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Lord, teach us to pray

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Lord’s prayer, he was inviting them to pray a radical and dangerous prayer. For those who grew up reciting the prayer regularly in worship it is possible that we have forgotten just how dangerous this prayer is. It is possible that this prayer has been domesticated and tamed, turned into a safe series of comforting words and made familiar by repetition. But in reality, the Lord’s Prayer turns the world upside down, toppling every earthly power and announcing God’s reign over all things, in heaven and on earth.

Life changing worship: The Lord’s prayer begins with the words, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’. Jesus hallows God’s name because God is holy, sanctified, respected, honoured, set apart. God is Holy Other. ‘Hallowed be your name’ is a phrase that distinguishes us from God. God is the creator and we are God’s creation. We become what we worship; what we love most. When we worship a Holy God, we grow to be image bearers of God. When we give our heart-felt allegiance and worship to something or someone that is not God, we progressively stop reflecting the image of God.

Reimagining the future: This prayer we repeat so often without even thinking about it is a radically subversive prayer that envisions the end of life as we know it and the birth of something new, the emergence of God’s kingdom all around us. In Jesus’ day, in his part of the world, Caesar was lord of all. “Caesar is Lord” was the creed of the empire. So, when the followers of Jesus began to say that “Christ is Lord,” it was clear to people in that context that two radically different allegiances were being contrasted. And when these followers prayed for the coming of the kingdom Christ spoke of, it was just as clear that they were praying for the overthrow of Caesar’s kingdom and lordship. That was a radical and subversive prayer.

Revolutionary forgiveness: Jesus’ ministry certainly demonstrated radical forgiveness. As Jesus instructed us during his Sermon on the Mount, we are expected to make our amends and be reconciled to our neighbours before we come to God in prayer or worship. But it’s not just about forgiving sins - although that’s important. The most literal translations use the word “debts.” As in money. As in, this prayer has radical social, political, and economic implications. We often interpret Jesus’ debt-forgiveness metaphorically, forgetting how literally he speaks about money elsewhere in the gospels. And in fact, the concept of debt forgiveness, among other things, had deep roots in Levitical law. Leviticus talks about a year of Jubilee, which proclaimed economic freedom for the poor of Israel, to be celebrated every 50 years.

Rev Janet

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