Daily Office, Discipleship, Musings, Prayer, psalms, Relationships, Scripture

Psalm 37: One of My Favorite (and Most Challenging) Psalms-Part 2

I wanted to share one more reflection on Psalm 37. When reading it as a part of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 37 is split into two parts. I want to focus on the second part today. You can read part one here.

Here is the full text below:

9 The LORD cares for the lives of the godly, *

and their inheritance shall last for ever.

20 They shall not be ashamed in bad times, *

and in days of famine they shall have enough.

21 As for the wicked, they shall perish, *

and the enemies of the LORD, like the glory of the meadows, shall vanish;

they shall vanish like smoke.

22 The wicked borrow and do not repay, *

but the righteous are generous in giving.

23 Those who are blessed by God shall possess the land, *

but those who are cursed by him shall be destroyed.

24 Our steps are directed by the LORD; *

he strengthens those in whose way he delights.

25 If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong, *

for the LORD holds them by the hand.

26 I have been young and now I am old, *

but never have I seen the righteous forsaken,

or their children begging bread.

27 The righteous are always generous in their lending, *

and their children shall be a blessing.

28 Turn from evil, and do good, *

and dwell in the land for ever.

29 For the LORD loves justice; *

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

30 They shall be kept safe for ever, *

but the offspring of the wicked shall be destroyed.

31 The righteous shall possess the land *

and dwell in it for ever.

32 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, *

and their tongue speaks what is right.

33 The law of their God is in their heart, *

and their footsteps shall not falter.

34 The wicked spy on the righteous *

and seek occasion to kill them.

35 The LORD will not abandon them to their hand, *

nor let them be found guilty when brought to trial.

36 Wait upon the LORD and keep his way; *

he will raise you up to possess the land,

and when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

37 I have seen the wicked in their arrogance, *

flourishing like a tree in full leaf.

38 I went by, and behold, they were not there; *

I searched for them, but they could not be found.

39 Mark those who are honest;

observe the upright; *

for there is a future for the peaceable.

40 Transgressors shall be destroyed, one and all; *

the future of the wicked is cut off.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD; *

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them; *

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

 

The main trust of this psalm is this: God cares for those whom God loves, so God will care for them, protect them, provide for them, and deliver them. One of the large ways God does this is by being just and dealing accordingly with the wicked. The righteous, then, can live in such a way that shows they truly believe this to be true about God, by way of generosity, living peaceably, dwelling wherever they are, and entrusting themselves to the  strength and power of God.

I wonder, though, how many of our decisions in life are motivated by a deep, unspoken belief that God is not working for our good, that God doesn’t really care for us, God won’t provide for us, and that God has left things up to us to take from here.

Yes, I realize this is a blunt statement and certainly doesn’t jive with our stated professions of faith. I can already hear the cries of “Deism!” and “Heresy!”, with which I certainly agree. Be that as it may, I think this psalm speaks to our struggle to truly believe (at a core level) what we confess or profess to believe (at a surface level). And we can see this in our fears and actions. We are not really believing what we confess to believe.

When there is injustice around us (and it certainly abounds!) I know my first impulse is to get angry and wonder,”What are we going to do about this?” This is not a bad question at all. But, if it is not tempered with, “What is God doing about it and what will God do about it?” then we may need to step back and ask ourselves, “How can I actively trust God’s presence and work in the world to right this injustice?” Notice, this is very different from “letting go and letting God” (I have a whole rant on that phrase I will spare you from, for now!). Nor is this just pure activism. It is active and faithful presence, rooted in the beautiful reality of God’s greater care for justice than my own.

Quite simply put, God cares more about justice than we ever could, and God can bring about justice in ways we never can. So, this can free us to live generously, compassionately, peacefully, and faithfully; knowing we are participating with God in this powerful and restorative work in the world. God will help. God will rescue. God will deliver. And God invites us to join in this work! What a privilege!

 

My question today is: When I see the wicked prospering and evil abounding, even amongst those who claim to follow Jesus, how can I engage from a place of deep trust in God’s work and desires, not simply from my own anger or fear?

