Volumes more insightful than my own have been written on the Lord’s Prayer, by vaunted academics to ancient saints. In this series, “On The Lord’s Prayer”, I do not claim to greatly advance the discussion, merely to share thoughts. Dive into the discussion — what does the Lord’s Prayer say to you?
Meditation on the Our in the Lord’s Prayer establishes that we are a community of believers. The simplicity of that fact can obscure its intentional, beautiful power.
“Our” is a Kingdom concept, a power countervailing the persistent drive toward atomization and individualism in our world, even if this increasingly interconnected age. It testifies, loudly, that experience of and with God is both deeply personal and intensely collective. God is not “My Father,” rather, he is “Our Father.”
Our aggregated, individual experiences validate our collective faith, even as our faith validates our individual experience. I know what I believe is true because of the Church’s testimony, and I believe the Church’s testimony because of what I have experienced. Put another way, I need you, and you need me. We exist together, yet distinct from each other. It’s a beautiful mystery, in that we are Christ’s body, and yet when I look at myself, I don’t see a body part, but a whole person. But I am not whole without the other members of the body, nor they without me.
Yet, pride mars our collective testimony. Pride has led to Catholics to worshiping over there; Eastern Orthodox in that place there; and, notoriously, Protestants to argue and divide as a matter of course – God’s honor confused with man’s pride. We choose churches – a thoroughly modern, anti-communitarian concept (does one choose one’s family?) – and when we do it is based first on personal tastes, fidelity of belief to the gospel second. Even if we disagree with the church, we rather leave and find another place. Does a man leave his wife because he has a fight with her? Or does he stay, stand his ground, and fight until they find peace with each other? Isn’t the love of the Christian family is worth the battle?
On the other hand, some churches, particularly Evangelical ones, seek to wield inordinate power over their members. The deeply personal convictions and struggles of sincere believers are rode roughshod to maintain a veneer of unity. Pastors who fall are publicly maligned, never again to be restored or entrusted. Coffers are filled for the benefit of the church within the four walls and not the advancement of the kingdom that has no walls. The doors of the church are often open, but with a velvet rope and guard. Even as we jealously guard the quality of our community we are tasked with balancing it against the need to open our doors to any and all who want to taste and see that the Lord is good.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.” ~ Jesus
In the dawn of our faith’s birth the Apostles’ asked Jesus how to pray, and he started by saying, “Our…”. Jesus set a new standard for how we ought to live. How we pray reflects how we ought to live as Christians.
So, let us pray for unity in the Body of Christ, and seek to be a prayer’s answer by living in community with ALL believers. Let us reject the pride of life, choose our collective testimony over the individualistic… let us be able to one day pray “Our” with integrity. Preferably, before Jesus returns?
- How can we be a unifying force and reject divisiveness?
- How can we draw others in such a way that leads to restoration and life instead of pride and rejection of Christ?
- How can we overcome individualism and pursue a deeply personal and intensely collective expression of the faith?