Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

To which kingdom do you belong? Where you "settle", where your heart is, that is the kingdom that is your habitation.

There are two kingdoms. The kingdom of the devil, or the kingdom of this world. In John 16:11, Jesus speaks of the "prince of this world..." This is the kingdom of sin and disobedience. Because sin which is not fought against and resisted, reigns. Until the Kingdom of God comes, we are all in this kingdom. But not all in the same way.

Moses said to the Israelites, before crossing into the Promised Land (Deut. 30:14), that the "word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. " If the"Word" is in our heart, enabling us to obey, then, as Jesus said, "...the Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) If we fight against our sin daily, resisting lusts, enticements of this world, and suggestions of the devil, then the Kingdom of God is increased.

And that is the second kingdom--the Kingdom of God, the place of righteousness and truth. If Jesus is our Lord, then sin, although still present, does not reign over us; His grace reigns

Therefore, we are taught, after praying that His Kingdom Come, to immediately petition that His "... Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The covenant prayer we prayed each Sunday in January as the Call to Worship is a prayer where we asked that we surrender ourselves completely to His Will. Although God has given us a free will, it is not free if we make it our own will. To be free is to desire only God's Will.

In this part of the prayer, we are led to pray against ourselves; praying that God's Will reigns in us, here, now, on earth just as it does in heaven, so that the Kingdom of God (Thy Kingdom Come) will be advanced and increased, daily and incrementally.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Earth and Heaven

“In earth as it is in heaven” are magnificent, comforting, idealistic, and challenging words. First, their magnificence empowers us to believe that it is within our power to have our world, here on earth, reflect God’s heavenly world. Next, we are comforted by God’s love for us, so all-embracing that he had Jesus teach us this prayer, showing that we can have God’s will for us, here on earth.

Then realistically we have to step back, to see that ours is a broken world, with too many people who perceive humanity as flawed and unredeemable. Lastly, we must face the trials which come to us, our families and friends, our nation and our world. We must not give up. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. [Heb. 11:4]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Four Frightening Words

In some respects I think "Thy will be done" are the four scariest words in the English language. Saying it--and really meaning it--means that you are giving up control to God.

This year I have prayed for a former student's life even though I knew she was terminally ill and even though I knew that we shouldn't pray for life--not when death's reward is heaven. I have prayed for certain couples with the hopes that they might part ways because I thought they would be better off with different partners. I pray each day for the safety and good health of family members even though Jesus said that none of us should love our parents or our children more than we love Him.

At the end of prayers like these, though, I force myself to add "Thy will be done." Sometimes I have to repeat it to myself several times because I want so badly for things to go my way when they clearly are going to go in another direction or need to go in another direction.

Saying "Thy will be done; Thy kingdom come" is an admission that we mortals can't understand the divine. We pray with the best of intentions, but we can't understand God's will. We take a leap of faith each time we say "Thy will be done."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God's Will, Not Mine

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...heaven on earth.... My heaven on earth is when I simply trust God and get out of the way, trying not to be that thorny soil being crowded out by the concerns of this world, but rather that good soil, open to awareness of
God's will for me, for the farmer scattering seed. This is often not easy. That's one reason I keep praying.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thy Kingdom Come

This week's reflection in the Lenten Guide suggests that when we pray, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, we are praying a "Prayer of Complaint". 

These words recognize that "our world is not what it should be because it isn't what God meant it to be." 

What is the kingdom of God?  In what way is asking for God's kingdom a revolutionary petition? 

Do we really want God's kingdom in our midst?

Thy Kingdom Come

I am most aware of the brokenness of the world, and our need for God’s kingdom, when praying with others.  When I first became intentional about this—asking people how I can pray for them—I assumed that this would be depressing.  I presumed that when people shared their worries or concerns that I, too, would take these on, and that over time these burdens would become overwhelming.

Yet I find instead that there these moments of sharing are not something to be dreaded.  When I spend time talking with and listening to someone in the hospital or my office, there is a sense of God present in a unique way.  

As we pray, I say the longings I have heard. They become my longings: for healing, for hurting family members, for comfort in the fears.  And even though I enter the fears and longings, in the moment there is so much more than the pain.  There is a sense that in these prayers we are joined in Christ, and Christ is present in a unique way.  Somehow, in the moment of our sharing and praying together, God’s kingdom breaks through.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Singing the Lord’s Prayer helps me to slow down and think about the words. Particularly do I focus on the phrase “hallowed be thy name.” When we join in a community praying of the Lord’s Prayer, we are sometimes asked to "repeat" the Lord’s Prayer. And that is exactly what we tend to do, hurriedly and thoughtlessly. Always we should “pray” this prayer.

Sing through the beginning, to yourself, slowly. When you come to these words, “Hal-lo-wed be Thy name,” you slow down, you pause, you reflect.

These first ten words of this prayer are perhaps ten of the most important words we shall ever pray, as we look toward God our Father, proclaim his presence all around us, rejoice being in His heavenly arms,and assert our belief in the holiness of His name.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"...Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name..."

There are other gods. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) Anything, be it good or bad, that draws our focus, our concentration, our total submission away from "Our Father", is our god, our idol. Before we can express our gratitude to Our Father be keeping the Ten Commandments, the first of those Commandments must be obeyed: a commitment to worship only the Lord.

When Jesus teaches us to pray Our Father "who art in heaven," He is showing us that we must recognize initially Who our Father is. He is not part of the creation. He is not part of this world. He is beyond human comprehension. This is the Father that we worship and pray to-not any other god or idol that is finite and created. He is greater than the loftiest ideal we can imagine, because even that is created and an idol.

Therefore, "...who art in heaven..." is immediately followed by "...hallowed be thy Name..." "Hallowed" means to make or set apart as holy; sanctify; consecrate. "Hallowed", therefore, means made or set apart as being holy; highly venerated; unassailable; sacrosanct. In our prayers, Jesus teaches us to begin by remembering in Whose Presence we are coming. That it is He alone Who is worthy of our worship, devotion, total commitment and surrended. That before we can begin to petition for others and ourselves; before we can begin the work of the Kingdom; before anything, we must begin with the focused desire to know He that is in heaven, He that created the heavens and the earth, He that is alone holy and worthy of our worship and praise.

Smarter than a sixth grader?

Notes from a discussion on prayer by the confirmation class:

Martin Luther is credited on page 125 of the Claim the Name Confirmation Book as saying that prayer is not "telling God anything" nor is it a means of "forcing God to do something that God otherwise would not do."

During confirmation class this week we asked some of our best theologians, our sixth graders what they thought about Martin Luther's ideas of prayer and what they thought prayer is:

Prayer lets us know peace that the burdens we bear aren't our own.

When people tell us they are praying for us, it can draw us out of a frenzy to a state of peace.

God doesn't do for us what we ask in prayer, but leads us to what he calls us to do.

Our prayer doesn't change God's will, it might change the timing of it.

When we experience a loss, we gather together and prayer gives us some peace.

We are healed through prayer when we realize we are "good enough" as we are.

Prayer allows us to work through the distractions and understand ourselves better.

We pray like we can change God's will and at the same time have the faith that God's will is best.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do you know what this prayer is?

I was in the park this afternoon, viewing the last of the crosses to arrive.  These crosses each have phrases from the Lord's Prayer, and if you start at the log cabin chapel, the crosses will lead you through the park and through the prayer.
As I stood on the path, admiring this last cross, two children came running around the bend toward me, shouting exuberantly, "there's another one!".  Then they raced on to find the next cross.  Behind them, their grandparents followed, and finally caught up with the children at the "Amen".  From a distance, I heard the grandfather ask, "Do you know what this prayer is?"
I smiled, and wondered what he would tell them. 

The Hallowed Cross

The music ministry sponsored a cross depicting "Hallowed be thy name."  Here children paint with their thumbs, decorating the stained glass windows that accompany the musical phrase "Hallowed be thy name".

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

When I begin the Lord's Prayer and say 'Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name', I know that God in listening to me. He cares and He listens. He is greater than I am - He is God and I am a flawed, mortal human being seeking to live a better life. When I pray this particular prayer I am also praying as part of a community of people who are praying for the same thing - a better life for ourselves, our families and the world in which we live. We need God and we need each other, and our collective petition to live as we believe He wants us to live makes our world a better place. I feel sure that it pleases God when he hears one of us say, 'Our father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name..."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hallowed be thy Name

Based on the postings so far, it seems like most of us treasure this idea of God as Father. Something inside seems to sigh with relief when we realize that God loves us unconditionally and wants to be in relationship with us.

And yet...there is a tension. God is so much more than we. There is a sense of God's holiness, a reverence and awe that I wonder if we have lost in our desire for a buddy who accepts us.

