Easter Sunday, the most attended church service of the year. Voices all over the world will be heard reciting The Lord’s Prayer. After all, this is how the Lord said we should pray, and so we pray exactly as He did. But are we missing something? Is it enough just to say the words, or did Jesus intend something so much greater?
I’ve been involved in a small group for the last few weeks where we have been taking a closer look at The Lord’s Prayer, line by line, praying through corresponding verses each week. It has truly been a beautiful thing to open up this power-packed prayer like a brand new gift. At first glance it seems that this prayer is full of commands towards God…Thy kingdom come…thy will be done…give me this…forgive me…don’t lead me into temptation…deliver me.
It seems pretty demanding…on the surface.
But what if Jesus gives us these words, not so we can dictate to God, but so that we can be reminded of his goodness. After all isn’t that what prayer is all about? Reminding us that God’s hand is in it all. That we are invited to be a part of what he is ALREADY doing.
Prayer takes us straight to the heart of God. It is what connects us to His plan already in progress. It takes our out-of-control life and brings it increasingly under the control of our Father, our Father in Heaven.
So, as we pray this prayer this week as a reminder, not as a list of demands, may it go something like this:
Our Father who art in heaven…
God, you care about everyone equally. I am no better and no worse than anyone around me. I am your child and that is where my identity lies. You are OUR Father who is in heaven, because of this you have an entirely different perspective than I do. Thank you for recognizing that I need to be reminded of this often. The distractions of this world do a pretty good job of taking my eyes off of you. I can never have enough reminders of who you are and my place in your family.
Hallowed be thy name…
You are separate from anything on this earth, yet you have made a way for me to talk to you. You have the most holy name of all, yet you call me “mine.” Your name is just as precious as you are, and should be treated as such. May I remember to always recognize you as holy, treat you as holy, and reflect your holiness.
Thy kingdom come…
It is so easy to be the king of my own domain, but you remind me that you are to be my king, you are the ruler of my domain…not me…not ever. Your ultimate kingdom is just around the corner. As you rule my heart, may it be a reminder that you will one day rule a new heaven and a new earth.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
Your will is happening. There is nowhere that I can go to escape your will for me. I can either chose to surrender to your will and glorify you in what you have for me, or I can fight it, live a life of turmoil and find that peace will continually be just out of my reach. I am reminded that the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ is only found in the center of your will. Closely hold me there and keep me from selfishly sabotaging myself.
Give us this day our daily bread…
Not only are my needs met, but you quench my desire to worry about tomorrow. Today, right now, you have provided what I need…I am satisfied. My provider. Jehovah-Jireh. Whether it is through the toil of my own hands to put food on the table, or a spiritual gift you have lavished upon me, I have absolutely no need to worry. Today you remind me that I am cared for, I am loved, I am yours.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…
I am forgiven. THANK YOU, JESUS! You have washed away my guilt and shame. To continue in my guilt is basically saying that I don’t think your sacrifice was good enough for me, that the price you paid was not high enough. But that is a lie straight from my enemy! You have strategically given me a daily reminder of your selfless sacrifice and your never-ending forgiveness. A strategy to not only defeat my enemy but to follow your example and practice forgiveness.
And do not lead us into temptation…
You lead me. Temptation is placed in front of me by my enemy. You never lead me towards it, but are instead continually leading me away from it…toward yourself. Toward holiness, righteousness and truth. Temptation is filled with lies that my enemy uses to play to my evil desires and draw me away from you. But as I draw closer to you, in my weakness, your strength shines through it. The only direction you lead me towards is victory over my enemy. You gently remind me that if I only follow you, my struggles will become dim in comparison to your life-giving light.
But deliver us from evil…
I am at war, but you have already won! When it feels like the world simply cannot get any worse…it does. My heart is heavy as I live in this evil place. But this is not my home. This is not the end. You have given me the tools, the armor; all I need to do is put it on. You remind me that all I need to do is stand my ground…you have already won. I have been delivered. I stand here armed with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. My feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit…required protection as I stand to face my enemy and say, “YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE! GOD HAS ALREADY WON!”
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. AMEN!
Part One can be read here. I don’t yet know how many “parts” this series will be, and I may even post other things in between, but I want to share with you how falling in love with Jesus is about remembering the “firsts” of your relationship with him. This post includes “first” number two, and I hope to share with you other “firsts” I have experienced with God in the weeks to come.
The First Time I Saw God Run
It was the spring of 1986. Back when “Spring Break” used to be called “Easter Vacation.” I sat in the Main Chapel of Mt. Gilled Bible Camp and listened as our speaker challenged us with truths from God’s Word. I honestly don’t remember what the teaching was about, but I do remember the conviction that was weighing heavy on my heart. My 14th birthday was just around the corner, but already I had done plenty of living for myself. Fashion and boys concerned me a lot more than the condition of my heart. Church was something I did because it was fun to see my friends. And loving God was a task on my to do list.
