Friday, 24 May 2013

2: The Lord's Prayer

When people asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them the short form of prayer that we now call 'The Lord's Prayer'.

There are slightly different versions of it in different accounts, but all are similar.

Our Father in heaven (It was very new for people to call God 'Father'. And although it sounds very formal to us, it was more like saying 'Daddy'. People were not used to talking to God as a person that they could have a close relationship with).

Hallowed be your name (May everyone call you holy)

Your kingdom come (Jesus's main message when he was talking to people was about God's kingdom coming. He used lots of stories to describe what the kingdom might be like. But he didn't seem to mean a normal kind of kingdom. When he was killed, the sign on his cross said 'The King of the Jews', but Jesus had said to Pilate 'my kingdom is not of this world'. What do you hope would be different about life in God's kingdom?)

Your will be done (This part of the prayer says 'I want all the things I am asking for, but I accept it is up to you whether I get them. I believe you know what is best for me and everyone and I trust you')

On earth as in heaven. (This was another quite radical thing to say. It means that we think and believe that this world could be like heaven. We don't just get through life and look forward to a better life afterwards: we want to work with God to make this world a better place.)

Give us today our daily bread (Asking for what we need, but not for everything we would like. It is OK to ask God for things, but the thing to notice here is that we are only asking for enough for today. So we are trusting God one day at a time, and trying not to worry too much about the future. This can be really difficult, and that's OK. But saying these words reminds us gently to try to worry about just one day at a time.)

And forgive us our sins (We might not feel we have 'sins', as it sounds quite heavy and serious. But Jesus included these words for everyone. Saying them, we are admitting that we are not perfect, and trusting that won't stop God loving us and hearing our prayers.)

As we forgive those who sin against us (This can be the most difficult bit! If we can trust God to love us whatever we do, can we bring ourselves to forgive people who have been horrible to us? And what does 'forgive' mean, anyway? Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting. For example, you can forgive your brother for breaking your Stuffwithout having to let him carry on playing with it. I think 'forgiving' means something like 'letting go'. If you are angry with someone, it can feel like letting them off if you choose to stop being angry. But Christians believe - and scientists agree - that choosing not to hold on to anger makes you a happier and healthier person.)

And lead us not into temptation (These last two lines are both asking for bad things not to happen. 'Temptation' is when we feel we want to do something that we know is wrong. This line asks that we won't be in situations where we will have to decide. When are you tempted to do wrong things?)

But deliver us from evil. (This line is a catch-all prayer asking for protection from bad or scary things. From illness, people dying, people wanting to hurt us. And maybe also, asking for help for us not to be evil to other people?)

What is not known is how Jesus meant these words to be used. Did he mean 'say exactly these words'? Or did he mean 'include these areas when you pray'. We don't know, but many Christians do both. Saying the Lord's prayer is a good way to start or end prayers, and if you go to church it will usually be said in every service.

It is a good prayer to use if you can't think of anything to say, or don't know what to pray for. If you use these words, you know you are doing what Jesus taught his first followers to do.

So this week, I'd like to suggest you try using this prayer.

Either just say it, thinking about each line and what it means for you ( don't worry if some lines mean more than others). If you can, try doing this morning and evening for a day or two.

Alternatively, write it out and try to write each line in your own words. Look at the breakdown of it above, and try to say something about what each section means for you today.

And let me know how you get on!

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