Standard
Daily Office, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Daily Office Reflection: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

If you would like to read through the Daily Office, complete with prayers and hymns, I use this almost every day.

January 27th, 2017

Epiphany III (Ps. 40, 54; Isa 50:1-11; Gal 3:15- 22; Mark 6:47- 56 )

Mark 6:47- 56

When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

 

In the midst of adversity, we often assume the worst about any new development in our situation. I call it the “Oh, come ON!” reflex and have found this to be true in my own life. When things are not going well, that is the same day that I lose my keys, stub my toe, miss the bus, and imagine many more things going from bad to worse. Think “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”In fact, it’s all I can usually think about.

What is so telling about this story is that it follows Jesus’ miraculous provision in the loaves and fish. This story was so amazing and did not match with anyone’s expectations. I mean, how could it? So then, the disciples get caught up in a storm. This is bad, but it was fairly common. This was worse than normal. But then they see Jesus walking on the sea. But they don’t see Jesus, they think it’s a ghost. Oh, come ON! First we were going to die and now we are haunted? REALLY?!?

Jesus speaks, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

This speaks to imagination and to our hearts. When we see a terrible situation going from bad to worse, could it be that Jesus is present right in the middle of it? Instead of letting our imaginations run wild with all the possible bad things that could happen (a ghost is pretty imaginative!) could we imagine instead how Jesus might be strolling right in the middle of it all?

As many have said, we are either in a storm, coming out of one, or about to enter one. Where are you? And, more to the point, where is Jesus? Where do you need to hear him speak the beautiful and good news of his presence? And how can you even imagine his presence in the midst of whatever it is you are facing? Jesus is not just with you, he is powerfully at work as well, to help you move from fear to encouragement.

Standard
Daily Office, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Psalm 37: One of My Favorite (and Most Challenging) Psalms-Part 1

I’m not sure if choosing favorite parts of the Bible is like choosing which child you like more, in that it is sort of taboo. As I don’t yet have children, parents will have to fill me in on this as it relates to their kids, but I do know I certainly have favorite passages in the Scriptures.

Psalm 37 continues to be at the top of the list, and it continues to speak afresh to me in different seasons of life. I thought I’d share a few reflections and see if they resonate with you as well.
Here is how it begins:

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

In light of our new President’s first few days and actions in office, this is incredibly timely for me. I will not mince words: there are several of his actions or words that are not simply controversial or divisive, they are wrong. Torture is wrong and evil, regardless of its “effectiveness”. Denying help to the refugee is wrong, especially upon the basis of religious affiliation. Ignoring environmental concerns for the sake of “expediting development” is wrong. And this is just in the last few days.

For me, it becomes incredibly disturbing and frustrating. And I have been fretting…a lot. The psalm will speak more to those who do evil, but it offers an important positive alternative, and no–it is not, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness*.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

Instead of fretting, we are offered the alternatives of trust, dwell, cultivate, delight, and commit.

This verse has been printed out and framed in our house, becoming a sort of mission statement for Kara and I. We see it each time we walk out our front door.

Trust God. Dwell in the neighborhood. Cultivate faithfulness. Delight in God. Commit our lives to God.

When I fret, I am reminded that my calling has not changed. I am still invited to actively trust God by continuing to root myself in the place I live, to be faithful in loving my neighbors, and to take delight in all that God is. This, of course, is not simply a way of ignoring the reality of wrong-doing (there was just a violent incident in our neighborhood last night). This is also not being silent when speaking out becomes necessary. But worrying can keep me from being active from a posture of trust. Worrying fuels my work in a stressing and dangerous way. Fretting can make me very cynical and angry and bitter. Instead, I feel that God is inviting us to use our imagination more positively.

My question today is: How is God inviting me to cultivate faithfulness and to be fully present in the world around me, while also actively trusting him along the way?

*Note: I chose this translation because of this phrasing, though some translations say something more like “feed on faithfulness” or “befriend faithfulness” or even “find safe pasture”; all of which bring up interesting concepts.

Standard
Daily Office, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Daily Office Reflection: The Conversion of St. Paul

If you would like to read through the Daily Office, complete with prayers and hymns, I use this almost every day.

January 25th, 2017

Epiphany III-Commemoration of the Conversion of St. Paul

(Ps. 19; Isa 45:18-25; Phil 3:4-11-2:10)
The readings are a bit different today as we focus on the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus to become Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Philippians 3:4-11

even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul has a certain intensity, doesn’t he? I mean, I find myself reading this passage and thinking, “Woah, Paul…I mean…it’s ALL ‘rubbish’?” He was super credentialed. He not only knew the Law, he was zealous for it. Paul was passionate.

I am helping to lead a training with HopeSprings about how we can do “wholistic” (i.e. concerned about the wholeness of people) ministry, and we talked about passion the other night. We tend to equate passion with zeal and drive, and this is certainly true. However, the original use of the word passion was in reference to suffering (think, the Passion of the Christ).

In Acts 9:16, when the Lord is speaking to Ananias, he says of Saul (about to be Paul) that he will show him how much Paul “must suffer for my name.” Paul’s passion (zeal) was transformed into a suffering for the sake of Christ and others.

When we choose to follow Jesus today, we embrace passion, our passion (suffering) of holding loosely to things which often define us (education, social status, bank account, denominational affiliation, family heritage, etc.) even, by comparision, considering them “rubbish” (a G-rated translation, to be sure) to the value of being in relationship with Christ. When we want to be what JEsus is about, the other things just don’t matter like they once did.

What is God inviting you to reconsider in your own life? In what ways does your own identity inhere within the things many would value? What is God saying to you about who you are, right now?

Imagine what our own callings could look like were we to value connection and relationship to Jesus more than these things.

 

Standard
Daily Office, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Daily Office Reflection: Galatians 1:18-2:10

If you would like to read through the Daily Office, complete with prayers and hymns, I use this almost every day.

January 24th, 2017

Epiphany III

(Ps. 45; Isaiah 48:12-21; Galatians 1:18-2:10;  Mark 6:1-13)

Galatians 1:18-2:10

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me. Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us- we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) -those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

So, this account of Paul’s calling and ministry and how he worked through being received into the community of Jesus, especially considering his past. This seems like a key moment in the movement of Jesus, as they acknowledge that the same God who entrusted a calling and mission to Peter to one group of people (Jews and God-fearing, law-keeping Gentiles) was the same God who was sending Paul to the Gentiles (aka: everyone else!).

Different callings are key to seeing God’s one, great mission unfold.

But notice the one commonality: remember the poor.

 

As my grandfather (a Southern Baptist preacher)  likes to put it, “We all have our rows to work in the vineyard.” Yes, and amen. But let’s remember the poor, the outcast, the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan. Perhaps we need to confess that much of our time is spent forgetting, not remembering the poor. What would it look like for us to be eager to remember the poor? Let’s not get so caught up in our callings today that we forget the poor, the one thing all of our ministries should have in common. 

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 23:22)

Standard
Daily Office, John, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Daily Office Reflection: Psalm 41 & 52

Today continues this practice of praying and reflecting on the Daily Office readings.

January 23rd, 2017
Epiphany III

(Ps. 41, 52; Isaiah 48:1-11; Galatians 1:1-17;  Mark 5:21-23)

Psalm 41 &52

Psalm 41
Happy are those who consider the poor;
the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive;
they are called happy in the land.
You do not give them up to the will of their enemies.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed;
in their illness you heal all their infirmities.

As for me, I said, ‘O Lord, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you.’
My enemies wonder in malice
when I will die, and my name perish.
And when they come to see me, they utter empty words,
while their hearts gather mischief;
when they go out, they tell it abroad.
All who hate me whisper together about me;
they imagine the worst for me.

They think that a deadly thing has fastened on me,
that I will not rise again from where I lie.
Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,
who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
and raise me up, that I may repay them.

By this I know that you are pleased with me;
because my enemy has not triumphed over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence for ever.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.Amen and Amen.

Psalm 52

Why do you boast, O mighty one,
of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking the truth.
Selah
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.