But in that chapel service, God showed me something that changed my thinking forever.
Anyone who has grown up in church knows that feeling. You know…the one you get when the words that are being spoken aren’t necessarily being heard, they are, in fact, piercing your heart. Your pulse begins to race, your palms get sweaty, and you know that some part of your life is about to do a 180 and you can’t decide if it’s going to feel good or not. Yep, that is what I was feeling as the musician began to play a song called, “When God Ran.”
As soon as I heard the words, tears began to pour down my face…
Almighty God, The Great I Am,
Immovable Rock, Omnipotent, Powerful,
Victorious Warrior, Commanding King of Kings,
Mighty Conqueror and the only time,
The only time I ever saw him run,
He ran to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said
“Son, do you know I still love You?”
He caught me By surprise, When God ran…
The thing is, I come from a good Christian family. I was only 13 years old. How could I already be feeling the suffocating weight of sin in my life? Because I believe that we are each born with a God-sized hole in our heart. And as I headed into my teen years I did what ever I could to fill it up with approval from others, but anytime we try to fill that hole with anything other than God it eats us up inside. But as the words of the song came to life and penetrated my soul, it was like being delivered from chronic pain. The tears started to fall, accompanied by feelings of remorse, and guilt, not for anything I had done but for Who I had left out. But then “as He ran to me, held my head to His chest…“, I had the most beautiful picture in my head of God running toward me, forgiving me. He wasn’t standing there with his arms folded waiting for me to run. He ran to me…and then ever so gently he, “…Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes,” and I remember feeling His peace wash over me as I raised my arms to Him with the most grateful heart, and my tears of guilt were turned into tears of joy.
Yes, I definitely remember the first time I saw God run…and my life has never been the same.
Sticky notes anywhere we will notice them, planners with color coded blocks of time, reminder apps on our phone. Everyone has a system. A way to keep track of it all. Sometimes I even try to keep track of it all in my head. But, wow! That never seems to work out well! I usually end up doing things like getting halfway home from running errands only to be reminded by a text that I forgot to pick up my son from youth group. Yeah, that one was especially embarrassing, and is in my very recent past. It seems that as my kids hit the teen years, we are finding a whole new level of busy that I didn’t even know existed. I don’t know if I am going to survive being taxi-mom. However, I do know one thing that will help me get through it all. It is actually quite simple, really. I just don’t do it enough.
A few weeks ago I spontaneously found myself without kids for FOUR HOURS. This was not on the plan, but it sort of just fell in my lap…thanks to a very dear friend. I started to prioritize the endless list in my head as I headed home in my empty car. But as I drove down the road on this beautiful, sunny, Florida day another thought started to form in my mind. What if the list waited, I turned the opposite direction, and took some time to put my toes in the sand? It is the end of February for crying out loud. I live in Florida and I had not yet been to the beach at all in 2016. It was time. And as I turned my car toward the ocean, a calm came over me and a smile crept up on my face. I was about to learn what was missing from my list.
The sand was warm, the sun shone on my face, and the sound of the waves brought peace to my soul. I walked along slowly taking it all in. I had my phone with me and began to take pictures, capturing this moment of clarity. I began to see everything in clear focus. Life is busy, yes, but while life is happening, this peaceful place is here all the time waiting to be enjoyed.
I saw a man-o-war glistening in the wet sand,
I saw pretty pink chairs just begging to have their picture taken,
I saw birds in flight, but it seemed effortless for them.
All they had to do was hold out their wings, the wind did the rest. As I breathed it all in, I realized that my focus had become so narrow. I wanted to be like those birds. Floating on the wind in, what seemed, an effortless flight. It is about that moment that I realized what had been missing from my list.
PERSPECTIVE. The one thing that keeps it all from swallowing me up.
When I broaden my perspective things that I thought were important begin to fall away and sometimes even get erased from the list. Sorting piles, never-ending organizing, cleaning that really only stays that way for about five minutes. Are those things really so important? What kinds of things am I going to be proud of at the end of the day? That I cleaned the pantry or that I was clear-headed enough to see a look on my kid’s face and know that they needed to talk. And better yet, be patient, put it all aside, and actually have that talk.
When I watched those birds, who where solely dependent on the wind for their flight, I was reminded that the Lord should be that wind for me. I often try to fly by my own power, but quickly find out it simply doesn’t work like that. I’m often running on empty and have nothing left to give when it is needed the most. But when I stretch out my arms and let His infinite, life-giving breeze carry me, I see it all from above, through His eyes, His perspective. It is there that I am reminded to let go, breathe, and let Him carry me to the places He has carved out, just for me. It is there that I find my eternal perspective.