When you pray...Our Father In Heaven


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1. Our Father in Heaven

But I want to see it against the background of the Old Testament's idea that the name of God is something in itself immensely beautiful and powerful. The name of God is God's word, God's presence. And to ask that God's name be hallowed, that God's name be looked upon as holy, is to ask that in the world people will understand the presence of God among them with awe and reverence, and will not use the name or the idea of God as a kind of weapon to put other people down, or as a sort of magic to make themselves feel safe.

1. Our Father in Heaven

But rather approach the idea of God, the name of God, the word of God, with the veneration and humility that's demanded. In the Jewish texts of Jesus' own day, the commandment about not taking God's name in the vain, from the Ten Commandments, is often understood as uniting the name of God with a curse - using the name of God as a kind of magic word - and that's to trivialise the name of God, it's to bring it down to our level, to try and make God a tool for our purposes.

So "Hallowed be thy name" means: understand what you're talking about when you're talking about God, this is serious, this is the most wonderful and frightening reality that we could imagine, more wonderful and frightening that we can imagine.

The Kingdom is not a place or a system; it's just a state of affairs when God is in charge. It's the kingship of God if you like. It's the state in which God really is acknowledged to be directing and giving meaning to everything. So we pray "God's Kingdom come", meaning let the world be transparent to God, let God's will and purpose and God's nature show through in every state of affairs , because that's what it is for God to be King.

It's not for God to be ordering around, but for God to be visible everywhere, for God to come through things in his glory. And Jesus himself tells us that the Kingdom comes in unexpected ways; it doesn't just come with a great clap of thunder at the end of time, it grows in our midst secretly. It comes through in quirky little moments when people do extraordinary things, take extraordinary risks and you think ah yes, that's a life in which God is showing through. And Jesus' parables again tell us about people who give up everything because they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom; they catch a glimpse of God's beauty.

The Lord’s Prayer – so much more than a recitation

It's a typical bit of Hebrew poetry, the parallel between the first and the second bit of the phrase. We're praying that in the very elaborate version of the old Book of Common Prayer; just as the angels do God's service in heaven so we may reflect that service on earth. And that's to say that all through the universe, God's glory and God's beauty is being reflected back to God by the stars and the planets, by the angels, by the plants and the animals around us. Things just being the way they are reflect God's glory, do God's will.

Matthew 6:9-13

We human beings unfortunately have a kind of tone deafness about God's will; we have to learn to sing in tune with all this. Somewhere, some other levels of reality, God's will is done. Here on earth, among us human beings, it isn't very much, and so we pray that we may be brought into tune, that we may not be the only ones singing flat in the great choir of the universe.

Rivers of ink have been spilt over the exact meaning of "give us this day our daily bread", because the word that's used in the Greek is a very, very strange one that you hardly find anywhere else. It probably means daily , it probably means the stuff we need to survive , but at least some people in the early church understood it to mean the bread we want for tomorrow or even the bread of tomorrow ; "give us today tomorrow's bread".

And they thought that might mean "give us now a taste of the bread we shall eat in the Kingdom of God": give us a foretaste of that great banquet and celebration where the universe is drawn together by Christ in the presence of God the Father.

How Should I Pray?

And so that connects for a lot of Christians with Holy Communion. Of course, because Holy Communion is, at one level, bread for today, it's very much our daily bread - the food we need to keep going - but it's also a foretaste of the bread of heaven, a foretaste of enjoying the presence of Jesus in heaven at his table at his banquet, as the gospels put it.

So lots of meanings there, lots of layers.


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But I don't think there's one meaning that we just have to settle down with. The simple meaning keep us going, give us what we need is all we really need to go on. And yet as soon as we start unpicking that, we ask: well, what do we really need? We don't live just by having our material needs fulfilled, we need something more: and one of the things more that we need is hope, hope for tomorrow.

And so perhaps that ghost of an idea, that shadow of an idea that this is also bread for tomorrow and tomorrow's bread, can come in somewhere. And it takes a lot of nerve to come before God and say forgive me because I have forgiven someone else.

And I don't always feel I'm really up to making that that kind of claim on God. But I think it's saying that it's through God's forgiveness of us that we learn how to forgive. It's in our capacity to forgive that we show we've been forgiven. It reminds us that our own ability to forgive comes from the fact that we're aware of God's forgiveness of us and that unless that really sinks in then we shan't be able to forgive.

And it's no good then turning back to God and saying forgive me, I haven't even begun to hear what forgiveness means, I don't know the meaning of the word. Jesus tells us that very powerful story about the King's servant who's let off his debt and then goes straight off and puts another servant in prison because he owes him a small amount of money. And he underlines the point there that unless you forgive you can't receive forgiveness; you've just made yourself incapable of receiving forgiveness.

So it's a bit of a vicious circle of I don't forgive I can't be forgiven.

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BBC - Religions - Christianity: The Lord's Prayer

If I can't hear the word of forgiveness and really let it change me, then I shan't be able, I shan't be free to forgive, so this is quite a sobering prayer about forgiveness. But there's a wonderful image in one of the early church fathers about this. He says that it's a bit like teaching a child to do something. The parent does it carefully a few times, then steps back and says now you show me. God forgives us and then steps back and says now you show me how to forgive.

His teaching often turns back to this idea that a great time of trial is coming. A time when we shall find out what we're really capable of, just as we often say you don't know what someone's made of until they're under pressure. We're coming towards a time when you really have to decide how much God matters to you; you really have to put your life on the line. And Jesus says to us, don't assume you know the answer to that sort of question. Don't assume you know how much you're capable of. Pray that when the time of trial comes, when things get really difficult, you will have the resource to meet it.

Now the words "lead us not into temptation" don't quite capture all of that because temptation for us tends to mean just a sort of impulse to do unworthy or sinful things. But the word means so much more in its context; it means this huge trial that's coming, this huge crisis that's coming. Lead us not into crisis, don't, please God don't push us into the time of crisis before you've made us ready for it.

Don't push us until you've given us what we need to face it. And that is a good prayer to pray, because for each one of us there are times of crisis when we discover what we're made of and sometimes it's not very pleasant and we realise we're not up to it. So it's worthwhile praying to God, give us what we need to face crisis when it comes, and please, God, don't let us be precipitated into that too soon.

So again, it's connected with "deliver us from evil", set us free. Set us free from all those things, the fears, the sins, the selfish habits that keep us prisoner and that make us unable to face crisis.

Matthew 6:9-13 NABRE

It probably originally meant save us from the Evil One. Because the time of crisis is when the Devil, the enemy of humanity, is really making hay. He's having a wonderful time, because at a time when there's lots of fear and lots of uncertainty, then the Devil can come in and manipulate us and intensify, reinforce all that's most inhuman in us. And whether or not people these days believe in a personal devil, I think the idea that the principle or the power of evil coming in to make the most of our weakness and our fear, that still makes sense.

And we can still quite rightly pray to be delivered from that. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience.

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When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven When you pray...Our Father In Heaven
When you pray...Our Father In Heaven

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