But God will break you down for ever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
Selah
The righteous will see, and fear,
and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
‘See the one who would not take
refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
and sought refuge in wealth!’

But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
for ever and ever.
I will thank you for ever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

The parallels to currents events are too large to ignore. Before offering a few thoughts, I believe that these two Psalms speak to something of fundamental importance: the formational power of consistent liturgical prayer. What do you think the impact could be upon the Church (and the world!), were she to mindfully pray the words we read above:
“Happy are those who consider the poor;
the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.”
and
“Why do you boast, O mighty one,
of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking the truth.”

In a world which values the rich, the powerful, the boastful, and the extravagant, these words speak prophetically to the Church and to the world. In a time where we have phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts”, how can we continue to turn to those who do not have the power of political voice, news spin, or material wealth and consider their health and well-being, even more than our own?

Could it be that we have come to believe a different gospel, particularly in North America/United States? Does this relate at all to St. Paul’s words in Galatians about gospel? What would the truly “good news” be based on these readings?

Speak, Lord…your servants are listening…

Standard
Daily Office, John, Musings, Prayer, Scripture, Sunday

Daily Office Reflection: An Intro and John 5:2-18

For a couple years now, I have been engaging in the practice of praying the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. This last year, I journaled through the an entire year of the Daily Office lectionary, taking time to read the prayers, the appointed Psalms, the assigned lessons for the day (One Old Testament, One New Testament, One Gospel), confess the truth of the Church through the creeds, and pray the same prayers for the world along with many in the Church.
Along the way, there have been some profound moments, to be sure. I have seen things I had not seen before. I have felt the presence of God, at times, in new ways. But to be honest, most of the time it was quite ordinary and uneventful. It simply became a quiet habit. But I do believe it was a good habit which has and continues to do good work in me; albeit slow, steady, and ordinary work. I read a quote this morning from Brené Brown, who says:

Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.

 

So, this is an endeavor in the ordinary and an invitation for you to, perhaps, join me. Someone recently encouraged me to continue sharing some of the things I am learning, so I will be sharing some reflections on at least one of the texts from the Daily Office lectionary on a regular basis. It probably won’t be every day. But, I hope at the very least, it encourages you to take some steps of ordinary, regular engagement with God each day, trusting that God will meet you there with joy in surprising and common ways.
There are a few different ways you can access these readings online. If you want to have access to many of the prayers, hymns, and canticles which go with the readings, Mission St. Clare is a great resource I often use when I don’t have my BCP around. (¡Disponible en español, también!) If you just want the Scripture readings for each day, you can go here.
One last note: I would love to hear from you if you are praying this with me, or if you have thoughts from the readings/time of prayer. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.

January 22nd, 2017: Third Sunday after Epiphany

(Ps. 63:1–8 (9–11) Ps. 98; Ps. 103; Isa. 47:1–15; Heb. 10:19–31; John 5:2–18)

John 5:2-18

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

 

There were just a few thoughts to offer:

First, Jesus takes the time to go be amongst the hurting, sick, and hopeful. These people are here at Beth-zatha because they believed that these pools were sacred places where healing could take place. And such beliefs were not in line with the First-Century Jewish Temple system. These were people who needed healing and were on the fringes of social and religious life.

Second, the man that Jesus interacts with and heals is VERY old by standards of that day. And has obviously had failed attempt after failed attempt to be healed. He is even marginalized by the marginalized. But Jesus asks him an important question: Do you want to be well? If so, show me by taking up your mat and walking! And he does. This shows the cooperation of our faith-full response and the mighty work of God..

Third, the religious elite will try to find anyway to disparage the work of God, as they call out a man who was miraculously healed for breaking the technicality of the the sabbath law!

And finally, the huge statement that stuck out to me wasJesus’ discussing the work of his Father. “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” I imagined that God said the following to me (and it was very timely): I am not done working in my world, so neither am I done working in and through you. Will you decide to join me today, my son?”

If this story exemplifies the work of God in the world (to the marginalized, sick, and oppressed), will we be like Jesus and work with our Father? How can you join God’s work around you today?

