As we continue with the Sermon on the Mount series we now at the Lord’s Prayer. I actually was surprised the first time that I learned that the Lord’s Prayer was part of the Sermon on the Mount in Jr. High. I had known the prayer from my earliest memories of church and like many things did not really relate it to the Bible. But that is another story. But the location of the Lord’s Prayer within this great sermon is essential, especially following the discussion on money and moving into the next sections which mimic Paul’s teaching of the Body of Christ.
Remember, the Sermon on the Mount is about discipleship more than anything else, and that context drives how we understand it contents. Much of Matthew 6 revolves around themes of humility and faithfulness. Well, maybe that is not the best way to put it, the theme is really do what you do before God, for God, and not for the approval or reward or sympathy of the people around you.
When I started chaplaincy back in seminary the part that I was dreading the most was having to stand next to someone and pray. I know that sounds funny for a pastor to say that they were afraid of prayer, but there you have it. It was not the vulnerability of speaking in front of strangers, or the assumption of the “Chaplain” role, it was deeper than that. For me, prayer was a very personal thing, and I knew that when I prayed I would never be as eloquent as the other chaplains, and I worried that I might say the wrong thing or offend the person I was praying for.
I would love to say that after my first day in seminary I opened the Bible and found this passage and reread it, but that is not the case. I went back to my apartment, sat on my couch and started talking to God; a neighbor heard me and knocked on my door. Sharing my fear with her was interesting, and we recognized that I was trying to please the wrong person. In fact, prayer was about relationship and asking for God’s presence in our lives, and it really did not matter what others thought, prayer was strictly about God and the comfort we get when we know that God is with us. That alleviate my fears, and I was able to finish out a very successful chaplaincy.
The Lord’s Prayer is simple, but covers everything important. The problem with the Lord’s Prayer, and probably why we have to add so much more is that we do not take the time to understand what Christ is really asking from us within the prayer.
Since we did this over the summer, I will not dissect the prayer again. The prayer, coming from Christ is a real gift, reminding us that God is with us and that we are with God. Moreover, it tells us that just as we pray and take actions to live the life God calls us to live, God is praying and connected with us in our lives.
This is crucial when we remember our discipleship, because what sustains us in our discipleship is the relationship that we have with God, knowing that when times are difficult, even seemingly impossible, God is present and that there is nothing to fear, except if we choose not to believe; hence, the need to prayer this pray or one like it to remind ourselves of this relationship that we have with God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen