition Heaven did exist and he was exiled from it by his own actions. Indeed, if we do not believe in Heaven and He who resides within it, then we have no hope our prayers may be heard and our sins forgiven. The conclusion, we draw from these ideas, is there is only one way back to that which we have lost. and that is through the confession of our sins to He whom we have injured.

The third Godly expression is, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” When we think of a known person’s name, we often think of the nature and character which that person has shown to us. Surely, we recognize people change over time and their names can even change as well. We note Saul became Paul, when God recognized that his very character had changed.

When we think of God, we reflect in an entirely different sense.  We reflect our God is immutable and unchanging. There is only one name for Him, as the “I Am” of Exodus 3:14 tells us. Even as we seek to understand His nature, very few of us succeed in discerning His true holiness. Christ Jesus teaches us the very name of God is holy. It is not to be used as an expletive, or for some crass purpose. It is not to be used as anything other than the precious gift which is from the one who created us, provides for us, forgives our sins, and will judge those who reject Him.

This brief description, and so much more, definitively describes the supreme being whom we call “God.” All of this teaches us that any who pray should both know and demand that the very name of God is holy and only to be used with the greatest care and love.

The fourth Godly expression is, “Thy kingdom come.” In the recent past, as well as throughout the history of the church, much has been said about the coming of the kingdom of God. We have been scared to think it was coming at some certain time, but that coming is external and it will be at a time when no one is looking for it. Yet, Jesus asks us to pray for something much more intimate than the final judgment of the world. Our Lord is asking us to pray for the kingdom which is within ourselves, as He said to us all, in Luke 17:21, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” As we pray this prayer, we are asking for that kingdom to be expanded, deepened, widened, and built higher within ourselves and encouraged for others. When Christ reigns within, then wisdom and holy living will be seen without. When Christ reigns within, we put old things away and press on to the goal that is always before us. We become a traveler, who is always moving ahead, and yet at the same time has arrived at their destination. As Jesus teaches us, this is the Kingdom of God which is truly the object of our prayers.

The fifth, and final, Godly expression of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” We believe those who are in heaven have already fulfilled the will of God, for if they had not they would not be there. We who are left, here on Earth, are the ones who are praying God’s will be done here, as well as there. We can also know that we will fulfill the will of God here, if we do nothing outside of His will. We also know that as we seek to do the will of God that we will become like those who are in Heaven already, and those who come after us will pray to become like us who are then in heaven as well.

Additionally, we know as our Lord said in Matthew 28:18, just before He gave the great commission to His disciples, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in Earth.” We are therefore called to work for Christ here, through our prayers and deeds, as those who have gone before us have done, as we struggle to ensure that all the events of this world conform to the will of God.

By Father Jonathan J. Filkins