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Our Father

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Without a doubt, the “Our Father” is the most universally recognized Christian prayer, uniting believers throughout the world.  It’s a prayer that many of us learned as children and has become so routine, that we might rattle off the words without giving a second thought to their meaning or what we are asking of God.

As I reflect on the words of the Lord’s Prayer, I was struck by three distinct phrases that inspire and challenge me.

First, “Our Father…” We address God in a most personal way. God is our father and we are his children, no different than the loving, caring, relationships we hold dear with our children and families.

“Thy will be done…” In a world that promotes self-centeredness and that it’s all about me…we state in the Lord’s Prayer that it’s not about my wants, but God’s will which is to be done.

The third phrase, and most significant: “Forgive us, as we forgive…” How do we want God to treat us?  By forgiving us in the manner that we forgive others.  How we act towards others, is how we are asking God to treat us!

C. S. Lewis wrote: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.

The next time you pray the most common of Christian prayers, “The Lord’s Prayer,” reflect on what the words truly mean and what you are asking of God, “Our Father.” I guarantee your prayer will take on a whole new meaning and become anything but common.

The Shoes of Others

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I was walking to church. It was a Saturday morning. I was to be an altar server at a wedding. I was in fifth grade. I came past our school and turned toward the church. Seeing me, one of my school mates came racing down the grassy hill in front of school where he had been playing. He came right up to me and punched me in the mouth. He said he hated me because I was a “goody two shoes”. I had no idea what he meant.

I went home after the wedding and told my mother. She said I should pray for him. I did not find that easy, but decided on praying that he would die peacefully of some fatal illness…and do it before Monday.

What does Jesus want from us when he tells us to pray for those who mistreat us? As I grew up, I knew my prayer for my enemy from fifth grade was not right, but often I traded this prayer for wishes that my offenders would change. I prayed that those who mistreated me would think more like I did. In reality, this “mature” prayer for my enemies was no improvement from fifth grade. So what are we to do?

 Jesus tells us: stop judging, stop condemning, stop closing the door to those who hurt you. Jesus calls us to radical empathy, putting ourselves in the shoes of others in every encounter we have, joyful or painful.

This is the formula for holiness and believe it or not, peace. Instead of wishing evil upon that boy who punched me in fifth grade, if I had just understood that he was having a real bad day, the incident would not have bothered me so much that I still remember it decades later.

Stop your unwillingness to love, and be healed.