We’re bombarded with ideas about prayer. For a long time there were a-lot of “prayers” showing up in my e-mail IN box. Some were probably totally fine prayers, but some were just plain weird. Especially the ones that came with instructions and a warning like: send to 9 friends within 24 hours or the prayer won’t work, or even worse certain doom will soon be yours. You’ve got to be kidding. Prayers with threats attached to them really just don’t float my boat.
Fortunately, we have a prayer right at our fingertips that’s way better. A prayer that doesn’t just fall into our IN box out of cyber-space, but comes straight from Jesus himself. It’s The Lord’s Prayer and it’s my favorite. It’s words have become as familiar to me as a favorite song, yet it still intrigues me. Even though I’ve said it thousands of times it continues to delve into the depths of my heart and soul, weeding out those things I try to hide even from myself, while at the same time relentlessly, yet tenderly bringing me into the presence of God. I love this prayer, and it all begins with it’s two opening words: “Our Father.” With those words this prayer defines two relationships for us: our relationship with God, and our relationship with others.
First, our relationship with God. When Jesus asks us to say: “Our Father” he’s inviting us to see that our relationship with God is familial, it’s intimate. He’s inviting us to call God along with him: “Father.” For us to call God, “Father” is to acknowledge our dependence and trust of him. It’s to accept that he loves us, is invested in us in the most intimate way, that we are part of his family. Jesus is asking us to share with him the privilege of calling the God of heaven and earth: “Father.”
The second relationship Jesus draws our attention to is our relationship with others. Notice the first word is: Our. Not My. To say: Our Father nudges us toward seeing that we aren’t the only ones in this Family of God. Jesus has not invited us to say: “My Father.” Instead to pray: “Our Father.” Our. Plural verses Singular. Saying “my” would change this prayer entirely, making it strictly an individual matter.
When we pray “our” instead of “my” we are compelled to consider who might be included in that small little word “our.” Turns out that there are a lot of people packed into that word. In fact the whole world is in there with us. Everyone. No one excluded.
And this is exactly where the challenge can begin, right here with the first word. Why? Because there very likely are a whole lot of people we don’t want to include in the “our.” If left to us the invitation list to this prayer party would undoubtably be much shorter. We can think of neighbors, co-workers, relatives and past friends who we aren’t on speaking terms with, who we are angry with, who have hurt us in some way and not said they are sorry. We aren’t ready to figuratively or literally stand side by side with them as equals, equally loved by God. How can those people be part of “our Father?” Sometimes don’t we wish Jesus had just let it be: “my Father?”
And, it get’s to be an even bigger challenge to understand that “our Father” includes everyone in the world when we consider what’s happening today in our country and around the world. Listening to the news we hear people calling for walls to be built at our borders. To keep refugees and immigrants out. Constantly differences between people are highlighted, and angry debates escalate. We are intensely urged to take sides. Talking in terms of “us” verses “them” is proclaimed as reasonable rhetoric, a matter of national security. Fear rules the day and the fires of hate are being kindled to a degree that truly is alarming.
Yet, in the midst of it all the first two words of this prayer Jesus taught us play like a song in the background of my mind and heart. “Our Father.” It calls me to remember who I am: God’s child. It graciously reminds me that God is not only my Father, but is also Father to the refugee, and to the immigrant. Father to the fatherless. Father to the downcast. Father to the child born in the USA and to the child born in a refugee camp in Greece. Father to the neighbor who drives us nuts, or the relative who did us wrong so long ago. God is Father to us all. Those people we find hard to love, God loves.
Our Father. We say those words through the centuries because we need them. They have the power to shape us…if we let them. To bring us closer to God, and to each other. They remind us that we are all human beings made in the image of God, invited to be children of God.
Post by Wendy Taylor