Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say, “When you pray, first light a candle,” or “get down on your knees,” or “hold your hands up to the sky.” Those are great ways to pray, but Jesus does not tell us to do them. IN fact, Jesus does not tell us how to pray at all. Jesus tells us to whom to pray.
“When you pray, say, “Father.”
This is not about the gender of God. The Bible describes God in both male and female terms in several places. Nor is this about the authoritarian control of God, like a stereotypical father would exercise. God does have authoritarian control and that‘s a good thing. Any parent has to exercise authoritarian control sometimes. If a three year old is running toward a busy street, the mom or dad runs up to the three year old, swoops the three year old up in their arms and carries them bodily away, even if the three year old is howling that she or he doesn’t want to. That’s a good thing. Why? Because running out into a busy street is a Stupid Thing To Do. S-T-T-D Stupid thing to do.
“No, you may not go that party where you know people will be drinking and doing drugs and somebody a little tipsy or more likely completely drunk is going to invite you and your friends to go out for a ride with them in their very cool car. Why not? Because it is a Stupid Thing To Do.
No, you may not commit adultery. Martin Luther explains this one of the ten commandments by saying “We are to fear love and trust God so that our dealings in matters of sex are honorable.” Why? Because dealing dishonorably in matters of sex is a Stupid Thing To Do.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Luther explains this commandment by saying we are to interpret and explain our neighbor’s actions in the most positive manner possible. Otherwise, we are lying. And that’s a Stupid thing to do.
Authoritative control can be a good thing.
But what is it that saves us? What is it that shows us what love means? Is it not when we are four months old and we’ve got colic and our stomach hurts, and our father gets up out of bed for the third time in the middle of the night and rocks us back and forth? Isn’t that how we learn what love is?
What saves us? Is it not a different kind of power, where God comes to us and walks with us, and suffers with us and dies for us. Is it not the power of the cross that saves?
Father. This is not about the gender of God, nor about is it about authoritarian power. Prayer is about a relationship, with someone who loves us, who swings us back and forth upside down by our ankles while we whoop and giggle. Who holds us in strong and gentle arms till we drift off to sleep.
Hallowed be your name. Not “Hallowed be my name.” Notice, neither here nor in the Lord’s Prayer as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew---which is much closer to the Lord’s Prayer as we use it in church—neither here nor in Matthew does the word “I” appear in Jesus’ teaching about prayer. Neither I, nor me, nor my. It’s you and us.
Hallowed be your name. Prayer is about a relationship with someone who is bigger than us, and, quite frankly, more important than us. This is about someone bigger and deeper than anything in the entire universe, bigger than the forces that threaten our souls, against which we, by ourselves, have such witheringly inadequate strength.
Your kingdom come. Not my kingdom. Not our political party’s kingdom, not their political party’s kingdom. Not the kingdom of Rome. This was a dangerous prayer to pray, because it expressed devotion to a kingdom greater than that of Rome. Not safe.
Not the kingdom of the United States either. The United States has been given powerful and holy gifts, as well as corresponding powerful and holy responsibilities. And we pray for the United States. We pray for all nations of the world, that they would imitate and serve the kingdom of God.
But we pray for the kingdom of God to come.
Mary gave us a glimpse of the kingsom of God early in the Gospel of Luke, “He had shown the strength of his arm. He has scattered the proud in the delusion of their heart. He has cast the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. Or in our Psalm for today, “All the rulers of the earth will praise you, O Lord,. They will sing of the ways of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord.”
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done. This part is not in the Gospel of lUke. It’s in Matthew. But it’s pary of the prayer. We don’t pray, “My will be done.” If my will were done, God would wave a magic wand and all police officers would be safe. God would wave a magic wand and all young African American men and women would be safe. God would wave a magic wand, and everyone who has suffered terroist attacks in Germany and Fracne and Iraq and Egypt and Syria and Turkey, everyone would be safe. But evidently waving a magic wand is not God’s will.
It would seem from Scripture and observation that God wills us to be a part of God making everyone safe, of God bringing about the long, painful, humbling, infuriating, dangerous work of building trust. Because without trust, no one can be safe.
Give us this day. Not give me. Me and my family, us and the people like us. No. Us all. Give us all, all humanity, this day our daily bread. Martin Luther described this prayer as a prayer for everything we need. Food, shelter, healthy relationship, peace of body and mind and soul. For everyone.
Forgive us. There has been a good deal of talk in the media these days about what ideas are popular and what ideas are not. What ideas will get people to like you and what ideas will not. This is not a popular idea. Not something people think as cool.
Yet we do it at the beginning of worship every Sunday.
And then, even less popular, “As we forgive everyone indebted to us.” Or, As we forgive those who trespass against us. As we forgive others.
Not talking about letting people walk all over us like a door mat. Not talking about tracking people down and taking revenge, showing everybody how we can get them back, either. Talking about insisting on honoring the image of God in others, even when they have not honored the image of God in us or themselves.
And do not bring us to the time of trial. But in Matthew Jesus says, deliver us from the evil one. Do not leave us alone. Do not let our souls be devoured by the agents of the devil, by greed and hate and rage and apathy and fear. Save us.
The last part of the Lord’s prayer, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever amen,” is a good prayer, but not part of the Bible. It does bring us back to the point. We pray to a God who is greater than we are, whose kingdom, even though it seems so far away, is nevertheless coming, and even now is close as breath, whose will sweeps us up into itself, who gives us everything we have, who forgives us and saves us and who, like a wonderful mother or a really really great Dad, loves us.