Is this a tension for you? Is there a moment when you wanted, like Peter, to fall on your knees and say, "go away from me"? Is there a moment when you knew that God was so much more than anything you could comprehend?

My Two Daddies

It hasn't been that long since I made the connection between God as Father and my earthly father, my Daddy. Since that revelation, I always open my prayers with "Father" because the thought is so comforting to me. That Sunday, the sermon was on the passage about which of you would give a snake to your child if he/she asked for a fish. (Luke 11:11-13) I thought of my earthly father, of how he has always selflessly given to me in a hundred different ways.

When I was little, he went to Hardee's on his lunch break and bought a stuffed Donald Duck that he then chased me around the house with as he spoke in Donald speak to elicit giggles. When I asked for a basketball goal or a bicycle for Christmas, he gave me both. After proving that I was going to stick with playing the trumpet, he bought me the best silver trumpet he could find. When I needed a soft case to carry it around, he bought leather instead of vinyl. When my car had problems in high school, he loaned me his brand new shiny red pick up while he drove my clunker Monte Carlo. When I asked for a five to go to the movies, he always gave me a twenty. When he told me to pick out a car my sophomore year of college, I picked out a Volkswagon; he picked out a Mustang.

I know I don't know all of the ways in which my heavenly Father has done the same thing. I can think of little things like the day I was struggling to write my ten pages. I prayed for the strength to write those ten pages; God gave me fifteen. I have sheepishly prayed for a parking spot in a certain garage because I was running late; God gave me three. I have prayed for a car to last an extra year and managed to get a second out of it. I prayed to find a good man for a husband; God gave me the best man for a husband--someone beyond my wildest expectations.

I do know that it's hard to see how God works in our lives sometimes. I started keeping a prayer journal a few Lenten seasons ago. Reading it a year or two after the fact has shown me a glimpse of how God gives generously even when we can't see it at the time. My challenge to everyone would be to keep a little informal journal of the things that worry you; check it a few months or a year later to see how God has given you even more than you asked for.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our Father

Ellsworth Kalas said two things that really struck home with me in his “Lenten Study.” One, that Jesus wanted us to know that above all, that you and I are God’s sons and daughters; yet secondly, the term “Our Father” is for some an insuperable barrier. The explanation being that for those without fathers or abusive fathers or unworthy fathers, they might not want to think of the heavenly Father in that light.

In my mind it is a little more personal. When I pray to my Heavenly Father for guidance or the strength to deal with the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the typical day in and day out trials of tribulations of life, or to thank him for the bounty that he has blessed me or the beauty of life and the earth, I want him to be My Father, not necessarily the Father of those who have caused me hurt or pain or loss or the person who sees the glass always half empty.

I don’t want to think that the irate driver who yells obscenities out his window because he is having a bad day/life or the person who chooses to lay me off versus the younger less expensive person or the person who cuts in front of me in the check out lane has the “same” Father who supports, loves and lifts them.

Yet in that same token, the devastating earth quake in Haiti reminded all of us, we do have the same Father and he asks of us to love and help and support each other, just like he does us. Amazing that such a horrific event, could bring together mankind and cross all barriers of religion, language, culture, skin color, monetary status; yet not really, we all have the same Father.

The Collective

I like the collective "Our Father." I like the thought that as we pray, Christ is there and that all who pray are there with us too. I work with a lot of people whose relationship with their earthly father was/is less than loving, some neglectful, some abusive, some traumatic, some torturous. I like the collective because we can gather around those who don't know the generosity of a loving God and don't know the kindness of a earthly father. We can love them into awareness and hope that these relationships, the relationships between the loving God and ourselves is reflected in the love we have for each other. The power of love then does the rest. God is love and we try to love as God does and that is good example of the collective "Our Father." I like that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Learning to Pray Out Loud

OK, think “”, that Microsoft commercial. I went to and typed in “learning to pray aloud” and this is what I got:
Courage to pray out loud
Is it necessary to pray out loud?
i would like to eventually learn to pray out loud, with words or in song – How do I pray out loud?
Ask for volunteers to pray aloud for the specific concerns of group members…

My dad’s blessing before meals, and his mother’s before him, was short and sweet: “Lord bless this meal and all others”. Kevin’s stepdad’s prayer is the opposite. Your stomach will be growling and someone will be laughing before the prayer is over.

