Stroll through Scripture for June 16, 2024

Based on Matthew 6:9-13

The Lord’s prayer.  There have been many a story about pastors who have gone to visit homebound members in their homes and at nursing homes and those folks are comforted by hearing the Lord’s prayer.  More incredible stories include people who are struggling with memory challenges, who may not even recognize their own family members, but are able to recite the Lord’s prayer.  And when they do, they experience a sense of calm and clarity that they haven’t had in a long time.  The Lord’s prayer is a source of comfort for many.

It is also a source of conflict, which may be a bit of surprise.  The words of the Lord’s prayer have deep meaning and there is plenty debate about the words.  Depending on which version of the Lord’s prayer we are talking about can yield an array of understandings about the prayer.  Do we go with “forgive us our debts,” “forgive us our sins,” or “forgive us our trespasses?”  Each of these conveys different ideas.  

The Greek word in question is ὀφειλήματα, which can be translated as debts, offenses, or sins.  While in English we argue about the different between debts and sins, there really isn’t much of a difference in the Greek because when there is a sin, something is owed to make the relationship whole again, just like a debt.  So whether we are talking about money or relationship, the concept is the same.  

The core of the Lord’s prayer comes down to teaching the disciples, and us, how to pray.  It comes down to two key parts – acknowledge and ask.  Acknowledge God, God’s character and what God has done and will do again.  Ask for what you need – a heart-felt need that is keeping you from shalom wholeness.  There are others who will talk about various parts of prayer – a list that is longer.  But you can summarize it down to these two key parts.  

One of the statements that I think is read over quickly is “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done.”  Let that statement sink in for a moment.  I think so often we just assume that God’s kingdom looks like what we experience.  We don’t actually take the time to consider what it means to have God’s kingdom come.  Do we even realize what we are asking for?  Do we realize how we are invoking God to radically transform creation to be in alignment with God?  Do we realize what kind of change we are praying for?  Or is the statement so rote that it doesn’t even cross our minds what we are asking?  How would care of creation look if God’s kingdom came?  How would relationships change?  How would the use of money change?  What would happen to international relations?  What would happen to our policies and politics?  What would happen to the poor and homeless?  How would race and gender issues look different?  So many questions.  Do we have the imagination or creativity to see God’s kingdom in this world?  

Questions for Reflection:

  • Try seeing the Lord’s prayer with fresh eyes.  Look at the words that are used.  Contemplate each world and what it means.  One way to do this is to read a line of the prayer and pause.  Ask what you heard.  Read it a second time and ask what you felt.  Read it a third time and ask what you saw.  Then go onto the next line and repeat that process through the entire prayer.  
  • How would the world be different if Christians really lived into the Lord’s Prayer?  How can this prayer change your own life?  

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