"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lord's Prayer

One of the most beautiful things about becoming a Christian is that as the Holy Spirit transforms our lives, He begins to align our desires with those of the Father so that as we mature in our prayer life, we begin to pray not for the desires of our flesh, but for the desires of the Father.  Our desires become one and the same with His.

I love to look at the Lord’s Prayer in light of that truth.  Matthew 6: 9-13 says,

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

Right before these verses, Jesus warns his followers not to babble on like the pagans when they pray.  The sad irony is that the words of the Lord’s Prayer have become so familiar to us that it is easy not to really think of what it is we are saying.  What I love about this prayer is that it’s active—it is a prayer we participate with the Spirit of God in answering as we align ourselves with Him.  What do I mean by that?  Look at this:  How is it that our Father’s name is hallowed?  We lift up his name!  It is our privilege and responsibility to lift up our Father’s holy name and proclaim it to those who are lost.  How is it that the Father’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven?  We do his will!  It is our privilege and responsibility to follow the Spirit’s leading, and to obey God in carrying out the Great Commission He has given to us in going and making disciples.  How is it that God provides us with our daily sustenance?  It is not through our slothfulness that God provides for us, but we can praise Him for giving us the ability and opportunity to be able to work hard in order to provide food for our tables.  We can thank Him that we live in a place where hard work can provide food.

A foolish man prays for God to open locked doors…and then never reaches out to turn the knob himself!  James 2:16-17 says,

16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

How important that our prayer life is accompanied by action.  After all, God is not our servant—we are His!  That we participate in answering our own prayers does not make the answers any less amazing—if anything, the answers are all the more amazing as they reveal our transformed hearts.

                There is one part of the Lord ’s Prayer we cannot participate in.  We cannot forgive our own debts.  Only the blood of Christ can forgive us our debts, and deliver us from evil.  We, however, are given the responsibility and the power to forgive the debts others have against us.  What a beautiful opportunity to mirror our heavenly Father—to live in his transforming power. 

                Matthew 6: 14-15 says,

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

                This is a verse that should cause each of us to pause.  Some pains are hard to let go.  It’s easy to cling to a grudge, massaging it in the palm of our hand.  But what this reveals is that we don’t truly recognize what it is that Christ did in forgiving us.  We become no less foolish than the servant who demanded his payment of a few coins when the king had released him his debt of thousands (Matt 18:21-35)!  When we refuse to forgive, we reveal the true heart within us.  Is yours a prayerful heart transformed by the King, or a demanding heart convinced that it is king?  Align your heart with the Fathers—let your prayers be active, and your forgiveness mirroring the likeness of Christ’s.

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