This might seem like a redundant thing to write about. After all, Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew’s Gospel that ‘this then, is how you should pray’. After these words, he recounts the words of the prayer now known as the Lord’s Prayer, which is recited in countless homes and churches across the globe, everyday.
And yet a blog post like this, explaining how to pray the Lord’s Prayer would certainly have been instructive to me, when first considering these things. So it may be instructive to you, too.
Firstly, there are a few things that Jesus requires right off the bat, before any praying actually occurs. Two, in fact. First, that you should go into your own room. Secondly, that you should close the door.
Now I don’t think the imperative here is specifically about rooms and doors, but rather it’s more to do with what they represent. They represent privacy and intimacy and solitude. So first things first, go somewhere where you’ll be alone.
The first two lines — Our Father…
Then we get to the heart of the matter. The words that Christ himself spoke, and exhorted us to use as well. The first two lines of the prayer reads
Our Father, in heaven,
Hallowed be your name
As you pray these words, take some time to meditate upon the following:
The use of the word ‘Our’. God is not just your Father, or my father, or his or her Father. He is Our Father. The Christian Church is a collective. We are united as children of one Father. That is a wonderful truth, and one worthy of some reflection. If you have time, consider who the ‘Our’ encompasses. It means you, and your Christian brothers and sisters. Not just those in your own circle of friends, but all Christians across the globe. This includes those who live in your vicinity, and those who live on another continent. This includes the Christians who are alive today, and those who have passed away. It even includes the Christians who have yet to be born.
The word ‘Father’. Put aside any baggage that you may have with your own earthly father. Instead, isolate those traits he has that are good and noble and worthy. Now imagine those traits being heightened and perfected. Now add any other traits that the archetypal Good Father might have. This is the Father that you should fixate upon. This is what God is like. A Father, yes. But more than that: a Good Father.
The phrase ‘in heaven’. What do you picture when you picture heaven? This may be a challenge for you. It certainly is for me. But nonetheless, give it a go. Jesus tells the thief on the cross that he will see him that day in paradise. So perhaps heaven is some kind of paradise. I don’t really know. But God is there.
The phrase ‘Hallowed be’. This is an odd phrase that I for one have never heard outside this scriptural reference. I take it to mean two things. Firstly that it is a description of God’s name. His name is hallowed. It is holy. It is sacred. And secondly, a clarion call to what ought to be. His name ought to be considered holy. It ought to be revered as sacred. It ought to be hallowed. Think on those things, as you pray these words.
The phrase ‘your name’. God has a name. His name is Jehovah. But He has other names as well. Names that describe His character. El Shaddai, for instance (Lord God Almighty), and El Olam (The Everlasting God), to name just two. Learn about the names of God, and dwell upon them. They will give you some insight into His character and His nature. As well as these descriptive names, there is something powerful about the very fact that God has a personal name. This helps to remind us that God is a person. Not an abstract idea or ephemeral entity, but a real person with a name.
The second two lines — Your Kingdom Come…
The next two lines of the prayer read:
Your Kingdom come,
Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
These are powerful words indeed. And as you pray them, think on the following things.
What is the Kingdom of God? What does it look like? What would it look like for our world to be a Kingdom, in which God is the King? What kind of social structures would there be? What would interpersonal relationships be like? Would we still have jobs? Etc. etc.
Then think about the next phrase, which refers to God’s will. What is God’s will? You may need to do some study, here. God’s will can actually refer to a number of things. What is it that God wants to happen? What does He wish to occur in my life and in yours? Here’s a verse to get you started:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — Thessalonians 5:16–18
Now this might not be the full extent of God’s will, but, if you take the Bible to be true, then it certainly is one component of His will.
Now, what would it be like if God’s will was done, all the time, on earth just as it is in heaven? Take some time to imagine that. Do you think that God wills us to lie to one another? I’m certain that He doesn’t. That means that an earth in which God’s will was done, just as it was in heaven, would be an earth in which there was no lying or deceit. Take a ride on this train of thought. There would be no rape, no murder, no betrayal. Take this idea to its logical extreme. This exercise helps me to realise just how good the will of God is, and how much we ought to desire its coming to fruition.
To be continued…