The Lord's prayer... that's what we call it. In reality it could be called the apostle's prayer. Jesus didn't pray it himself, he taught his followers this was a pattern we all could use. But too often we take it for granted without considering just what it is we are saying and asking for when we pray it.
Children especially struggle with some of the wording that is used. Here are some examples found in Ann Landers of all places: “When my twin daughters were young, I taught them to say this prayer before going to bed. As I listened outside their door, I could hear them say, "Give us this steak and daily bread, and forgive us our mattresses." From San Francisco: When I was a child, I learned this prayer as, "Our Father, who are in Heaven, Howard be thy name." I always thought that was God's real name.
From Uniontown, Ohio: I remember thinking this prayer was, "Give us this day our jelly bread.”
Missoula, Mont.: My son, who is in nursery school, said, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, how didja know my name?"
And finally from Grand Junction, Colo.: When I was younger, I believed the line was, "Lead a snot into temptation." I thought I was praying for my little sister to get into trouble.
His teaching includes an odd story about hospitality; about persistence. It is an odd story to us because we see the man asking for bread to be in the wrong. We wouldn't bother our neighbor like this in the middle of the night. But hospitality was so important in that culture that the listeners to this story would judge the neighbor unwilling to answer the door as the antagonist. He had the ability to fulfill the request and thus the responsibility and the opportunity to answer the door and give the neighbor the gifts he asked for! Similarly, Jesus was teaching that we can trust God to hear and respond to our prayers. But what of God's response. Is it your experience that whenever and whatever we ask for we receive? It's not mine. If we search for God's way, do we easily find it? When we prayer for safety and health and food and preventing natural disasters, or for rain how do we explain that bad things continue to happen? And I cannot answer that. I don't think it is a cop out, but experience teaches us that we don't always get what we want despite our fervent prayers. So just what is the point of today's gospel passage? I'm going to say that Jesus is teaching us that prayer is about relationship. God is not a cosmic genie granting us three wishes. God is our heavenly parent wishing for conversation and relationship. God hears our requests but these words of Jesus are not about wishes granted but about needs and concerns, joys and thanksgivings shared.
Elisabeth Johnson Professor Lutheran Institute of Theology Meiganga, Cameroon wrote about this passage, “We can, however, affirm what Scripture tells us: that God is all-powerful, yet God is not the only power in the world. There are other powers at work, the powers of Satan and his demons, the powers of evil and death, often manifested in human sin. Although God has won the ultimate victory over these powers through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the battle still rages on. Consequently, God’s will can be — and often is — thwarted. Why bother to pray, then, if God’s will can be thwarted? Again we affirm what Scripture tells us, and particularly what Jesus tells us in this passage: that we are invited into relationship with a loving God who wants to give us life, and who continues to work tirelessly for our redemption and that of all creation.”
And sometimes this time with God inspires us to act where action is needed. Stephanie is going to help with a little dramatization about the Lord's prayer. Try to put yourself in Stephanie's place as she prays the prayer Jesus taught with God giving immediate feedback.
THE LORD'S PRAYER SKIT
A gentle reminder that prayer is not about getting what we want but about finding and following God's will in our lives. The Lord's Prayer is a prayer that praises God, that seeks God's will, that asks for forgiveness with the idea that we will forgive as we've been forgiven. And it is to be a conversation. We won't get an audible response like Stephanie did. But as we pray, we are listen to what we are asking for with the expectation that God's Spirit will bring to mind... that person we need to forgive... that temptation we are struggling with... that call on our lives to work together with the Lord. May today's lesson strengthen just how we pray and how we follow the Lord as the Lord seeks to lead us on our way in life. Amen.
Hymn: He Leadeth Me 439 HLC