The Best Prayer of All - thoughts about how to pray.
When we really need to pray it’s then, when the crisis is on us, that words seem to elude us. People ask me, how can I pray? Let me suggest two things.
First, you don’t actually need to use words – God knows our innermost feelings and all that is inexpressible in our hearts. So just to sit quietly and know we are in God’s presence is enough – God will do the interpreting for us.
But second, Jesus gave us some words that never let us down – we call it the Lord’s Prayer. We can use the old traditional words (which I usually use) or a modern version, it doesn’t matter. But the Lord’s Prayer has it all, and what’s more, you can be of any ‘religion’ for it to work for you – it’s totally ecumenical. Take a look –
if you only get this far it’s a great help. It doesn’t mean that God is masculine but that God is close – God creates us and nurtures us. God has not made the world and then left us to it (although some earthly fathers do just that!) This is Our Father – who is father of all of us, so it recognises that we are brothers and sisters whether we like it or not. But most of all, this is our Father who loves us to bits and will do anything for us.
Which art in heaven:
This is a lovely way of reminding us that God is the mystery. Whatever words or mind pictures we use about God might help us but God will forever remain beyond our understanding. So while God is the generous loving father of all of us, God remains the significant mystery – not just a chum!
Hallowed be thy name:
The best prayer begins and ends in Awe! In prayer we come close to the one who makes being possible. Take off your shoes, kneel on the pavement, bow your head, this is none other than Almighty God who created the Universe with a word. And this powerful mystery still has time for us!
Thy Kingdom Come:
Jesus can’t stop teaching us about the Kingdom – it’s a way of being together under God which respects everyone and all God’s creation. It’s a way of conforming our society, from its intimate relationships to its global politics, to a way of Peace and Justice.
Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven:
We learn about God’s Kingdom together and pray for it to come, but it’s our task to work together with God to bring it about, here and now. Prayer is not just about happy peaceful feelings but a spur and empowerment of our actions that the beauty of God’s justice and peace may be our daily guide and task.
Give us this day our daily bread:
In our slang ‘bread’ can stand for money, income and so on. But in this prayer it stands for even more – the very sustenance of life for all the world’s people. We know people who are ill, we see pictures of those who are starving, in our cities we meet people who are homeless and despised. Praying that all may be ‘fed’ is an integral part of praying to see God’s Kingdom, God’s will, be done on earth.
Forgive us our trespasses:
To think we are without blame is the ultimate foolishness – and that’s why we like to blame others, to shield us from our own vulnerability in this business. But any wise psychiatrist will explain how that hidden guilt (sin) has to come out somewhere in our behaviour and foul us up, and foul up those around us.
As we forgive those who trespass against us:
Funny how we remember those times when others have upset us much more than we remember when we’ve upset others? Here’s our chance to put that right. An essential part of God’s Kingdom, a godly society, is that we acknowledge that we don’t get things right, say sorry and work for reconciliation – it’s better than going to war.
Lead us not into temptation:
What is it that gets in the way of you being the person you would really like to be? Here’s where we own up to that, and ask God to lead us away from whatever is messing us up.
But deliver us from evil:
It’s not just individual nastiness that messes the world up, but bad political or religious structures, mindsets that make us think using others is somehow all right, the foulness that can infect whole institutions and the way we live our lives together – we need to ask God to help us see the light and fight these bad and evil things.
For Thine is the Kingdom:
Here we are again, a final reminder that we want the world to be what it was created for and not just a place for human beings to grab it all. If we think we are at the centre of the universe, that universe will turn evil, but remembering that it all belongs to God – thine is the Kingdom – then we reorganise our priorities.
The Power and the Glory:
Yes indeed, the Lord’s Prayer ends as it begins, but remembering that God alone is the key, the beginning and the end, the meaning and the destiny. Go into a beautiful Church and look up – Go out into the night and look up at the stars!
For ever and ever:
We only live through very short periods of time, here today and gone tomorrow – but the God of Mystery is the God of Love, and that love does not turn off like a tap when our bodies wear out – this is the Love, this is the God who carries us into the ‘ever and ever’.
Let’s say AMEN to all that. Just pray our Lord’s Prayer over very slowly and bring to it even more meaning. Say it on the bus or the train, in the Church or in bed. It’s Jesus’ prayer and it’s just for you.