Sunday, July 10, 2011

“Thy Will Be Done” - Matthew 6:9-10 - July 10, 2011

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep.”
“Bless, O Lord, both the gift and the giver.”
“God is great; God is good, Let us thank Him for our food.”
“Now, before I run to play, Let me not forget to pray. To God who kept me through the night, And waked me with the morning light….”
“May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face…..”
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith….”

Deep within us is the yearning to talk to God. We want to tell God our needs and want to know that God hears and will respond to us. We teach our children simple prayers that rhyme with sing song verse. As we grow we find others that help us voice our cry. Sometimes they are the ones we heard our fathers or our mothers offer over the dinner table. Sometimes we claim the words we have heard offered in rooms like this one. Still others are prayers that have emerged across time and place to voice something meaningful, something we hear as more profound than the simple words we hear ourselves pray when no one else is listening. Somehow we have come to believe that those prayers are better than the ones in our heart.

In our focal passage for the morning we come to a prayer not written on parchment or punched up on a computer. It is the model prayer that Jesus taught as a part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had just talked about the big and dramatic prayer that was more focused on impressing the crowd than talking with God. Jesus had just talked about those muddled and meandering prayers that go on and on hoping that something will land with God. Jesus stopped – and mid sermon began to teach them a short but incredibly powerful model of prayer that would draw them – and us- to the feet of God. We have come to call it the Lord’s Prayer. We voiced it together at the close of the congregational prayer.

There is a little book on my bookshelves that was put together by three friends. It is entitled, Becoming the Jesus Prayer: Transforming Your Life Through the Lord’s Prayer. It is a short but meaningful little text. Early in the book the authors contend; “In our well-meaning and sincere efforts to memorize the prayer, we have lost its wild power. Intended by Jesus to be a prayer that helps us to soar, the prayer has become so familiar and so domesticated that we barely pay attention. Jesus’ Prayer has had its wings clipped.” (1) I think they are on to something. Jesus taught this prayer to help us to claim an authentic voice of prayer and to be shaped by its wild power. So over these next three weeks we are going to take a closer look at this model prayer and see what it has to say to us and how it can help shape how we talk to – and depend on – God.

This morning we look at the first few lines. We begin, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. The words roll off our tongue with a beauty and poetry. But whether we realize or not, these words invite us into an incredible divine tension. It speaks of God who is at one moment as close as our touch and beyond the bounds of place and time.

Renown Biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias began a conversation in 1978 that still dominates recent articles and books about the Lord’s Prayer. He argued that Jesus’ use of the word of the Aramaic “abba” means that Father should be translated like “daddy.” I sure many of you have heard that the term translated that way. But what you might not realize that that it has led to a firestorm of responses both from those who embraced the intimate and personal feel of the daddy imagery to others who feel that this image/term limits God and undermines the wider scriptural understanding of the term Father in reference to God. (2)

I think the best way to hear this is as a both profoundly personal and transcendent. While “Our Father” invites us into an intimate conversation, “Hallowed be your name” reminds us of the holiness of God. The hallowed verbiage is born of the Old English – a better contemporary translation might sound something like….respected and honored is your name… The Living Bible translates it “we honor your name”, Today’s English Version reads;”May your holy name be honored.” Jesus teaches us that as we pray we find ourselves living in the divine tension with a God who is both holy and otherworldly – and at the same time personal and close. Our prayer is that the God who calls us by name, who knows the needs of our lives, and who has made the way for us to become the children of God – will be made holy. The prayer is not that God is made holy in some distant generic or abstract sense. It is about the God who is both intimate and eternal being made holy – revered, respected, honored, cherished, and valued -in our lives.

The Jesus prayer continues; Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven. A more modern translation would sing out, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth just like it is in heaven. If we believe what we are praying we are asking God to do something that could profoundly reshape our lives and our way of life. Many of those gathered in the crowd that day would have come to hear Jesus with the expectation that if he was the Messiah he would fulfil their hopes and expectation for a military leader that could change their political rule of Israel. As I listen to many Christians today they come to God in prayer with the great expectation that God is a divine gift giver that will help address their wants and their agendas. I believe one of the reasons we watched the book on the Prayer of Jabez sweep across the evangelical Church was that it seemed that underlying premise was that if you prayed the right prayer in the right way God would expand your scope of influence – and the bounty of your wealth. It was the perfect message for an American audience driven by place, power, and possessions. All too often our Kingdom prayers have become earthbound to our own wants and wishes. Jesus reminds us to raise the focus of our eyes. In John 18:36 Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world." In fact, we have to hear this prayer for the Kingdom to come and the will of God to be done as it is lived out by Jesus in his personal prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Luke 22:41-42 41 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will , but yours be done." (NIV)

Our prayer that God’s Kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth – in our lives – as it is in heaven is a prayer to subjugate our will to God’s will. It means that we will trust God’s will for our lives. Praying your will be done does not imply resignation to fate; rather, it is a prayer that God's perfect purpose will be accomplished in this world (on earth) as it already is in heaven's throne room.(3) [This] “Prayer is opening one’s life to God. It is inviting Him to act in our lives. [This] Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is being willing to accept His will in our lives.” (4)

Jesus wanted those gathered on the hillside that day – and those gathered in this room today – to claim the kind of prayer life that would let us draw close to God and worship him with awe and wonder. It is the kind of prayer life that invites us to claim God’s will and God’s way for our lives and choosing to settle for nothing less. We were intended for relationship with God that has real power, but we just keep box ourselves in. Jesus invited us to pray in a way where we leave everything else behind and run to the feet of God who calls us his own – and to claim God’s will and God’s way as our only way. It is time for our prayers to quit being a religious exercise and let them become a real and meaningful conversation with a God who longs to hear our voice and is ready to show us the way.

Our Father, who is in heaven, Holy be your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done – in my life as it is in heaven. Amen!

(1)Gregory Palmer, Cindy McCalmont, and Brian Milford, Becoming the Jesus Prayer: Transforming Your Life Through the Lord’s Prayer, (The Pilgrims Press: Cleveland, 2005), p.20.

(2)Robert J. Karris, Prayer and the New Testament: Jesus and His Communities in Worship, (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000), pp. 7-13.
(3)The Life Application Commentary Series Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 by the Livingstone Corporation. Produced with permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved
(4)Augsburger, M. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. 1982. Vol. 24: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 24 : Matthew. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series . Thomas Nelson Inc: Nashville, Tennessee

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