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Experiencing the Lord’s Prayer
Prayer is a rich and multifaceted spiritual discipline essential for a maturing life with God. Learning to pray occurs over time, through various practices and with the guidance of the Spirit of God. We find scripture and historical teachings to be necessary and helpful resources as we explore our relationship with God.

As followers of Jesus, we turn to him for instruction and understanding.

Once when Jesus had been out praying, one of his disciples came to him as he finished and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said, “This is how you should pray: ‘Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. And forgive us our sins – just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation.’”
- Luke 11:1-4

Consider a few thoughts regarding the above Bible passage before proceeding to the suggested prayer practices.

First, Jesus was “out praying.” We read of Jesus regularly taking time to pray. It is vital we are in constant awareness of God presence with us and equally important that we are disciplined enough to set aside time to open our souls to him through prayer—to be “out praying.”

Second, it is okay to want to learn and ask to be taught; this is what it means to be a disciple. Those who constantly traveled with Jesus recognized the value of prayer in his life and wanted to learn from him how to do what he did. A big part of following Jesus is the willingness to be consistently learning.

Third, this prayer is instructive and not a formula. The tensions we experience are between narrowly confining scripture to principles and formulas, and not allowing it the freedom to inform, instruct and correct with the guidance of the Spirit and the community within our milieu.

Finally, we tend to take what is read in the Bible and confine it to a very individualized application. The Bible is for the people gathered by God who are following Jesus Christ. Yes, there is individual responsibility but this prayer, as much of scripture, is for us to pray together and act on together.

From small seeds grow large trees; from Jesus brief public ministry and teaching grows life-long practices for his followers to develop. From Jesus’ teaching on prayer grows a discipline that touches our families, our neighbors, ourselves.

With these things in mind, proceed to a specific personal, Community and Social prayer practice for the week. The following are not formula prayers but our attempt to prompt one another to be thoughtfully praying every moment. Our hope is to assist each other in moment-to-moment, daily and weekly practices of personal, Community and Social prayer. Be refreshed in prayer.

Let’s focus on the initial part of Jesus’ prayer in Luke 11.

“Father, may your name be honored.”

Jesus presented us with a new perspective of our formal and informal relationship to God as Father. He introduced us to God as our ultimate and ideal father, the strong, ever-watchful protector and caregiver. Even more revolutionary is Jesus leading us to an intimate relationship with God as our “daddy,” a warm, loving and deeply personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. No matter the positive or negative images or memories you may have of a father, God isn’t that for he is unlike any human father. Our approaching and enjoying our relationship with God as a loving Father is a life-long learning process. Living this relationship is saying and meaning what Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, may your name be honored.”

Father, may your name be honored.

Personal Aspect
Throughout this week, meditate on these words. Let them be the first words that pass your lips in the morning; speak them as you pray throughout your day; explore in prayer how you relate to God as Father; consider how your actions are living this prayer; Give the radio or TV a rest and simply repeat these words as you go about everyday task; let them be the last words that pass your lips at night.

Community Expression
Let us pray these words for our community so our thoughts, words and actions reflect our relationship to the Father. “Father, may your name be honored in our gathering, our church, our small group, our witness, etc.”

Social Application
Praying has an impact on each of us as individuals, on our faith community and in our society. We are to be praying for our larger community. A simple way to do this is, “Father, may your name be honored…

On our street
In our neighborhood
Within our schools
By our churches
In the car that just passed…

Let’s look at the next part of Jesus prayer in Luke 11.

“May your kingdom come soon.”

Our concept of kings and kingdoms is largely based on how they are depicted in the movies. Our 21st century picture of a king is often unlike the reality of ancient cultures. An ancient king was the richest person in the region. The area’s resources were under his control but his power came through relational generosity. The king gave to others expecting allegiance, personal and financial, in return; the system was typically tiered, kings were generous to nobles who made land available to the peasants of the region who pledged allegiance, personal and financial, to the nobles. “This reciprocity of generosity and allegiance represents the fundamental “contract” that defines social life in the ancient world.” (Stormfront p. 38)

God’s kingdom is not and cannot be established by you or me; it is not ours to build or to be prayed into existence. We can “receive” the kingdom by accepting the generosity of the God whose initiatives established the social order. We can “inherit” the kingdom, becoming an heir to the new social life established by the God. Finally, we can “enter” into the communally shaped life by the actions of God. “In the kingdom of God , the initiative always belongs to God.” (Stormfront p. 41)

Go d has established an entirely new social, political and behavioral order that we can be a part of. Our praying for God’s kingdom to come is our seeking the generosity of God—a generosity (grace) that Go d is continually making known to us. When we pray this we are demonstrating our allegiance to Go d and for the reality of God’s Kingdom to be evident in our lives. We are also expressing our generosity and grace toward others as a continuation of the “fundamental contract that defines the social life” of the Kingdom of God .

Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon.

Personal Aspect
As you pray this week, thank God for his generosity and grace and renew your allegiance to God, putting no others before him. Recall and recite this prayer as you engage family, peers and co-workers, and your community neighbors throughout your day. Remain loyal to the King and generous to all.

Community Expression
As a community of people gathered through the generosity of God, pray that your thoughts, words and actions will reflect the new social dynamics of the Kingdom of Go d . Seek the generosity of Go d as you specifically pray, “May your Kingdom come soon in…

The life of our community
Our serving one another
Our speech
Being a living expression of Jesus Christ
Living as “peasants,” aliens and strangers…

Social Application
Our households, neighborhoods and community will be better places as we pray for God’s kingdom to come soon. As you go through your day pray, “May your Kingdom come soon…

In my neighbors home
In our neighborhood
Within our schools
Within our churches
In the life of that person on the street corner…

Next, the third part of Jesus’ prayer from in Luke 11.

