The Lord's Prayer
By Deb Dunlevy
God is nothing like me.
He is eternal, always was and always will be; I am finite, bound to this moment in time for these few years of life. He is the all-knowing God in complete control of everything and everyone; I can’t be sure I’ll finish writing this sentence and certainly can’t make anyone read it. He is powerfully able to do all things; I get tired out from climbing a few flights of stairs. He is the definition of love; I have a hard time sharing a piece of cake with a friend.
I want so much to be close to God, but what does it mean to have a relationship with a being so far beyond, so other than me? Yes, he has adopted me as his child, placed his own Holy Spirit inside of me, given me the mind of Christ. But what does it look like for someone as frail as me to relate to a God outside of time, space, and imagination?
This is the beauty of the incarnation. God the Son became a flesh-and-blood person, fixed in a time and place just as we are, and still lived in perfect unity with his eternal Father. He did exactly the thing we all long to do: he walked with God. Then he brought a few friends close. And he let them see what it looked like.
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Luke 5:16 NIV
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.””
Luke 11:1 NIV
They watched him. He often went off by himself and spent time talking to his Father. And after observing him for a while, they wanted to know more. What do you talk about? Can we do the same? Can we have what you have? Show us how.
Here’s what he told them and here’s what he showed them:
When you pray, say: Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.””
Luke 3:21-22 NIV
“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning… A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.””
Luke 9:28-29, 35 NIV
Jesus’s conversations with his father were reaffirmations of their relationship.
Jesus listened as God recognized him, called him by name, and showered him with love and approval. Jesus was transformed by his time with his father. His true self was revealed as he prayed. Their time together, apart from others or with witnesses, centered on who they were to each other. Father and Son, intentionally chosen, eternally in love.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:”
Luke 6:12-13 NIV
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!””
Mark 1:35-37 NIV
“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
John 17:1-3, 9, 20 NIV
Jesus talked to his father about his work in the world. Before deciding which of his followers to bring closest, he spent a night talking to God. While others were waiting on him to heal and teach, he was off talking with his Father again. What was he saying all that time? He was alone, so we don’t have the record of his words, but we do have the record of his prayer just before his death. Knowing he was about to leave the world, he asked his Father to carry on the work they had started together. He prayed for his people. He prayed for those who were to become his people. He prayed for you and for me. He asked God to protect them, and several times asked him to give them, to give us, the same deep relationship that he and his Father have.
Oswald Chambers described it perfectly: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Jesus’s work was the same as his father’s: to establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer was the way they did that work together.
Give us this day our daily bread
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.”
Luke 9:16 NIV
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him...”
Luke 24:30-31 NIV
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
Luke 10:21 NIV
Jesus’s life was one of joyful dependence on his Father for all things. For the bread that sustained him day by day. For the ability to see truly. He acknowledged the gifts of God. He was grateful for them. He thanked his Father often and spontaneously and lived in the full expectation of abundance and truth.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
Luke 23:33-34 NIV
The perfect Son of God had no sin to confess to his Father, but he knew the role of forgiveness in relationship. When he saw people doing evil, he called it out and asked forgiveness on their behalf. He himself forgave. He saw blindness for what it was and took the punishment for it rather than punishing the offender. He not only acted in mercy, he spoke his forgiveness out loud.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
“On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Luke 22:40-44 NIV
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ).”
Matthew 27:46 NIV
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
Luke 23:46 NIV
Jesus, the Son of God, was honest with his Father. He was real and raw and emotional. He was in a battle his whole life, and it climaxed in pain and death (though it did not end that way). He faced temptation and he faced the worst possible attacks of the evil one. How did he deal with temptation? How did he deal with pain? He poured out his experience to his Father. He put words to what he felt, and he didn’t hide what he wanted. He repeated it in his anguish, and he cried out in his loneliness. And yes, in the end he submitted to his Father’s will, but not without sweating blood in his presence.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Three in One, have lived together in perfect unity eternally. This kind of intimacy, unity beyond what we can imagine, is what God calls us into. Intimacy with him. Intimacy with each other in him. To share with God our identity, our work, our joy, our sin, and our suffering.
This is prayer. Living our life with our Father, just as our older brother Jesus modeled for us.