During the Lenten season last year, we combined our Lenten theme with the confirmation theme. It
was great to have confirmands present and active in our Wednesday night services! As an extension
of the worship, many experienced small group discussion time with our confirmands. We are looking
at ways to improve this experience and continue this practice.
Our theme for this year will revolve around the Lord’s Prayer. Luther once called this the “greatest of
all prayers because it was taught by the greatest Master of all.” It is a “prayer in which all spiritual and
bodily trouble is comprehended. It provides the strongest consolation in all temptations, tribulations,
and in the last hour.” Luther also called the Lord’s Prayer the “greatest martyr” because “everyone
torments it and misuses, and few comfort and cheer it by using it correctly.”
The well-known author, Pastor Frederick Buechner, once called the Lord’s Prayer “a dangerous
prayer” to pray. How can a prayer we so easily say Sunday after Sunday be all that? Radical?
Dangerous? Counter-cultural? A prayer against ourselves? A brief overview is offered below to
give a sense of the power of this prayer. It is also a way to begin to prepare for our study of it. Our
Lenten Confirmation journey begins February 22 at 6:30 p.m. Let’s be in worship and study with each other, as
surely as we are in prayer for each other!
Our Father who art in heaven
Here God invites us (even commands us) to come to Him with complete confidence with ALL matters – big and small. The invitation to address an Almighty and eternal God in the same way a child would come to a loving parent sets the stage for this radical prayer.
Hallowed be thy name
How is God’s name “different” and “set apart” (i.e. holy)? God has tied His name to the Word of God. This petition teaches us that to honor or dishonor God’s name is connected to how we honor or dishonor God’s Word.
Thy kingdom come
We can’t stop or bring on God’s Kingdom. God’s reign and rule and power will come no matter what. The only issue here is whether or not it comes to us. Would we know God’s Kingdom when we see it? How do you look for something you can’t see or pinpoint on a map (namely, God’s Kingdom)? And what if God’s kingdom is counter-cultural to all other kingdoms (political and personal)?
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
This is perhaps the MOST RADICAL of all the petitions. Why would we pray against our wills by praying for God’s will in our lives? We are taught from day one the importance of self-sufficiency, self-reliance and self-determination. What about MY hopes, MY dreams, MY will? In this third petition we find a clash of wills. Dare we go on?
Give us this day our daily bread
Most likely, when we come to this petition, it is the easiest to understand and pray. It has a “Thanksgiving Day” sense to it. We pause to thank God for our blessings – food, clothes, home and our families. But that is only where the list begins. Luther suggests that “daily bread” also includes work and income, an orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace and health, a good name and true friends and neighbors!
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
As humans, forgiveness is a hard and freeing thing. To ask the forgiveness of another we have wronged often takes boldness and courage (as well as humility and remorse). But here forgiveness is on a whole new plain. We are talking about God, after all. When it comes to forgiveness, God makes the first move. That is enough to boggle the mind.
And lead us not into temptation
When one thinks of temptations or great sins, many of our lists would likely be similar. It is pretty easy to name and detect such things. Luther was always interested in sin’s subtle nature. “The devil does more damage through virtue than vice,” he once said. So it should not surprise us that “false belief and despair” rise to the top of Luther’s list when talking about temptations and sins.
But deliver us from evil
A seminary professor of mine once gave this illustration for this petition. After reflecting on the horror and rampant evil that defined the Holocaust, he said, “This would be the norm for us were God not constantly holding evil at bay.” It is an interesting perspective to think about. This is the petition that reminds us that there is a battle constantly raging over us – body and soul.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen
To say “Amen!” to all these petitions is to say “Yes!” All kingdoms, all power, and all glory belong to God alone. And because this is true, we would readily place our lives in the hands of the true God who has revealed himself in Christ Jesus.
Written by Pastor Randy Freund