Last night I reread The Jewish Background to the Lord’s Prayer by Brad H. Young. Although I have read this book before, this time I was particularly struck by the implications of the Lord’s Prayer when approached from a Hebraic perspective (since Jesus would have been praying in Hebrew) because it completely alters the traditional Christian view of how we should pray! I think I was particularly struck reading it this time because I read it through the lenses of my life experiences of the past 7 years because through it all I have come to recognize that these are the kinds of prayers God is ALWAYS willing to answer in the affirmative. I prayed one of these prayers 7 years ago, and though the answer has brought all kinds of earthly challenges, I would not go back and loose everything I have learned in a Kingdom sense.
Most of the time when I hear people speaking about the Lord’s Prayer and consequently how we should pray, I hear them talking about formulas and what to include, but when you view the Lord’s Prayer from a Hebraic perspective, there is no formula or list of things to include because it boils down to ONE thing! The entirety of the Lord’s Prayer is to align our will with God’s will.
Our Father who is in Heaven – defines who God is and our relationship to him…that he is a loving and caring Father who provides, protects, and disciplines his children….and that we as his children have a responsibility to Him. It also points out that God is not solely MY Father but OUR Father. That we are all in community with each other where God’s Kingdom plan is concerned and that we must act in community with each other. (even though throughout I mention the individual or petitioner, the strength of this prayer is in the way it has been written to be prayed as a community)
May all the world recognize and sanctify your name – the primary concern of my heart is that all the world will recognize and sanctify your name and that I will that my entire purpose would be to reflect your glory so that all will give glory to God.
May your will, or Kingdom plan, be done in heaven and in earth – this does not deal with discerning God’s will because God’s will is already known through Scripture (Psalm 40:8) but with further emphasizing the intent of the previous line….the kingdom plan is a longterm plan that is partially established along the way all the way back to Genesis and Exodus.
Give us the portion assigned to use – or “the food that is needful to me” as in Proverbs 30:8 which is not a request for necessary food, shelter, etc. According to Brad H Young, “When a person petitions God, he does not ask for wealth, but rather for his assigned or determined portion. This portion is what would be needed for sustenance–neither wealth nor poverty, but what is needed according to God’s plan.” In other words, the petitioner goes from declaring his desire for God’s will and Kingdom plan to be accomplished in heaven and earth, to requesting that God give him/her the portion necessary to do whatever it is that God has assigned to him/her.
Forgive us our debts (failings, sings, personal debts, moral obligations, etc), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have done us wrong) – the petitioner goes from requesting what is necessary to do whatever God has asked of him/her to asking that God be forgiving when the petitioner falls short of his/her task, but the petitioner also makes a point of saying that he/she has already forgiven his/her own debtors. This is necessary because before we can approach God, we must learn to forgive others because only then can we see them as God sees them and only then can we align our will with His will.
Do not bring us into the grasp of temptation but deliver us from the evil one – This is a plea that God will lead the petitioner away from 1) the internal temptation which results from our evil impulses/sinful nature and 2) the external evil force/satan that seeks to master or influence mans’ will. This is important because it shows that the petitioner recognizes that he/she will fail God in the future in the tasks that God has set before him/her and that he/she desires more than anything to be able to withstand these in order to fulfill God’s purposes with his/her life.
Basically, when Jesus says, “This, then, is how you should pray,” (Matthew 6:9), His point is NOT a step-by-step how-to on prayer. His point is WHAT you should pray for, WHERE your heart and will should be, and WHO you should be striving to be!!! “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they make up the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3 The “poor in spirit” are Jesus’ disciples, who have accepted God’s authority in their lives (aka not a strong will of their own) and have become active in Jesus’ Kingdom movement. If we want to be apart of God’s Kingdom, then we must be “poor in spirit,” and the only way we can do that is by aligning ourselves with God’s will through prayer, specifically the Lord’s Prayer.