“The Lord’s Prayer: (or the “Our Father”, depending on your tradition) is a simultaneously a prayer of vast width and incredible intimacy. I thought I’d do a series of blogs on it.
If you’re looking for a way to begin your prayer life, this is a great place to start. You can just start off by praying the words, and allow your mind to expand the phrases as you come to understand them.
Here’s the first one.
Our Father, who lives in the heavens,
May Your name be kept holy.
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done,
On earth just like it’s done in Your presence.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Don’t bring us to the times of trial,
But deliver us from the evil one.
Right off the bat, let’s be clear: Jesus’ use of the word “father” (or even “abba”) in prayer was not unique. There are plenty of ancient examples of folks addressing God in this way. Jesus’ use of the phrase is much more incisive, much deep than this.
In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh, “‘Israel is my firstborn son. I commanded you, ‘Let my son go, so he can worship me'” (4:22). God is about to decisively act to free His people, and begin a new phase of His great rescue operation that began in Genesis 2, and will eventually end in Revelation 21. After God frees “his son,” he declares in Exodus 19 that they are now “my kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (v6).
So one way of understanding these two simple words is that we are identifying ourselves as Israel, God’s redeemed people. In the same way that God claims “his son” as Israel, we are claiming Him as “our Father”, and also saying, “I’m a part of your people; I want to be a part of your redemption in the world.” Along with our participation in that mission comes our forgiveness, the opportunity for transformation, and membership in the family of God.
In some liturgical traditions, the prayer is introduced by reminding the congregation that “we are bold to pray” this prayer.
True enough: It’s bold to walk right up to the Creator of the Universe and just declare, “I’m yours!”
But that’s what we’re invited to do.
Remember that God declares that Israel is His son before they’ve done anything for Him.
He just pronounces it.
As a gift.
Jesus ultimately is saying, “I’m leading a new Exodus from evil and oppression, and you are welcome to join. Come and be a part of a new freedom movement, an ultimate defeat of evil and oppression, and the beginning of the era of resurrection.”
So, “Our Father,” is a big declaration of the graciousness of God, of His ultimate victory, and of our role (as priests!) in His world and in His plans.
You can pray it with a sense of awe, but you can pray it boldly.