“Give us our food day by day.”

Historically speaking, this part of Jesus prayer may not seem so revolutionary because humankind has always placed demands on those we worship. Consider our spiritual forefathers as they labored away under Pharaoh, calling out to Go d in hope of freedom only to achieve it and begin immediately complaining about their circumstances. Even the daily supply of manna—daily bread, the gift of a generous God, was not enough as they attempted to gather and store more than their necessary portion of sustenance. Theirs was a question of trust.

Jesus provided another perspective on daily necessities when he faced temptation in the wilderness. Jesus goes into the desert and after 40 days without food is confronted by Satan and tempted to turn stones into bread. Jesus replies, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.’” It is not a matter of God not meeting our daily needs, there’s something more. Though facing great physical need, Jesus shows us the spiritual nourishment provided by our generous God is necessary for life and its needs. His trust was unquestionable.

When we pray, “Give us our food day by day,” we are doing more in than showing god our allegiance, we are placing our trust for physical needs and spiritual nourishment into the hands of our generous God. There isn’t a real need that any of us have that God is incapable of meeting. Beyond physical needs is our need for a trusting relationship with God. Fortunately, we have the Bible as the Word of God, we are entrusted with the Spirit of God, and we live in community with the people of God; we have the resources for our daily provision of spiritual nourishment. We may not receive what we expect the way we want but we can trust God to be generous.

Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day.

Personal Aspect
Pray daily and trust the Father and generous King to meet your every need. Express your trust in him for the air you breathe, water you drink, proper diet, safety while traveling, necessary income, appropriate understanding of daily scripture readings, relational needs, etc.

Community Expression
The faith community trusts Go d for its very existence. Through prayer, trust God for:

The life of our community
Being a living expression of Jesus Christ
Vision and direction of the community
Spiritually gifting the community...

Social Application
Within our society there are many needs. God desires the best for our communities beginning with the basic needs. Pray, trusting God for:

Safety of children
Healthy homes and nutrition for everyone
Quality education
Moral and ethical community leaders...

Let’s turn our attention to the fourth part of Jesus’ prayer.

“And forgive us our sins – just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful and powerful practices of the Kingdom of Go d ; it is the ultimate expression of generosity. We can search everywhere in the natural order and not find what we find in the economy of Go d’s Kingdom; there is nothing natural about forgiveness, it is supernatural in origin and application.

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings related to forgiveness and to try and clear them up in a discussion on prayer will not suffice. Some brief thoughts may help as we work through this aspect of prayer. First, we cannot truly forgive until we have received the forgiveness generously offered to us by God through Jesus Christ; we learn forgiveness through experiencing it. Our experience of God’s generosity—grace—and forgiveness prepares and enables us to be generous and forgive others.

Second, forgiveness is relational realignment. God generously invites us to enter his kingdom and live life as he intends it to be, relationally connected and aligned with Go d and to people. We often put personal agendas and ourselves ahead of Go d and others (we can be selfish creatures); so do people we know and those we don’t. Our relationships become misaligned if not completely disconnected. Reconciliation of the relationship will require forgiveness.

Next, we must think and pray through what forgiveness is and isn’t. Volumes have been produced trying to define what it means to forgive or be forgiven and we can add little, if anything, to them. Keep in mind that forgiveness is: out of character—unnatural; an act of extreme generosity reflecting life in the Kingdom of God ; for the purpose of reconciling relationships. Forgiveness is not: forgetting or dismissing what has happened but honest recognition of the offense and pain involved; necessarily picking up the relationship where it was; waiting for when you feel like it but taking time to work through the layers of more serious offenses forgiving specifics as you go.

Finally, we have a responsibility to forgive. As we scan the pages of the New Testament we find it necessary to forgive others so we all may be forgiven in heaven. As followers of Jesus in Christian communities we have the great responsibility of following our generous God’s practice of forgiving to reconcile relationships.

As we practice forgiveness in and through prayer, we participate in the generous act of reconciling and realigning relationships with God and the people in our lives.

Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. And forgive us our sins – just as we forgive those who have sinned against us.

Personal Aspect
Pray through your relationships. Consider anything that may be causing you to be relationally disconnected and confess it to God. Seek God’s forgiveness being specific.

Community Expressions
Pray for one another and your relationships. Seek God’s forgiveness for where you have been less than generous, failing to consider one another more than yourselves and falling short of being the expression of Christ in thought, words and actions.

Social Application
Pray to live generous lives in your community, extending forgiveness to those who do not know what they are doing and showing them a new way of living.

And now we look to the final part of Jesus’ prayer.

“Don't let us yield to temptation.”

At one extreme we have “The devil made me do it” as a humorous expression of innocence immortalized by a 1970’s comedian. We were able to make light of our choices and offer up the laughable excuse without taking responsibility. At the other extreme we have the insightful statement from an unusual movie The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

In a world where extremes have the loudest voices we must remember the quiet reality: We are humans and susceptible to our own selfish desires and to the evil one that will temp us. Temptation’s fruit is birthed in our desires, we want to confirm or deny what we think of and feel about ourselves; motives are the fuel of temptation’s victory. From small seeds grow large trees; it doesn’t take much for our thoughts to move into action, especially with the coaxing of the Tempter.

Remember, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

Father, may your name be honored. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us our food day by day. And forgive us our sins – just as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And don't let us yield to temptation.

Personal Aspect
From the days beginning to its end, check your motives with God.

Community Expressions
Seek God’s faithfulness in insulating your faith community from complacency.

Social Application
Prayerfully and compassionately go into your community to serve the needs of the community denying temptations grip on the people.

May you experience a fulfilling life with God as you spend time with Him in prayer.

(Written by Brad Berry, pastor of The Riverwind Community, Vancouver, WA)

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