Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reflections on the Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:7-21 

God of all people and places, you dwell in heaven and you walk with your creation.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

Your name is the source of all hope, joy, and consolation.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

Your ultimate reign is that for which we dare to long.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

Grant us what we need for today and the courage to share it with others.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

Dissolve the guilt and shame of our sins in forgiveness and strengthen us to do the same for others.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

Do not allow us to be waylaid by the forces that oppose you.
Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

At the end of all things, draw us to yourself through Christ.

Your name is holy. Your deeds are amazing.

People like solutions. There is hardly anything more aggravating than not being able to fix something or know an answer. In this room, right now, with the human knowledge plus the technological benefit of smart phones- there are many questions that could be answered, many problems that could be solved. Facts and figures and history and science- at our fingertips, in our minds, remembered and recorded

Prayer seems like it should have a solution, or at least more facts and more tangibility. So much depends, we think, on being able to do it correctly, on solving the prayer problem, that we hardly notice when we’re praying all the time. We focus on the “how” and we forget the “who”.

            Jesus teaches disciples to pray, in Matthew’s gospel, by beginning, “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name.” God’s name is holy because it is the name upon which we can call for all things- for healing, in distress, in joy, for hope, for help. We begin by calling on the name of God because we can ask things of this name (and in this name) that cannot come from anyone or anything else.

            Yet, when people tell me they have a hard time praying, often they are concerned about “getting it wrong”. We want to have all our ducks in a row because, surely, if we pray in the right way, we will receive the thing for which we are asking. And that, right there, is the tough mystery of prayer. The part we want to solve. It is hard accept that a God who has made us, who has lived as one of us, and who sighs with us in prayer is present and at work in all things, even when our experience is bleak and dark.

            If things are improving (in the way we expect), then God must not be listening (so we think) and if God is not listening (according to us), then we must be doing it wrong (it stands to reason). We are able to do so much, so quickly now and to know so many things… waiting with mystery is hard. What is hard is uncomfortable and what is uncomfortable is to be avoided. No one ever says, “Let’s go to the park with the hard benches! I love how uncomfortable we are there.”

            Part of living in faith, in trusting God, is learning to be consoled by the mystery of God’s relationship to God’s ownself (as Father, Son, and Spirit) and the mystery of God’s relationship to us- as we experience it through prayer- our prayers with words and our prayers with actions. God is bigger than our knowledge, than our imaginations, than our dreams. We cannot solve the mystery of God. That actually is good news. A puzzle has a solution. A riddle has an answer. But God, God is forever- and we live and rest, not through our own doing, in that eternity- even when we do not understand it.

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