Usually when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I am thinking of myself and the challenges I’m facing. Sometimes I’m thinking about how I can glorify God. Or, what I need. Or, dear God forgive me and protect me.
But have you ever noticed that the Lord’s Prayer does not have the word “I” in it?
Jesus told us to pray after the manner, or in the way, outlined in the prayer we name after him. But do we do this? I was saying the words “we” and “our,” but I was thinking “I” and “me” instead.
Well, actually, I usually start off thinking in the first person plural: “Our Father which art in heaven…” It is easy to think of God as the Father of all of us.
But by the time I get to, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I am usually thinking of “my daily bread” instead of “our daily bread.”
Same with “Forgive us our debts” (or trespasses, if you prefer) and “Lead us not into temptation,” etc. Even though I say “us,” my heart is usually thinking “me.”
It’s not that I am selfishly trying to claim God’s blessings and protection only for myself. I just end of thinking of my own needs in those quiet moments of communing with God.
Jesus very thoughtfully taught us to pray the way he wanted us to. If he had wanted each person to pray just for himself, he might have said, My Father which art in heaven, Give me my daily bread, Lead me not into temptation, and so on. You get the idea.
Certainly there are times we should pray specifically for ourselves, but Jesus also wanted us to pray more broadly too.
How big is the “our” in our prayers?
The prophet Malachi boldly asks, “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10)
When you pray, “Our Father which art in heaven,” who do you include in your “our”? The more I think about his instruction, the more I realize Jesus wanted us to pray not just for ourselves but for each other, our family, our church, our communities and even the whole world, including those we may disagree with politically, religiously, culturally, etc.
Those two words, “Our Father,” is one of the most pregnant and powerful phrases in the entire Bible. It reveals that God is the creator, the Father of all. It reveals our relationship to God; He is our Father, we are His children. And it firmly establishes the brotherhood of all mankind. Because we all have the same Father, we are therefore all brothers and sisters.
The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for things far beyond our own personal needs being met. It is a prayer for world peace, for God’s kingdom to be established here on earth as it is in heaven.
It is a prayer to end all hunger: physical and spiritual. It is a prayer to supply the needs of every single person on the earth.
It is a prayer for deliverance from temptation. When you pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (the evil one),” do you include every single man, woman and child on the face of the earth in that “us”?
It is a prayer of forgiveness.
The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer to wash away the sins of the world, not just our own. And it is a prayer of everyone forgiving everyone of everything that needs to be forgiven over the face of the whole earth and throughout all time.
Think on that one for a minute. Just imagine all the unforgiven incidents, large and small, that have accumulated over the centuries. Hurt feelings. Family feuds. Dissension and splintering of businesses and governments and sadly, even churches. And ultimately, wars among nations.
When you pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and fulfill your part of that covenant, to forgive your debtors, you open the floodgates of God’s forgiveness to wash away centuries of hatred and resentment.
How much will you forgive?
On the cross, Jesus forgave everyone who had been involved in trying to destroy him with a few simple words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It just occurred to me that this prayer could also include everyone since that time to the present who have worked against Christ’s purpose.
How far back into the corridors of time (or into the future) are you willing to take this prayer of forgiveness?
It may seem that the centuries of sin which have preceded us have not been directed toward us. Why then, should we think about forgiving sins from hundreds or even thousands of years ago that may be long forgotten and have no direct bearing on our lives? The sinners may be long gone, but the mistakes of the past have created the problems of the present.
The next time you are praying the Lord’s Prayer, when you come to part “as we forgive our debtors,” (those who have trespassed against us), open your heart to forgive all the sins of those who have gone before you throughout all time.
Take a moment now to enlarge the borders of your forgiveness. Let your prayer wash over the earth: past, present and future. As we do this together, the world will be blessed.
Only Christ takes away the sins of the world. But we can forgive them. Jesus said that those who believe on him would do the works he did and even greater works. Jesus set the example to forgive all mankind.
How far will you follow his example of forgiveness?
How big is your “our”?