Father, you are father of us all, and above us all.
Your are so incredible, people should be in awe at the mere mention of your name.
We want to see your nation established here, your desires to become reality in our world.
Provide for our needs today.
Forgive us for our less than perfect actions, just as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.
Guide our lives away from situations in which we may be tempted to do wrong, and protect us from harm.
I am aware of the responsibility which is assumed when attempting to interpret and paraphrase a portion of scripture as I have. In doing so, a person is essence making a statement that they believe they understand what the original intent and meaning were. For example, in this present case, it’s as though I’m saying that I understand what God was thinking. I certainly recognize the likelihood of some error in this exercise, however I do not believe it’s without value. As we come to know Christ better, we learn about his character. Scripture can only be understood through this lens, with the Spirit’s guiding. I had some difficulties with certain parts of this prayer, but I have made my best attempt to express what seems to be the most reasonable meaning.
1. “Father, you are father of us all, and above us all.”
- We address God as our father (or elsewhere even “daddy”), because he has chosen to have an intimate, familial relationship with us.
- He is not just my father, but our father. Throughout the entire Lord’s prayer, the singular pronouns “I, me, my, mine”, etc., are never used. Rather, it is always the plural “our, us, we”, etc. which is used. This teaches us that the world is designed as a community, not just as billions of individuals.
- Our father is “heavenly”, not mortal. He is supernatural, not created, not flawed, but perfectly and wholly good.
2. “Your are so incredible, people should be in awe at the mere mention of your name.”
- We recognize how good he is, but beyond that, we want others to recognize this as well. In saying this, we take on the responsibility to make this happen though our actions, as we bear his name.
3. “We want to see your nation established here, your desires to become reality in our world.”
- We are not just waiting to go to heaven and be saved ourselves. We so love God and his ways that we want to see them lived out presently, right here in our world. Again, in so requesting this, we also must be living it out in our lives insomuch as it is possible for us to do. In other words, it is not a mere passive request which we make and then sit back and hope happens (to everyone else). It is a request we make as we are striving to see it happen.
4. “Provide for our needs today.”
- Again, this doesn’t say, “Provide for my needs today”, though I used to think of it that way in my mind, as you may have as well. Are your needs not being met? It probably isn’t because God isn’t providing—God has provided enough—it’s because someone isn’t sharing (make sure it isn’t you!).
- Also, it doesn’t say, “Fulfill all our wants today.” God knows and plans to take care of our needs, but not necessarily give us everything we want. Additionally, we usually think we need more than we actually do (especially in our culture).
- Furthermore, it doesn’t say, “Provide for our needs for the month/year/rest of our lives,” etc. We pray simply for today, concerning ourselves primarily with living in the present moment. Along with this, we must have patience, trusting in God to care for us. We shouldn’t worry too much about tomorrow and the future beyond that (though this doesn’t negate wise planning).
5. “Forgive us for our less than perfect actions, just as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.”
- We often try to minimize, excuse and/or justify our less than perfect actions, but as Jesus teaches in the previous part of the “Sermon on the Mount”, none of us are good enough for God’s standard. Therefore, we are all in need of God’s forgiveness. This ought to keep us humble, reminding us that we are not so much better than others, that we have room to judge and condemn them as being worse than we are. (This doesn’t negate recognizing sin and exhorting each other to abstain from it.)
- Amazingly, the second part of this verse simply assumes that we have forgiven everyone whom we may have had something against. I don’t believe this is saying that forgiveness is easy, but instead it is highlighting its importance. Immediately following the prayer, Jesus states that if we forgive, God will forgive us, but if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. This should certainly cause us to consider forgiveness very seriously!
- For thoroughness, notice there are no conditions. It doesn’t say, “forgive the things which are easy” or “only forgive when you have been hurt a bit, but your exempt if you’ve been hurt badly.” Remember, Jesus was tortured and killed with little justifiable reason, yet he forgave even then. Else where Peter asks if we should forgive a whole seven times, certainly thinking that was way above and beyond what the average person would do. And yet Jesus “blows that out of the water” by saying we should forgive 70 times seven times (effectively meaning there is no limit to forgiveness)!
6. “Guide our lives away from situations in which we may be tempted to do wrong, and protect us from harm.”
- Evil is being wronged and/or doing wrong. The prayer closes with us praying for God to keep us from being on either side of wrong doing. We know that there is still much evil happening in our world, but we must seek to not be involved in it. When we do ministry, we are likely putting ourselves in increased danger, and we ask God to provide his protection over our lives.
photo credit: Leonard John Matthews via photopin cc