For reasons that are by now probably very evident, the Lord’s Prayer has sometimes been called “The Disciples’ Prayer”… the prayer leads us into the depths of God’s longing for us to become fully alive to Him. A person who prayer this prayer:
- Comes to see themselves as belonging to a people (“OUR Father”), which is to say this prayer arises out of and leads us into community
- Comes to know God not as an all-powerful czar but as a capable and near-to-us Father
- Begins to have the whole of their lives directed towards the holiness of God’s name, stepping out of the self-ward momentum of fallen man
- Starts to see the joy and possibility of living in and under the reign of the One who always wills what is good
- Begins to unlearn the habits of greed and scarcity that characterize fallen man, learning to know God as the one who provides daily bread, even – and perhaps especially – in places of great deprivation and lack… manna on the floor of the desert. EVERY. DAY.
- Steps into a kingdom that is all grace, mercy, and forgiveness… freely received and freely given
Imagine this person for a moment. What are they like?
I imagine that this person is very happy. They have a rock-solid trust in the goodness of God. Their lives are anchored in rich, authentic community. God – his holy beauty – is their all-consuming joy as they live in and under his benevolent reign. They never – NEVER – fret or worry about provision, for they know that everything’s already taken care of. And unforgiveness, bitterness, and hostility have no place in their lives. They are quite simply full of light.
Imagine being this person. The door is open for us… no one is barred entry from the Good Life as Jesus describes it.
And so the Prayer concludes with one final request:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Four words that frame a request that simply drips with humility and honesty:
- eisenengkes (lead us…)
- peirasmon (temptation, testing, trial)
- rhusai (deliver us, rescue us from danger)
- ponerou (evil or “the Evil One”)
This is one of those places where our familiarity with Scripture bedevils us. We are so used to the pious sounding request, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil/The Evil One” that we fail to feel the impact.
C. S. Lewis once said that no emotion is clearer in a child than the pure, undisguised pleasure at being praised for doing right. We are called to enter the Kingdom as children, and to seek to hear at the end of our lies, “Well done thou good and faithful servant“, what Lewis called “the Divine Accolade.”
At the core of the redeemed being, then, there is is a pure and undisguised pleasure in and longing to be pleasing to God. We want to make him proud. We want to live up to his best for us. We crave His affirmation. None of us wants to be a screwup. None of us. No one. None of us wants to fail him.
And so the final request that falls from the disciples’ lips is: “We’re trusting in you for guidance God… for goodness sakes, keep us out of places where we’re bound to fail you… places where the pressure is so great that our confidence in you would be shaken to the core… where the raging waters would sweep us away… deliver us from evil, and from the power of the Evil One over our lives.”
It is true that God sometimes does take his people into times of testing and trial. No honest reading of the Scriptures (Old or New Testament) can deny this. And when those times come, we’re called to embrace them as a means of having our faith purified and crystallized. “Endure hardship like discipline,” says the writer of Hebrews, “God is treating you like sons” (Heb 12). The fire refines us.
But Jesus doesn’t tell us to SEEK THOSE TIMES OUT. “Bring it on God! If testing is such a good thing… throw your worst at me!”
There’s a humility to the final request. The innocence of a child. “Don’t take me through hard things God… I’m not sure if I could handle it…” With the Psalmist we cry, “Keep me safe O God, for in you I find refuge.” When we go through hard things, we trust that God is with us, and submit to what he’s doing in us to bring us into deeper conformity with his Son. But our ache is for quiet serenity at the altar of God. Faithful love and delight.
And with that request, the picture is complete. We begin with a vision of God… we end with a plea to be faithful to him to the end. To never leave his side.
This is a place that I want to live. This is the Good Life. This is flourishing. This is the best vision of “being human” that I can think of. And Jesus invites me into it.
He invites US into it…
As an individual, I have learned to embrace this prayer as a template for what it means for me to live in God’s kingdom. So I pray it over myself. I want this for me.
As a father and husband, I can think of no better vision for my family than this one. That together we would live in an aura of God’s fathering presence, his holy love, his present and coming kingdom, his good designs for us, his unending provision through which we are made generous, his graciousness through which we are made gracious, and his protection from all schemes and designs of the evil one. Can you imagine what a family that lived under this reality would be like? It would be heaven on earth…
As a member of the church who gets the privilege of also pastoring in the church, I can think of no better vision of congregational life than this one. A people who together call on a God we know as “Father”, pleading that his sacred beauty, his holiness, his kingdom, his will, would be made manifest in and through us to the world around us. A people who know that whenever they need anything, in the very moment of their needing it, it will be provided for them… miracle bread on the floor of the desert… which breaks the back of fear-mongering and scarcity among them, making them unhesitatingly generous. A people who drink deeply from the well of God’s mercy and in so doing become a merciful people. A community that longs to make the Father proud through their lives lived together.
Can you imagine such a congregation? It would be heaven on earth…
Which is precisely what Jesus wants for us. “Repent”, he says. “For the kingdom of God is at hand…”
May you, your family, and your community learn to live in the kingdom. The gates are wide open. You can come on in. No one bars your way.
Grace and peace.