The Lord's Prayer, Take Two

I was going to write a post today filled with platitudes about what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about praying.  

But the truth is, my own prayer life stinks.

 

If I wrote the kind of post I wanted to write, I would be the same kind of hypocrite that Jesus speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount. One who uses words to look holy and pious, but fails to do privately what she does publicly.

 

It’s true that I practice a certain kind of “prayer without ceasing” during my day. I walk around with an awareness of God’s presence and an invitation for him to be part of my activities that I never used to have. And I am so grateful for the way my faith has changed and grown to have this sort of richness.

 

But, for a long time now, I have struggled in my commitment to set aside time to pray. To speak to God with intention. To focus. To set aside distractions. To breathe. To listen. To be fully engaged in the act of prayer.

 

I long to change. I can feel in the fragmentation of myself, and my faith that I need to.

 

And so more than the words of the Lord’s prayer itself, I am hearing Jesus’ introduction to it. “When you pray… pray like this.” Not if you pray. Not if you get around to praying. Not if you feel so inclined to set aside the time once in awhile.

 

When you pray...

 

This is an invitation for our souls to come, and an expectation that we will. Not because we should pray, or are obligated to pray, or are holier if we pray, but because we can pray. Because we need to pray.

 

Pray like this.

 

Not as a formula, but as a holistic picture of what prayer can look like. Of what our God looks like.

 The Lord's Prayer

God is our Father. He is intimately concerned about our well-being. God is holy. But also, He forgives us. His holiness does not mean we have to measure up, but that He is immeasurable. God provides for our needs. But also, He is bringing His kingdom. His purposes are much more grand than our individual happiness.

 

Intentional prayer like the Lord's prayer centers us. It gives us perspective.

 

I need to pray more. Not because it makes me holy. But because it makes me whole.

 

(P.S. Jesus' teaching on prayer, which includes the Lord's Prayer, is found in Matthew 6.)

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

Shame, holiness, and hearing “I am so disappointed in you.”

I tried to stop listening, but I couldn’t. The conversation I overheard from the next booth at the restaurant was like a slow motion train wreck. The words rang in my ears and sank deep into my heart. I wanted to shout, beg for it to stop. Instead, I just prayed for the adolescent boy whose shoulders sank a little lower with each utterance.

“I can’t believe you did that. You don’t see me acting that way, do you? No. I am responsible. You could learn from me. You know how your dad’s health has been poor, don’t you? You are going to give him a heart attack if you keep acting this way. I am so disappointed in you.

I don’t know what this boy did. And I feel empathy for the mother. I really do. My boys are not yet teenagers. And I’m sure when they are, there will be times I will grasp into thin air, searching for words to use that could parent them through sticky situations.

But it was so hard to hear this mother talk this way to her son. All I heard from her mouth was shame. Each sentence, she plunged the knife wound deeper, digging for a reaction, hoping for some remorse.

I have imagined myself on the other end of a conversation like this many times.

Too often, it is how I’ve viewed God’s holiness, especially growing up. I saw the gap between His perfection and my sin. I knew how far I was from meeting His standards of behavior. I sunk into my chair as I heard my Father say, “I’m so disappointed in you.”

But then? Grace.

There came a point when I encountered the unconditional love of God. At last, I was washed over with the grace He lavished on us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. I sunk into my Father’s arms as I heard Him say, “I’m so filled with love for you.”

That is such a better place to be. Yet, sometimes, I forget. Sometimes I forget that God’s grace does not undo His holiness. I am still a sinner who is far from meeting God’s standards.

God is disappointed when I sin.

But, there is a key word that is different from what I used to believe.

When we fail, God does not say, “I am disappointed in you,” When we fail, God says, “I am disappointed for you.”

God’s holiness means He knows what perfection feels like. His grace means He wants us to feel that too. God knows how much better things could be in this world and in our lives, if we would just trust Him. He longs for us to surrender to the narrow way, the way that seems so restrictive, because He knows that it is the way to freedom, peace, and joy.

Yes, our sin disappoints Him. But not because He is ashamed. Because He is love.

How do you see the interplay between God’s grace and His holiness in your relationship with Him?

What does God think of Psalm 26?

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I think of that quote as I read Psalm 26.

What comes to your mind when you think of God’s reaction to these words?

“Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” – Psalm 26:1-3

Me? I see God sitting in a chair with His arms crossed, rolling His eyes. I hear Him respond, “Don’t you know that I am an all-knowing God? You are calling yourself blameless? How could you be so self-righteous? Seriously. Show a little humility next time.”

I have always struggled with these kinds of psalms. It’s hard to understand how someone can claim blamelessness.

But perhaps it’s not the Psalm, but my view of God, that is skewed.

It’s true, God is a righteous, holy, and all-knowing Judge. He understands the depths of our sinfulness. In fact, He recognizes it more than we do.

But God is also a loving Father who wants to receive affection from His children.

I think of times I ask my son to do something, like clean up after himself. If he runs to me and says, “Mommy, mommy, come look at the play room! I worked my hardest. I did what you asked me to. I picked up all my toys.” How would I respond?

Would I say, “Hmm, I’m not sure you worked your hardest. You could have done it faster. And look, you even missed a few over in this corner. You said you picked up all your toys. That’s not true. You missed some.”

No way. Absolutely not.

My primary concern is not my child’s precision in following instructions. I care most about his heart. I hope to see a posture of obedience that shows his respect and a desire to follow through that demonstrates his love.

I would accept my child’s enthusiastic declaration of obedience as a demonstration of his love.

And I believe that’s what God does with these kinds of Psalms.

The words of this Psalm are not untruthful. Or inauthentic. If I get past the language that initially rubs me the wrong way, I see that Psalm 26 can be inspiring.

It reminds me that the most important part of obedience is the posture of my heart. And it calls me to boldly declare my faithfulness to God is an act of love and worship.

“My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.” – Psalm 26:12

What do you think of this kind of language in the Psalms? How do you picture God reacting to it?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.