Sometimes when I feel a need to pray but I don’t know what to say, I turn to the Lord’s Prayer. After all, it came from Jesus himself. It’s part of His instruction to keep it simple and not try to impress God or others with some long, rambling prayer (not that there aren’t times when we need to pour out our whole heart to Him). I think the simplicity is part of what attracts me to it when I’m not sure what else to say.
It’s not an easy prayer. Many churches of all denominations pray this prayer corporately on a regular basis. It’s one of the first parts of the Bible that I memorized as a child. So it’s easy to skim through it without catching the gravity of the promise. However, if you look closely, it’s a major commitment. One that challenges us to be holy.
Just a few verses earlier at the end of Matthew 5, Jesus is tell us to be perfect as the Father is perfect (Matt 5:48 KJV). Then He immediately launches into instructions on how to pray. Prayer and holiness are closely linked. You cannot grow in holiness without an active prayer life. Look at the pledge Jesus directs us to make in the prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
Matt 6:9-13 (KJV)
The part that gets me these days is verse 12: forgive us as we forgive others. Wow. Do we really want God to forgive us as we forgive others? If we want to follow the example of Jesus, then the answer must be: yes.
One thing I’ve noticed is that often the more I need mercy, the harder it is for me to give it. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It reminds us of our common state of being humans, fallen creatures redeemed because of His grace and mercy. And it reminds us of our required cooperation with His grace.
I have a temper and am not always patient, especially with the public at large. Usually, I catch the thoughts in my head and call them into line before they escape my lips or become actions. When I start slipping and getting angry over things which I can’t control, or when my level of reaction is too great for the crime, I know that I should probably check my conscience. Usually, I find there’s something going on with me. I’m clogged up by unconfessed sin, apathy or some other internal issue. Once I clear that blockage, I’m once again able to allow God’s mercy to flow not only to me, but through me to others.