This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
Jesus says, “This, then, is how you should pray.”
And with that, all of our deepest thoughts and eloquent musings on prayer come to a grinding halt. We silence our theory-crafting for a moment and lean in to listen.
The first two words of this seminal prayer set the framework for the rest of it. “Our Father.” You sense his delight in these words, and in a profound move of tender mercy, Jesus pulls us into this divine intimacy of Father and child. Not only his Father, but our Father. He invites us to delight in that caring, protective, providing, nurturing love.
Admittedly, this language immediately creates distance for many of us. Instead of fostering intimacy, it raises a wall and carves a chasm between us and God. If he is a father, then many of us don’t want anything to do with him. Will he abandon me too? Will he make promises he won’t care to keep? Will he bring more scars, pain, lingering wounds?
For this reason, some advocate for dropping the imagery of God as Father. But I believe that’s precisely why we so desperately need it. Perhaps the answer to a failed father is not the rejection of fatherhood, but the redemption of it. We carry that pain because instinctively we know what a good father should be like. And we mourn the death of that. Perhaps he is inviting us to discover the healing power of his Fatherhood in your life. A Father who never leaves, never breaks a promise, never hurts. A Father who cares and protects and cultivates. A Father who listens to our deepest hurts and dreams and shares in both. A Father who looks us in the eye and tells us that he loves us, believes in us, is proud of us.
Jesus invites us to delight in a father like that. He sees the pain that this word causes you. But instead of helping you avoid that pain, he offers to heal it.
What other prayer could we pray today except the one Jesus taught us?
Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Have you experienced this childlike delight in the Father’s love for you? If so, what fuels it? If not, what are the barriers? How does this image of God as Father land on your heart?
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