Daily Reflection – 6/20/19
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”( Matthew 6: 7-15)
(Today, we are departing from our usual format of Scripture, Reflection, Prayer and Daily Note and presenting the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase)
The challenge and the danger begin right in the first two words. We address God as Father, the source of life and of everything that we have; we have nothing purely of our own. But God is not just ‘Father’; he is ‘our ‘Father. And that ‘our’ includes every single person who lives or has ever lived on this earth; not a single person can be excluded.
In addressing God as ‘our Father’ we are acknowledging that every human person, including myself, is a child of God and therefore that we all belong to one huge family where we are all, in a very real way, brothers and sisters to each other. There is no room here for rejection, or hatred, or prejudice or contempt of any kind based on race, nationality, color of skin, gender, sexual orientation, social class, religion… If I am not prepared to accept every single person as a brother or sister, I will have problems even beginning to say this prayer.
2, Hallowed be thy name :
Of course, God’s name is holy no matter what we say or think. We make this prayer for our sake more than for his. Here we are praying that God’s name be held in the deepest respect by people everywhere. That is not the case: some people despise his name and others do not even know it. We pray that the whole world will know God’s name, which is to say, to know and recognize God as their God and Lord, their Creator and Conserver and the final end of their lives on this earth. It is, in fact, another form of the next petition.
3, Thy kingdom come:
We have already spoken about the nature of the kingdom. It might be more accurate to say, ‘Your kingship come’. In other words, we pray that every person in our world may put themselves consciously and willingly under the kingship and lordship and the love of God. We do this, above all, by our working together to make this world the kind of place that God wants it to be – a place of truth and love, of justice and peace, of sharing and caring. In one sense, of course, God is Lord irrespective of our relationship to him. But it is clearly his will that people, on their part, should accept that loving lordship as the centre of their lives. And that is the work of the Church and of every single Christian, indeed of every person anywhere – to help people recognize the kingship and lordship of God and to accept it as the key to their present and future happiness.
4, Thy will be done on earth – as it is in heaven:
This, in a way, is simply another way of saying what we have already asked for in the previous two petitions. For that is the will of God that people everywhere recognize the holiness of his name and submit themselves gladly to his kingship and lordship in our world. We do that most effectively by identifying totally with the mission and work of Jesus to bring life, healing and wholeness to our world. To do the will of God is not simply to throw aside what we want and accept God’s will even when it is totally contrary to our own. We are only fully doing God’s will when we can see clearly that what he wants is always what is the very best for us. And we are only fully doing his will when we fully want what he wants, when our will and his will are in perfect harmony. Then we do what he wants and we do what we want. We are praying here to reach that level of oneness.
5, Give us this day our daily bread:
It does not look like it but this also is a step forward for us. First of all, we are only asking for what we need now. Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus will tell us not to be anxious about the future. We are asking for what we need today; tomorrow is another day. We take care of one day at a time.
But there is one little word here that is highly significant. It is the word ‘us’. Who is that ‘us’? Just me and my immediate family? or my parish? or my neighborhood or my town or my country? Surely it is the same as that ‘our’ in the first petition – it includes every single person. I am praying, therefore, that every single person have bread to eat today. We know, of course, that there are millions of people (some of them in rich countries) who do not have enough to eat or who suffer from malnutrition and poorly balanced diets. In praying that all of ‘us’ have our daily bread, are we expecting God to drop manna from the skies or are we not reminding ourselves that the feeding of brothers and sisters is our responsibility? If people are hungry or badly fed, it is not God’s doing; human beings are responsible in most cases (outside of natural disasters).
6, And forgive us our trespasses ( or debts ) as we forgive those who trespass against us (or are in debt to us.)
Again we take a bold step with this. We are asking that God’s forgiveness to us be conditional on our readiness to forgive those we perceived to have hurt us in some way. That is a daring thing to do. And forgiveness does not simply mean uttering a few words. Forgiveness in the Scripture always includes reconciliation between offender and offended. In fact, I would go even further and say that the fully Christian person is never offended, cannot be offended. The true Christian has a rock solid sense of their own security and their own inner worth which no other person can take away. When such a person is the recipient of some attack, be it verbal or physical, their first response is to reach out to the attacker with concern and sympathy. It is the attacker who has the problem, not the one attacked. Most of us have a long way to go to reach that level of inner peace. ‘If what you say about me is true, I accept it; if it is false, then it is false. Why should I take offence?’
7, And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
In the end, we acknowledge our weaknesses and our total dependence on God’s help. We pray that we will not find ourselves in a situation where we fall seriously. We ask to be protected from the powers of evil with which we are surrounded.
Some texts conclude with “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen”, which is used by many Christian denominations and is now included in the Roman Catholic Eucharist after the Lord’s Prayer but separated by a prayer for peace. It is believed that this conclusion, not found in most MS., was introduced for liturgical reasons.
Finally, in addition to simply reciting this prayer in the rapid way we normally do, we could sometimes take it very slowly, on one petition at a time and let its meaning sink in.
Or we could just take one petition which is particularly meaningful to us at any time and just stay with it until it really becomes part of us.