Over the past couple of months I have been teaching my kids the Lord's Prayer. It's amazing how fast they pick these kinds of things up. They've already got "The Doxology" down, as well as the first verse to "Be Thou My Vision" (the most requested bedtime song these days) and "Bless Us, O Lord" (the mealtime prayer). And even though they have no idea what some of the words mean, I do believe their hearts are being shaped by the practice. I know mine certainly is.
I have to admit that up to this point praying the Lord's Prayer has not been a regular practice in my life. I have given mental assent to it, studied its contents, and recited it in corporate worship on occasion, but it has never blossomed in my heart like it has recently, especially this past week.
I would venture to say that the Lord's Prayer for most of us is an abstract, in-the-clouds sort of prayer. Many of the words that make up the prayer--like heaven, kingdom, sin, and forgive--have been so churchified that they've lost any and all sensibleness and relatedness to our everyday lives. This cannot be what Jesus had in mind when teaching his disciples how to pray. To those first followers of Jesus this prayer was as down-to-earth as was his physical presence; these words were as basic as the language of two and four-year-olds.
This is what the Lord has taught me in teaching his prayer to my children.
Ow Foddo en evan, ho-yee is yo name
Our Daddy is with us. We are his little ones. He loves to gently scratch our back, kiss our face, and sing us a bedtime song. He holds the world in his hand, but all the power in the universe would be worth nothing to him if he didn't have an intimate relationship with us. We who have been touched by our Daddy cannot help but love him with every fiber of our being. We cling to him and depend on him and look up to him in every way. He is the most important person in the world to us.
Hear, O children, Daddy is your one and only love. Nothing and no one compares. Love him with your entire life--in your gut, in your thoughts, in your feelings, in whatever your body is doing--and love each other in this way, too.
Yo gingdom gum, oh wiyo be dumb en oaf as im evan
Our Daddy is actively involved in the lives of his children and in all creation. If our life is all about loving our Daddy, we watch him as he works and listen to him when he speaks. We follow his instructions and join him in his building project--the world's largest restoration project. It's nowhere near complete, but we've never seen something so beautiful. More and more people are helping, too. In every vocation and every place on earth, we are working with our Daddy to make all things new.
The most beautiful part of this project is the growing bond of love between Daddy and his children and the growing network of love between us kids. The more days we spend resting and working with Daddy and listening to his voice, the more we love him; and the more time his children spend alongside each other, the more we grow in our love for one another.
G'busta bay ow dayee bed
Daddy feeds us. As children, we don't think about where our food comes from, we simply trust our Daddy that it will be there. We take it for granted, and that's okay, because he's the one who freely grants it. We smell the bread even before we see it. We take it with our hands and eat it. The crunch enters our ears as the bread works its way into our blood.
The multiple-times-daily act of eating is one of the most physical and mundane things we do as humans. We don't have to look outside of our normal life rhythms to find Daddy. When we eat we are giving thanks to him for his provision and nearness to us. It is always a communion. We are never alone.
Fogib ow sins us we fogib ow dead-os
There are times when we do not care to join in our Daddy's building project. We refuse to see what he's working on or hear his plan for the day. We see taller buildings going up and better food being served, so we go taste and see. This takes us out of loving relationship with our Daddy and one another. It turns all our affections in on ourselves. Our actions may not be heinous and overt, but especially our small actions and negligences, our "harmless" words and imaginations, keep us from Daddy's love.
When we lose sight of Daddy's restoration project, we are looking out only for ourselves, and suddenly everyone is against us. We become victims of everyone else's offenses. In this lonely, selfish posture, we are unable to receive and give love. Instead of loving our brothers and sisters, we hold grudges against them. This is what we need to be relieved of. Our Daddy relieves us of this miserable way of life, and realigns us with the first three parts of his prayer, where we thrive in loving, resting/working/eating relationship with himself and with one another.
If anything, sin is what takes us out of our natural, down-to-earth element. Sin is living in the clouds of fantasy. The forgiveness of sins is not about praying a prayer so that one day we can escape from our evil, fleshy bodies. The forgiveness of sins is about perfecting our humanity, restoring the Daddy-child relationship and our relationships with one another. It's about resting in Daddy's love, joining in his work to restore the world, and enjoying communion with him and all his children.
An leab a snot indo demdation, budelibo us fum evo
If we are truly living out the prayer up to this point, we're REALLY going to need this last part. Living in loving, resting/working/eating relationship with Daddy and one another means we will be spending most of our time physically present among messy people in messy places. One of the most prevalent places in this world where Daddy's children are lured to participate in evil activity is the church. Here we find some of the most judgmental, self-righteous people on earth. It is easy to get sucked up into this miserable way of life. That's why he teaches us to pray this prayer.
As Daddy's children we are led into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and markets, where all kinds of self-seeking activity is going on. If we are going to overcome evil, we must be attentive to what our Daddy is saying and doing, we must join him in his building project, and we must do it together.
Overcoming evil at times will involve fleeing from it, but real deliverance is about making evil things good things. We may be tempted to rid the world of evil people, but Daddy is interested in taking the evil out of the people, not taking the people out of the evil. If we do not have a vision for restoration, and instead think the goal is to be delivered from our evil bodies and this evil world, the Lord's Prayer doesn't make sense.
I do not care to comment on the rest of the prayer (the part Jesus didn't teach us to pray :). I do hope you see how everything in this prayer is down-to-earth and is meant to help us sensibly relate to our Daddy, to see what he is up to in our everyday lives, and to respond accordingly.