by J L Cook
MT. 6:5-13 (NASB):
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.]’
Some of us are in the habit of saying the Lord’s prayer quite often. Repeating the Lord’s prayer over and over can be either good or bad. Repeating it over and over simply because we think this repetition will magically bring blessings to us is fruitless. We would be missing the point by a million miles. And the point is of extreme importance. Jesus is not trying to teach us some magical formula to please God. No, He is trying to show us how to come into the presence of God, and have a real relationship with Him who is our Father.
The Lord’s prayer is full of wisdom for life, and nourishment. It can cause our hearts to open up to God, and love to flow between us and our Father. If the reason we repeat it over and over is because it always brings us into the presence of our Father, and we are continually nourished by this, then it is very good! But we must not stop there. We must go beyond the words, to the reality of a loving relationship to God and mankind…
“Our Father who is in heaven… It starts out just the right way. It turns our attention to God, our Father. This is very important because that is where our focus should be, on God who really is our Father. We need to stay focused on Him as we walk through life. We need to constantly walk with our Father. We need to keep our eyes on Him, and we will be on the right path. If we start looking at everything else as we walk, we may get distracted from our source of real life and wander off.
“Hallowed be Your name… We should come to our Father with love and respect. When we comprehend His great love and concern for us, we reflect back to Him love and thankfulness. We thank Him and praise Him as we step into His presence on a regular basis. Deep down we have a need for Him, and He fills it. And because He created us to be loved by Him, He now has a need to be loved by us. He is totally delighted when we take time out of our busy schedule and focus only on Him.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven… We are part of His kingdom. We are His family. And we gladly confess one more time that we desire Him. It is our greatest wish, our God given choice. And we have chosen to be in His kingdom, to be led by Him. To be included in His family fulfills us and completes us and brings meaning to our life. We want to do His will because we have given up trying to live by our own power. We have given up trying to fix everything with man’s wisdom and technology. We realize that our Father’s wisdom and knowledge is far above ours. He wishes eagerly to teach us “how-to”, instead of us searching about, here and there, for the solution. His will is for us to be in relationship to Him, and to each other. He wants us to be about real life, real love, and real nourishment.
“Give us this day our daily bread… Yes, feed us Father. Feed us every day as only You can. Help us to remember the ways You enrich and nourish our bodies. The beauty of nature, the wonderful food, the fresh air, the cleansing rain. Make our bodies grow and mature as You always intended. Heal our minds and give peace to our spirit. But there is an even deeper thought here. Give us each day, that nourishment which our spirit craves, which only comes from intimate contact with our Father, the creator of life. Father, feed our spirit and our mind with thoughts about real life and real love. Help us to see you, Father, more clearly every day. Help us to understand that You are what we need. You, and only You, can satisfy all the needs and desires of our body and spirit. Help us to remember, Father, that if we need knowledge, You greatly desire to teach us. We will seek Your wisdom, and then listen and meditate on what you say, and we will be nourished by your words.
“And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors… All of us owe someone, something. We certainly owe God for creating us and loving us. He even sent His Son to pay a debt that we could never pay. We are now asked to love each other the same way. The apostle Paul said that we should be in debt to no one, except to love one another. That debt we can never completely repay. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a situation where we have a debt we cannot repay. We would gladly pay if we could, but we cannot. Forgiveness is the only thing that can keep our bond of friendship from falling apart. Forgiveness is the only thing that can prevent walls from being built between us. Forgiveness is the only thing that can tear down walls already in place. Forgiveness is all about love, deep God-like love. Our Father is willing to forgive us of anything, and He wants us to treat each other the very same way. Wouldn’t that make the world a great place to live? If we can just stop long enough to realize that what God forgives us for, is so much bigger and more important than any of the little debts we hold against each other. Maybe then we could see real life a little more clearly.
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil… I like to put the emphasis on “lead us”. Our Father would never lead us into temptation. No, this is just poetic language, showing two opposite ways we can be led. “Lead us, not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. It is two sides of the same coin. We can be led into temptation, but we are confident our Father will only lead us away from evil. We are confident that He will help us and heal us and deliver us from any bad thing we have been led into. But the main point is that we greatly desire for our Father to lead us. We trust Him. We feel safe and secure when He is leading us. There are many things all around us, constantly shouting to get our attention, in this day and time. They all wish to lead us somewhere, but there is only One who can lead us into real life. This speaks of an ongoing relationship, an intimate relationship. I picture a child holding the hand of his Father, as they walk together. It’s not supposed to just happen once in a while. No, we seek His leading every day, just as we seek His nourishment.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen… Why? Because He is our Father. He is the creator and giver of life. From Him comes truth and life and nourishment and love. We all came from Him, and we will certainly return to Him. We must not wait to meet Him later. We must seek to meet Him, now. We must seek Him each and every day. He is the greatest, the kindest, the most loving person we will ever meet.
Now, doesn’t that feel a little better? Have we not brought at least some deep meaning to these few words of Jesus? I don’t know why we have to expand and expound on what took Jesus only a very few words to say. But this is what we like to do. Maybe we instinctively know there is a treasure of wisdom hidden beneath every one of His words.
Maybe, if each one of us pondered the words of Jesus, on our own, we would each gain some deep and amazing insights into the heart of God. Maybe, as we ponder the words of Jesus, the Father will make them explode into nourishing thoughts that feed us deeply and cause us to desire more and more, to step into the presence of our heavenly Father.
Meditation can help us. It can take us on a journey beyond the face value of the words, even past the meaning of the thoughts that are clothed by the words. It can take us all the way into the presence of God, if that is what we are really seeking, with all of our heart. It is not a magical journey. It is the normal way, the way it was always meant to be. It is the child coming to meet his Father. It is more about spending time together than about knowledge or theology or laws. I suppose some people may describe this same process with the word, “prayer”.