Saturday, 3 March 2007

Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer

Some new things I noticed about the Lord's prayer (from Matthew 6) the other day...

1. It is a collective prayer. Everything is in the first person plural, not the singular. We pray this prayer as a people and not so much as individuals. For example, it is striking that we speak to our Father, when our natural bent is always to individualize our relationship with the Father. What difference does it make to be a family relating to our Father together, rather than as individual sons? It's particularly striking when you come to the last 3 petitions. The daily bread is for the people of God, the forgiveness is for the people as a whole (who demonstrate their salvation in reciprocal forgiveness/forgiveness of enemies), and the temptation/testing is of the people. What implications does it have for our praying that the main prayer the Lord Jesus taught us was a collective prayer?

2. The contrast between heaven and earth. We are on earth, our Father's realm is heaven. But the main thrust of the first 3 petitions is that earth and heaven might be fused. There is a strong notion of new creation/renewal of the earth in this prayer. We long for our Father to 'heavenize' earth with his personal presence (i.e. holiness, kingdom, will).

3. While we wait for the 'heavenization' of the earth, we are a pilgrim people. The ideas of daily bread and temptation/testing are very reminiscent of the desert wanderings of Israel. The emphasis upon "our Father" may echo the idea of Israel as the LORD's firstborn son. So, the context of our praying is our collective life on earth as a 'homeless people', harassed by the evil one, but waiting for our Father to renew all things.