Give Up Praying the “My Father”
Your relationship to God depends on it.
If you’ve ever been around a Christian Church of any stripe: Catholic to Pentecostal, Baptist to Orthodox – you’ve heard the “Our Father” AKA “Lord’s Prayer” Just to be clear there is NO “My Father” in Christian scripture. However, recently I’ve been reflecting on this prayer and realize this is how I have prayed for years, AND it is how I see most believers (at least here in the USA) pray; if not in word in attitude.
This is something I hope to give-up for lent AND beyond; it is the difference between living out the will of God and living in practical apostasy.
In Luke 11 we read:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
I learned this years ago, I’ve said it countless times but I had never considered that there is no ME, MY or I in this prayer. But there are 4 references to US (5 if you count the traditional “OUR Father”)
When most of us pray, we ask God for blessings on ourselves. “Help me, give me, protect me…” and when we pray for “US” it is for the people close to us (family and closest friends) – and for me, the truth is I pray for them because I need them. So most of the “praying for others” I really selfishly do for me.
As I reflected on all the “US” in the Lord’s Prayer, I began to realize something I had not fully grasped but I think is at the heart of the gospel:
“We are not to pray anything for ourselves, that we do not also pray for others.”
Give US this day our daily bread…
Do I have the right to pray for MY bread, MY needs and desires if I’m not also willing to pray the same for people I have never met? Consider the mom in Honduras, caring for her children while her husband is far away working, or the child living in poverty in the USA – can I pray for my self-centered desires without praying that these (and millions others) will also have their needs met?
Forgive US our sins…
It is not easy to admit MY sin. Asking for forgiveness is HARD, It requires me to admit I am broken and have done wrong. But Jesus does not tell me to ask for the forgiveness of just MY sin. I need to pray for the forgiveness of OUR sins: People who offend me, or threaten me as well as those who are much more”evil” than I. I am supposed to pray for THEM to find forgiveness, as I pray for my own forgiveness.
Lead US not into temptation…
Again it is natural to pray that God will protect me from evil and guide me, but it is super-natural to pray for the same for those I do not know, trust OR even recognize as part of MY world.
I said above the difference of the MY FATHER and the OUR FATHER is:
…the difference between living out the will of God and living in practical apostasy.
When I pray only for ME I deny the power of the Gospel that we are:
- rescued “.. into the Kingdom of light”
- adopted into the family of God
- part of the body of Christ
Praying “My Father” allows believers of creed and doctrine to deny God in through their actions.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18
John is saying, as Jesus taught earlier; having the LOVE of GOD demands us to LOVE OTHERS – and love never exists without action.
Economics, justice and social structures must be connected to our faith. Jesus was clear he came to proclaim Good News to the Poor and freedom for the oppressed.
I see the verse above and think, “if you see your brother or sister in need” includes those:
- without health care
- trapped in our immigrant dead zone with no way out
- facing unjust policing
- struggling on a minimum wage job
- seduced into hateful cults like ISIS
Praying the “MY FATHER” allows me to forget most of the world. It allows me to criticize another in a situation I will never face, who made decision I could never fathom.
Praying the “OUR FATHER” reminds me I am connected. The second great commandment is to love my neighbor as I love myself, and Jesus made it clear your neighbor is the person you think you have the LEAST in common with (Story of the Good Samaritan)
Jesus call us into COMMUNITY – out of ISOLATION, the power of the Gospel is new life within his grace and through his spirit. It is not about ME but all about US and the creation of his Beloved Community.
Help us LORD, to Pray the OUR FATHER
…and STOP praying the MY FATHER.