Hello and Welcome!
Today's post is at the request of my dear friend, Coleen, who asked me to write on the Lord’s Prayer. I say this prayer each Sunday and it’s one of the special times in the service where I join my voice with others who believe that God is our Father in heaven. Though I recite it, I’m not sure I’ve ever thoughtfully contemplated this Jesus-given prayer and how it’s actively manifesting in my life. I hope to encourage you to consider the Lord’s prayer as a call to unity on earth as it is in heaven.
What is the Lord’s will?
…a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation,
tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and
in front of the Lamb… And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Unity is what the apostle John saw in his vision and recorded in Revelation--difference brought together – one voice – worshiping the Lord. Can you imagine it? It’s the very reason Christ died so we could be one with the Father. Jesus gave this powerful prayer to the apostles who took to heart the message of unity and we see it manifested in their writings.
…be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble… – 1 Peter 3:8
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of
peace. There is one body and one Spirit…
-- Ephesians 4:3 (written by Paul)
When I speak the Lord’s Prayer, either aloud or in my heart, I’m saying I want what the Father wants. I want the unity of heaven to be present on earth and I’m willing to make every effort to be in unity with God’s people. Perhaps you're wondering how I've come to see unity in the Lord's prayer. I discovered this view in the two verses following the Lord's prayer. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus is recorded as providing what seems like an explanation for one specific line of the prayer.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:14-15)
I pray this prayer every Sunday asking God to forgive me of my sins. And believe me, I’m fully aware of how I’ve put myself first, judged that person’s action, complained about this and griped about that. Oh, how I want to be given that forgiveness! But when I utter the words as we have forgiven those who sin against us I sense the enthusiasm and emotion diminishing in my heart. I’m so intensely eager to get what I need, but am I willing to give away what I’ve been given?
Forgiveness is one of the stepping stones leading to unity. Jesus deliberately and intentionally focused the apostles’ attention to this element of the prayer. How could the apostles effectively share the hope of Christ if they could not birth a desire for unity in their heart especially toward those who would reject them, despise them, and slander them.
Unity is hard. I don’t get to control someone else’s heart and mind. I can’t make that other person want unity. But I get to work the soil of my heart so that it's rich with forgiveness so to grow a desire to be in unity with those around me. As we cannot be united with God without his forgiveness, in the same way we cannot truly live in unity without forgiveness toward each other.
In Donald S. Whitney’s book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, he believes the Lord’s prayer is followed by the verses on forgiveness because “…a forgiving spirit characterizes those who have been forgiven.” What if my heart and mind dwelt on this image: I, Terri, in the presence of the Father with the full realization of what Christ has done for me and given to me. Hope, love, peace, mercy, grace, eternity with Him. None of it possible without Christ’s sacrifice. Shouldn’t this realization provoke a profound desire within me to forgive anyone of their hurtful acts toward me? It should. The Lord’s prayer brings me back to an awareness that I must make forgiveness the priority over my pride and my hurt. Jesus places such a strong emphasis on forgiveness because of this fact: my lack of forgiveness tremendously affects my relationship with Him. If my relationship with Him is my focus, then I can choose forgiveness knowing my Lord will heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon my heart.
When I let the Lord’s Prayer dwell and root in my heart, I can generously offer forgiveness as is required of me. As I forgive others, the prayer becomes an action and I have fulfilled my promise to the Lord.
I'll close with this verse in Romans because I believe it echoes the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live
in harmony with each other, according to the command of Christ Jesus,
so you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
with a united mind and voice. –Romans 15:5 (HCSB)
As always, I welcome your comments or emails on how the Lord's prayer is manifested in your life.
Blessings to you,
References: Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, Donald S. Whitney, NavPress 2001.