I went through MasterLife training in my former church years ago and one lesson that always stuck with me is a lesson we had on learning to pray out loud. The facilitator used the Lord’s Prayer as the model prayer, as did Jesus in Luke 11:14 when his disciple ask “Master, Teach us to pray”. The facilitator, Steve, broke it down, to show us how the Lord’s Prayer can be used to author a prayer you will have the confidence to pray out loud.

We analyzed each phrase, broken it down, looked at supporting bible verses. We pondered questions like is thanking God praising God? What exactly is our daily bread? How do we ask for forgiveness? Are we really forgiven “as” we forgive others?

So I dug out my discipleship books – sad that I had to dig them out – and thought that I would put this into practice this Lent. Each week I'll use the formula Jesus gave us to begin to pen my prayer – and I hope you'll use it to create your own prayer. By the end of Lent we will have practice pulling together that prayer which we have the courage to pray out loud. We'll have confidence to know what to say, how to praise Him in prayer, why we thank Him and how to add our heart felt requests.

And maybe the next time when I hear Caroline or Tom say “would someone like to close us in prayer?” maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the courage to pray out loud.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our father, who art in Heaven. Heaven seems so far away that we can hardly reach it. We lie on our backs on the top of Etowah Indian Mounds, and look up at the black night, full of stars, wondering if we’re looking at God in Heaven. We walk to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, on a bright, sunny day, and look up at the blue sky dotted with small clouds, wondering if that is God’s Heaven.
Then we smell a baby’s breath, we look into the faces of our children, we hold our own father’s hand. We ourselves are visited in the hospital by Sunday school friends, we are called by caring ones when we’ve lost a job, and we get a card in the mail saying we were missed at choir practice.
We know that Heaven is not far away in the night sky, or shining down on us from a cloud. Heaven surrounds us all the time, and God is here, right now. We can whisper a prayer, or think a Psalm, or write a note to God. Our Heavenly Father encircles us with his heavenly arms every second of our lives.
Jesus taught us to pray, to remember, that “we” are part of “our” – that God is our Father who is always with us.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Our Father..."

In Leviticus and Numbers, God, through Moses, instructs the community of Israelites how to approach and worship Him. The instructions are very much directed to the community as a whole. The covenantal relationship is connected to the community's faithfulness to Jehovah.

Does Jesus change this community relationship in His coming, His teachings? Is He changing the community relationship with God to an individual relationship with God? Yes, and No. Each of us is invited to a personal, intimate, relationship with His Father, as revealed in Him. But that relationship is part of a community. And not just the community of believers, although that is where it begins and receives its support and encouragement.

When Jesus teaches us to pray "Our Father...", His charge is for us to remember, to realize, that He yearns for that intimate relationship (even and perhaps especially with those who have not experienced the intimacy of such a relationship) with "all". Everyone is included in that "Our..." More to the point, no one you can think of, in any part of our world, is excluded from that "Our..."

That is comforting, yet humbling. At the very outset of our communication with the Almighty God, the Creator of all, yet the Father, Jesus charges us as His children, that His love in inclusive of everyone. We should, therefore, begin our prayer with this attitude of inclusiveness--that everyone is our brother and sister. No exception.

As we begin again his journey called Lent, the words "Our Father..." shows us the cross was for all--not just those who profess belief in He who spread His hand and arms to be nailed to that cross. Let's remember this as we walk toward the cross. Don't just pass others as we approach-let's invite them, all of them, to the foot of the cross.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tertullian and the ordering within the Lord's Prayer

The earliest known writing about the Lord’s Prayer is by Tertullian, who lived in North Africa, 160-225.

In addition to exploring the meaning of the phrases within the prayer, Tertullian notes that the order of the prayer is also important. First we pray about heavenly things: the name of God, the will of God, and the kingdom of God. Only then do we pray for our earthly needs: daily bread, forgiveness, and protection.

Tertullian links this order to Jesus words, “Seek first the kingdom, and then these things shall be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33).

Prayer for Transfiguration Sunday

It can be difficult to pray in public.

Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right words.

There is pressure to use attractive words—exotic words with multiple syllables—and the temptation to search for lyrical phrases—and most fun of all, words with a second meaning, a hidden layer to be appreciated by the sensitive listener.

Then I remember. I prepare for prayer, not a recitation.