Standard
Musings, Prayer, Sermon Notes

[Post]-Sermon Notes: Prayer

Texts: Acts 2:42-47, Matthew 6:9-13
(this is a summary of the sermon I have this past Sunday. If you prefer, skip to the bottom for additional resources)
If we’re honest, prayer freaks us out. It feels mystical or magical or strange. It seems like something that is only for the elite. It doesn’t make sense to us. It feels awkward or like our words are bouncing off the ceiling.

I don’t know about you, but I need to be taught how to pray. Jesus’ disciples felt this and it compelled them to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. And he responded by telling them to say the Lord’s prayer.

Prayer begins with direction. It is about relationship

With whom are we speaking? “Our Father, in heaven.”
I know we all approach this idea of God as father from different places. I know it can affect how we see who this God is. For a further piicture of who this Father is, see Luke 11:11-13.

However, the fact that Jesus would instruct his followers to address God in this way was very controversial! “Father” as a title for God was rarely used in the Old Testament (only 14 times I can count) and always used with reference to the nation, not to individuals. Thus, where “father” does occur with respect to God, it is commonly by way of analogy, and not used to directly address Him (Deut 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 63:16; Mal 2:10).

In contrast, Jesus Himself addressed God only as Father (some 60 times in the Gospels), never referring to Him by any other name! Virtually all of Jesus’ prayers were addressed to God as Father (except when Jesus quotes Psalm 22 on the cross…my God, my God). So we, following Jesus’ example, get to call the God of the universe Father. The one whose name wouldn’t even be spoken by people for thousands of years, we get call him “Papa”.

When we say that he is in heaven (or rather, the better translation is “in the heavens”), we speak of something I will call his transcendent nearness. So we could pray: “Our Father who is up above, around, and near to us.” God is separate and other while being imminent and present.

So when we pray, we recognize that we are praying to the God of all creation who is our close and intimate Father, right there with us. We don’t have to hope that our prayers “get to God”.

“Hallowed be your name”
Or “may your name be kept holy, special, or set apart”. In the Ancient Near East and in many early religions, the name of a god (or a man, for that matter), was very important. It defined a reality. But men would sometimes use the name of a god to get what they wanted, or would curse them when they didn’t do something right. This prayer is one we participate in. It is saying, “we will seek to maintain the honor of your name”. And this is a difficult thing to do, is it not? We see the name of God defamed all around us, things done in his name, attributed to him. It is the cosmic version of that first bully telling us as a child that our Dad is weak or our mom is not the greatest Mom ever. That alarm that we feel pushes us to fight for the honor of the name of God. The Hebrew people, and even Jews today so revere the name of God, they do not speak or write it. They came up with Hashem, which lit. means “the name” (They ended up giving different names of God-all related to what he has done or his character).

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
So this is the first thing we seem to be asking/petitioning God for in this prayer. And I know this is where we get hung up sometimes, in the asking of God for things. We have these mental blocks sometimes.
Psalm 139:1-4 and Matthew 6:8 can become problematic for us. If God knows what we need before we even ask him, what’s the point in asking?
This question makes some big assumptions:

  1. That the need we are asking for is the same as the actual need that God knows.

    2. That God’s knowing is the same as God’s doing (just because he knows, does that mean he will act on it?
    3. That it is ok to rationalize away obedience. (if it doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t have to do it) If you have kids, you know this doesn’t work.

Let me say it clearly: prayer changes things. And we are commanded to do it. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
God has, in a mysterious way, chosen to tie his action in the world to the petitions of his people.
(2 Scriptures where God appears to change his mind in response to prayer: Exodus 32 [Moses] and 2 Kings 20 [Hezekiah])

I really like this example and quote from Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy that explains the relationship and differences between the “will/purposes” of God and the “action” of God. Some call this idea of God’s sovereignty his “relational sovereignty”.

“God is great enough that he can conduct his affairs in this way. His nature, identity, and overarching purposes are no doubt unchanging. But his intentions with regard to many particular matters that concern individual human beings are not. This does not diminish him. Far from it. He would be a lesser God if he could not change his intentions when he thinks it is appropriate. And if he chooses to deal with humanity in such a way that he will occasionally think it appropriate, that is just fine.”

