Since I am in the process of thinking and writing about the Lord’s Prayer as a paradigm for community and missional formation for churches it seemed a fitting time to discuss how the prayer points us in the direction of a humble life.
The Lord’s Prayer* is set in the context, actually in the exact middle (meaning its of grave importance), of Jesus’ famous sermon – the sermon on the mount. Jesus sets up the prayer by telling his disciples to not be like the hypocrites (and TV evangelists), who flaunt their spirituality all over the public airwaves. Rather true humility is when you pray with the door closed so no one can see you. Its not that spirituality is to be a private thing, its not; in fact most of the sermon on the mount is about public faith, but our own spiritual development??? and relationship with God isn’t measured on how pompous and well-known we make it.
So Jesus gives his disciples, and all Christians from there on out, a simple prayer to pray; a prayer that was to become one of the main things that would distinguish Jesus’ follower’s from other Jewish religious groups of the time.
Pray then in this way: Our father in the heavens, may your name be sanctified.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Do not bring us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.???
Consider these reasons for how this prayer encourages and facilitates humility for those who wish to pray and embody this prayer.
When we prayer Our Father in the heavens, may your name be sanctified,??? we situate ourselves in the universe, as sons and daughters of a heavenly, holy father. We confront our own mortality, our own finiteness and recognize that only YHWH’s name is to be hallowed (or sanctified).
When we pray Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,??? we are reminded that we are a people of exile, a displaced people, as Hauerwas calls us, Resident Aliens. This means that the spiritual life, is to be a life of orphanage and diaspora, hungry for something we know we cannot attain fully in this life: we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.
When we pray Give us our daily bread,??? we remember the Children of Israel and their pleading for manna in the desert. The story evoked here shows us that humility seeks only sufficient bread from God for our daily needs, pride seeks to horde and take more than our share of these resources. All God’s children should be provided for fairly, none should pridefully take more than we need because this can cause others to have less than their sufficient share. This generosity and jubilation flows into forgiveness of debts as we pray, Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.???
Finally, as we pray Lead us not into temptation but rescue us from the evil one,??? we remember the disciples falling into temptation in the garden and must confess that we are just as easily susceptible as they were. Therefore, we must once again return to the beginning of the prayer and re-situate ourselves according to God’s holy and sanctified name.
This prayer offers those of us who find it hard to live a humble life simple words (and symbols) that help us facilitate something so foreign to us.
*This is only a very brief gloss of particular parts of the prayer.
*My translation from the Greek.