In case you haven’t already heard my confession, I grew up in an Anglican church. I realise now that we were so low that we were practically falling out of the bottom of the church, but we still used certain patterns and prayers in our worship. The repetition of these meant that I learnt them at a very young age, and they still come back to me very easily, even after twelve years away.
As much as I value the freedom of more informal worship, I still have a great fondness for those patterns and prayers, as they were significant in shaping and expressing my faith. They taught me that there were many ways of speaking with God, and gave me words when otherwise I would have had none.
At the heart of our worship was always the Lord’s Prayer, and so I have prayed it many times. I have also prayed it many ways, and am building quite a collection of different translations and interpretations. And yet nothing has brought home what it means to pray it so much as the meditation that Ruth offered as she led us in worship on Sunday night.
The prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples is a bold prayer that demands more than simple assent. It must move us to action and transform our attitude, or it is nothing but noise and wasted ink. It must be the spirit in which we pray all our prayers, and as we seek a life of prayer, it is the spirit in which we must live all our lives. Of course I already knew that, but it hit me with greater force than ever before on Sunday night.
I began by talking about my childhood in the church, because I have been thinking recently about what patterns and prayers I will bring my own child up with, and these threads of reflection have become tangled together. The Lord’s Prayer has to be at the top of the list, but I want him to understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, not just say the words to please his parents.
But I cannot want that for my son and not for myself. I too must understand the fullness of it and live in that understanding, and so I will be dwelling in this meditation in the coming weeks, until I have absorbed it as completely as the words it reflects on. I offer it to you now as Ruth offered it so us on Sunday, with an invitation to dwell in it with me, that we may not just pray the Lord’s Prayer but understand and live it too.
I cannot say “OUR” If my religion has no room for others and their needs.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not demonstrate this kind of loving relationship in my daily living.
I cannot say “WHO ART IN HEAVEN” if all my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot say” HALLOWED BE THY NAME” if I, who am called by His name, am not holy.
I cannot say “THY KINGDOM COME” if I am not willing to give up my own sovereignty and accept the righteous reign of God.
I cannot say “THY WILL BE DONE” if I am unwilling or resentful of having His will in my life.
I cannot say “ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN” unless I am truly willing to give my life here and now to His service.
I cannot say “GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD” without expending effort for it or by ignoring the genuine need of others.
I cannot say “FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS” if I continue to harbour a grudge against others or anyone.
I cannot say “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” if I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot say “DELIVER US FROM EVIL” if I am not prepared in the spiritual realm with the weapons of prayer.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM” if I do not give the King the disciplined obedience of a loyal subject.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE POWER” if I fear for what my friends and neighbours might say.
I cannot say “FOR THINE IS THE GLORY” if I seek my own glory first.
I cannot say “FOREVER” if I am too anxious about each day’s affairs.
I cannot say “AMEN” unless I can honestly say, cost what it may, “this is my prayer”.
(Written by Ruth Bortner and Lela Wegman)