Good thing I didn’t make any promises to post regularly, huh?
A lot has gone down in the past couple months in my personal life, in my denomination (see more of my thoughts on #WeAreTheRCA blog: “Why Reformed Christians Hate Being ‘Reformed'”, and then read everything else that has been posted there), and in our country. It’s been a lot. Even though I’m an incredibly emotion-filled person, I’ve been in a perpetual state of numbness that starts in my chest and reaches all the way to my ears and toes. I’ve had dozens of conversations with family and friends that are full of lament, frustration, confusion, anger, pain, hopelessness, fear… it’s been a lot.
Meanwhile, I’ve been preparing to lead worship at North Holland Church on July 24. Their congregation is currently diving into the Lord’s Prayer via a sermon series covering Matthew 6:9-13…
“Pray then in this way: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one'” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Many words stick out to me in this familiar text: Pray… Father… hallowed… be… name… kingdom… will… heaven… forgive… our… debts… trial… rescue…
Many phrases stick out to me: Our Father… hallowed be your name… kingdom come… will be done… as it is… give us… daily bread… forgive us… have forgiven… bring us… rescue us… Pray, then.
The original hearers of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) were likely poor, downtrodden, lower class, desperate, curious, hopeful, men, women, and children. Maybe they knew God, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they cared about Jesus, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they listened, maybe they didn’t. There are many people today who know this prayer/have prayed this prayer without knowing God, caring about Jesus, or listening to the words.
Then I remember that the disciples and those in the crowd are not actually speaking the prayer – Jesus is. Jesus, assuming that the people he is speaking to do in fact pray, gives them words to pray. He tells them not to pray for the sake of being noticed or sounding impressive, but because praying is who they are: “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6).
Praying is daily, like bread. Praying is in familiar places, like your room. Praying is intimate, like secrets and debts. Praying isn’t supposed to be shoes you haven’t broken in, a mattress that’s too hard, or a fresh button-down that’s too stiff; praying is like a worn book, the smell of a person you love, or slipping on an old pair of jeans. Praying is old and it’s ours – a command and a calling.
Have you prayed today? Not the eyes closed, hands folded, meaningless recitation that would make you feel good about answering the question, but the alone, completely open before God, rooted in the obedience/lament/joy/expectation/faithfulness/pain/curiosity that paints the Scriptures type of prayer?
^^ I don’t always pray that way, but a few mornings ago I did.
I was sipping my coffee, looking at an orchid that I’m plant-sitting for my dear friend, Maggie. I noticed the deeply intricate pinks and purples, the warm greens that stretch down to the pot, the fallen petals being cradled by a tangled mess of roots, and my mind flashed to the lilies of Matthew 6. I realized how cramped my shoulders felt, how tight my grip was on the mug, how furrowed my forehead was, and that all I had been doing in my mind was worrying.
I didn’t start with the Lord’s Prayer, but eventually I got there. In the quiet of my living room – save for the traffic on the busy intersection where we live – I cried out to a God who already knows everything I need. It didn’t necessarily feel good or easy, but it was honest. It definitely wasn’t a fancy pastor-in-the-making prayer, and it didn’t float me up to some theoretical heavenly place – it was a rugged, messy, tie-me-to-reality sort of prayer that met me and an orchid on an average day.
I’m going to try to remember to pray daily; to trust that God is listening, to trust that God actually cares, to trust that God has the power to act, and to trust that God is still all those things even when everything else tells me otherwise. Thankful today for a God who longs to meet with me in my slippers and over-sized sweatshirt, not just in heels and perfect curls.