So I turn to the Sunday morning scripture reading and wonder how to pray this story of Christ's Transfiguration. What does Jesus on the mountain with Elijah and Moses have to do with those we feel alone? How is Peter’s offer to build three tents relevant to those who worry about losing their homes? I imagine the voice, booming out, “This is my son”, and wonder who else in our midst longs to hear the voice of God.

I fall into the story, and stop searching for my words, pretty words, unique words. I listen, and the prayers are there, because we are there in the Transfiguration story. We are the ones awed by the dazzling presence of God in our midst, we are the ones uncertain of how to respond to the events of our lives, we are the ones who need to hear God say, "you are my beloved child."

Is it enough?

Have I gotten past my words, my desires, and stumbled into our prayers? Is it enough?

Probably not.

But it’s not up to me. For when all is said, we will go beyond these words I have written and prayed, and pray together the words Jesus taught.

That will be enough.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Lord teach us to pray..."

...because we forgot how to pray.
...because we never learned how to pray.
...because we don't know how to pray to a God like you.
...because my prayers aren't working and I think I must be doing something wrong.

Why did the disciples ask that question? Perhaps the text is more explicit than I recall, but that is the impression I am left with. Why ask that question? As Jews raised by Jews around nothing but Jews, I would think that the disciples would be well informed on the method of prayer. Why would they need to be taught how to pray? Perhaps you can think of a reason I didn't include, but my go to is the first one I wrote. "Lord teach us to pray..." because I forgot how.

I agreed to do this blog in order to be challenged to think and the first thing I am challenged to think about is how often I pray. I must admit not often enough. It is like I forgot how to pray somewhere along the way. I quit saying the blessing before meals, I don't say my bedtime prayers like I was taught to as a child, and I certainly am not praying without ceasing as Paul suggests. I pray about the big stuff. You know the really important stuff:

"God help me keep my job in a crashing economy."
"God protect my children from the swine flu."

But I have forgotten to keep God in Constant Contact ( I wonder what his email address is). I use prayer like the "Batphone." (You remember the red phone in the mayor's office that connects directly to Batman day or night.) I have forgotten how to pray daily, and that is what I hear in the text "Lord teach us to pray..." because I forgot and I need you to remind me to pray daily. To pray without ceasing. To be always in relationship.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Target practice. That’s what I need, Lord. Trying to hit the bull’s eye, without having a goal, without stopping and aiming, doesn’t work. It’s easy enough to shotgun pray. I can do that all day long. I can pray while driving, while shopping, while cooking, even while I’m listening to a long-winded friend on the phone.
That’s not what you want me to do, is it, Lord? I’m not supposed to fire off prayers like throwing out seeds on the lawn. You heard us asking you to help us to pray effectively, meaningfully, thoughtfully. We want to pray to you, and along with you.
Guide us, Lord. If we have to slow down and stop, in order to listen, then let us stop. Make us sit. Let us look you in the face. Let us slow down our breathing, become calm and relaxed. Let everything around us become silent. We want to hear you in the Lenten season. We do want to learn to pray.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Praying Together During Lent

The prayer Jesus taught begins with "Our", so it is fitting that we take time to pray together through Lent.  While our schedules do not always allow us to pray in the same place at the same time, we can join together in creative ways, to reflect and pray as a community.

At this Website we will discuss the Lord's prayer.  Each week our bloggers will write their thoughts about a section of the prayer.  Join in the conversation as a guest blogger or by writing comments.

On Ash Wednesday we will set up stations throughout the Park on Polk, each depicting part of the prayer.  We invite you to take time during the 40 days of Lent to pray and walk through the park, thinking about the words you pray as you reflect on others' images of the prayer. 

Throughout Lent, our ministers will offer prayers for wholeness and healing.  Immediately after worship services, join them in Latimer Chapel for a time of silent prayer and reflection.  Those who wish may come to the altar rail, where our ministers will offer prayers and anoint with oil.


Ash Wednesday Service and Holy Communion
Wednesday, February 17th, 6:30 p.m., Sanctuary

Palm Sunday Worship Services

Sunday, March 28, 9:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., Sanctuary
Maundy Thursday Worship Service
Thursday, April 1, 6:30 p.m., Sanctuary

Good Friday Stations of the Cross
Friday, April 2 , 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Sanctuary

Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday, April 3, 10:00 a.m., Park on Polk Street

Easter Worship Services
Sunday, April 4
Sunrise Service in the Park on Polk: 6:30 a.m.
Worship in the Sanctuary: 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., and 11:15 a.m.