Over my younger years as a believer any time I heard sermons on “The Lord’s Prayer” I was told that of course it should not really be called “The Lord’s Prayer” but “The Disciples Prayer.” Such cleverness impressed me as a teenager and I would stroke my as yet non existent beard and moustache and nod gravely and seriously as I took delight in that little intellectual morsel and noted it down so I could impress others with it. One of the reasons given for that re-naming was that Jesus was sinless and so of course could not pray for forgiveness of His sins. However wise that sounds, it is actually quite dumb. I have lived long enough to see that preachers and teachers who criticise long standing traditions are rarely right in what they say, though occasionally of course they can be. On the occasions where they are, they can indeed change the course of history ,as for example the Reformation bears witness. Such moments though, are rare. I have usually had to repent of thinking I have seen some novel interpretation of some Scripture that no one else seems to have seen ,which I have then inflicted on a long suffering congregation!
The most useful quote I remember from a book on Church History by a writer whose name I cannot remember is “Heresy is born out of the itch for something new.” The correct name for the prayer if we need to name it is indeed “The Lord’s Prayer.” Why? For this reason: Jesus numbered Himself with the transgressors, so of course He could pray “Father forgive us our sins.” He is as intimately one with His imperfect and sinful followers as the head is joined to the body.
I was challenged by my own thought for today’s blog to look at how I pray for the Church in Scotland. I am so quick to see what I consider faults and wrongs in my own denomination and in others. It is something I dislike about myself intensely and quite often cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, will this ever die in me?” The challenge of the fact that “The Lord’s Prayer” should indeed be called “The Lord’s Prayer” is this: do I see the sins of the church, whether of my own or another denomination as “our” sins? Do I pray to “Our Father” or do I always simply pray to “My Father” for “them,” disassociating myself from the failings, the faithlessness, the disobedience, the imperfections, the impurities in doctrine and practice, the lack of zeal, the moral compromise and worldliness that I see in “them”? Do I see their problems as “theirs,” their needs as “theirs,” their worries as “theirs,” their struggles in faith as “theirs” while I sail on unspotted on a spiritual adrenalin surge, exhilarated by my ability to discern the errors of other believers, other leaders, other churches?
One of my favourite bible stories is the story of the Tax collector and the Pharisee at prayer. You can read it in Luke Chapter 18. If anyone could have genuinely prayed the Pharisee’s prayer legitimately, “I thank Thee that I am not like other men, robbers, evil doers, or even like this crooked tax collector over here… etc” it would have been Jesus. I cannot prove it but I think you would often have found Him instead beating His breast and using similar words to the corrupt tax collector, “Father have mercy upon us.”
To rename “The Lord’s Prayer,” “The Disciples prayer” shows that while we may have a perfect doctrine of the Atonement we have a very imperfect doctrine of the Incarnation. God’s Son was numbered with the transgressors, not just by His enemies but by His own self-identification with us. It is why He came. He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. One day when all His flock are gathered together He will say with joy as He presents us to The Father, “Here am I and the children You have given me!”
Yesterday, Today and Forever, Jesus is the same. If you could listen into the prayers of the ascended Christ, He so carries you and I in his heart that at times you would hear Him, the Sinless One ,who lives and reigns in the power of an endless life, praying for you and for me and for His Church thus: “Father, help us in our weakness. Forgive us our sins, Father. Give us all we need for this day. Help us to honour your Name. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!”
It was indeed His own prayer that He taught us to pray.
May you know the fellowship of Christ’s Presence and sense the closeness of your fellow believers the next time you close the door and pray in secret. He is faithful to His calling as our High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities and so is able to deal gently with us. May we be faithful to our calling to be a Kingdom of Priests and carry one another in our hearts in gentle hopeful love into the presence of “Our Father” and join our prayers to Christ’s perfect intercessions.
“God bless us, every one” is a pretty good prayer!
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