And that is the heart of this line in the prayer.
When we pray Your kingdom come, we are asking God to be about his business in ways we know only he can do. We are praying for justice, for the world to be made right, Maranatha! (Come, Lord Jesus!)

When we pray Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are saying we want to be about our Father’s business. It is about our obedience. Just like heaven is the place where God is being obeyed and worshiped all the time, we work to bring that to earth in the way we live.

“Give us this day our daily bread”
There are only two things I wish to highlight here. The first is that the plural part of this prayer is emphasized again. It is truly our prayer. When is the last time you prayed for someone else’s basic needs to be met along with yours?

Second, this is a prayer that places our attention squarely on the present. We are not asking for things for tomorrow. We are focusing our trust on what God will provide today. Perhaps many of our prayers are masquerading as baptized anxieties about the future when God is calling us back to where he is: with us, in the present, providing what we need. (again, sometimes we need to have our perception of our needs realigned with God’s)

“And forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors”
There is so much to be said about forgiveness and how it affects our lives. Let me just say that we need a constant reminder of the pity that God has had on us when it comes to our condition. And I use the word pity on purpose, as mercy is a word that may have too much religious baggage to be as jarring. God saw us, way over our heads, upside-down in life-debt. He saw it and took pity on us. He felt for us in our awful state. And then he forgave, the word means to literally send away, never to return.
And this is the way we are supposed to forgive those who have wronged us. This is a transformative side to this prayer that moves us into right relationships. We must be reacquainted with our
“They owe me an apology.” Probably. Cancel the debt, place it on the cross.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
At its core, this is a prayer saying, “God, please don’t let bad things happen to me.” You may think this is too simple or childish of a prayer. Or perhaps its praying “wrong”. After all, doesn’t scripture talk about being called to suffer, to pick up the cross and follow Jesus?
God is a good Dad. He doesn’t willfully send his children into harm like a sadist. And the truth is, he does this A LOT. We tend to focus on the times where he doesn’t seem to, and think that he is being a bad Dad. This is shortsighted.
The idea of being delivered is that we are pulled through hardship, but make it on the other side. It is not praying: pull me out of this. It is saying, pull me through. Jesus, again, modeled this in Gethsemane. “Father, is there a way you can keep this from happening?” And ultimately, Jesus was delivered through and into victory.

So, this is a prayer we should repeat and a prayer we should model our prayers after.

Because engaging in prayer is like learning how to speak.

Have you ever thought about how you learned to speak? It is an amazing process. It begins with listening. We hear the voices of our parents and those around us and recognize their voices.
It continues with naming who these big people are that feed us. Mama. Dada. Then concrete words like milk, blanky, food. Then abstract like hungry, thirsty, and more. And on we go, putting words together, asking for things, talking about things.
But we can’t speak what we don’t hear. And we have to practice. Because our language changes over time.

Eugene Peterson speaks of 3 types of language that we use in our world:
Language I is primary language, the basic language for expressing and developing the human condition. It is the language of relationship: coos, giggles, gibberish,
Language II is the language of information. Everything has a name. Language II is the major language used in schools.
Language III is the language of motivation. We discover early on that words have the power to make things happen, to bring something out of nothing, to move inert figures into purposive action. This is the language used in advertising and politics.

In our world, languages II and III are the predominant languages of our culture. As we grow up, we tend to put relational language I to the side, it is considered inferior and childish.
We need to relearn relational language. And prayer exposes our deficiency in this language while seeking to change it at the same time!

We need to pray these words of the Lord’s Prayer, again and again. And this is not vain repetition. This is repetition on a mission! It is formative. It helps us learn the language of God! It resets us to speak relationally again.

Ways to engage in prayer different this week:
-Pray the Lord’s prayer, both individually and with others.
-Set times to pray the prayers of others/the Psalms/common prayer. Shoot for once or twice a day. Some great online resources for you: the Trinity Mission, Book of Common Prayer, Mission St. Clare, Daily Office,

Standard