For those who missed last week, I am in the midst of a series of five devotionals I wrote for YouVersion (based on my new book). All comments welcome to help me decide if they are worthwhile entries. Here is Devotional #2:
A prayer for the big view
Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13
When I was a child, the church I grew up in had stained glass windows, clouds of incense, and an open bar in the reception hall.
I occasionally observed that a few of the adults left church early, and only later understood why. However in the midst of this semi- religious yet meaningful upbringing, a prayer was spoken at every event and church service which stayed with me the rest of my life. When I first memorized the prayer, coming out of my mouth it sounded a little like this:
I knew the prayer by heart; I just did not have a clue what the prayer actually meant. But if we look closer at each phrase, this prayer urges us to see our lives through the big view lens. And reciting it helps us remember that our lives are part of a bigger story:
Our Father makes us aware that I am not praying to my God but ours. He’s the God of the people in my home as well as the God of the person with no home, who sleeps on the streets. “Our Father” is more than an address, it’s a jolt to our perspective. The world shares the same God, and his eyes are on us all.
Hallowed be your name acknowledges there is a power in the universe greater than ourselves. A paraphrase might be, “You are God, and I am not,” which is a good reminder when we perceive ourselves as the center of the universe. When we acknowledge God as the center, it helps us see our lives as part of a story that will continue after we are gone.
Your kingdom come, your will be done. If we recited this line the way most of us live, we’d say “Your kingdom come, my will be done,” but the line as it is written invites God to adjust our will toward a greater good. “Your will be done” means I not only acknowledge there is a bigger story, I submit myself to be part of it.
Finishing “Your will be done” with “on earth as it is in heaven” leaves room for God to work in ways we cannot see. It’s acknowledging our awareness that we don’t always see all that’s going on. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is saying yes to a life that is bigger than you can see right now.
Give us this day our daily bread isn’t a prayer for tomorrow’s bread, or for more bread than we need. It is a prayer for God’s provision in the here and now. Furthermore, saying “give us” rather than “give me” nudges me to view my extra bread for tomorrow as bread someone else might need today. What I do with that perspective is directly related to whether or not I believe that tomorrow’s bread for me will be resupplied.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors might be translated, “As we experience your forgiveness, help it to spill over in the way we treat others.” Saying—and living—this line of the prayer could affect more people than we can imagine.
Lead us not into temptation means asking God to help us make good choices with the freedom we have. Good gifts can become temptations when we give them too much focus in our lives. We move from enjoying them to becoming enslaved by them, and our addictions and behaviors spill onto others who might be affected by our choices.
Deliver us from evil is the prayer for the courage to see- and give to God- the evil our temptations have brought us. Temptation is the internet site you stumble upon. Evil is the sex addiction that causes you to visit that site again and again. There is a line between temptation and evil, and here’s how you find it: temptation includes your freedom; evil takes it away. Evil needs to be battled by Someone greater than us.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory is a benediction (only present in some translations) that reaffirms we are here for a greater purpose than just ourselves. Reciting this prayer gives us the perspective we need each day to see our lives the way they actually are–part of a bigger story. And the big view lens this prayer presents can help us daily submit to how that reality shapes our life.
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