Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Journey to change and Transformation on a Journey to The Heart Of Prayer: Exploring the Lord's Prayer Part 3 (Matthew 6:7-15)

One of the places we went to when we moved up to Auckland was the zoo, we’d seen that the tigers had had cubs and well Beth aka ‘The crazy cat lady’ wanted to go and see them. It was great watching the cubs frolic and play. The cubs played rough and tumble with each other,they even had a large teddy bear in the cage which by its batted appearance was a favourite toy… I hadn’t been to the zoo for a while and the enclousures for the animals were so much better than I remembered as a kid, more room, more stuff to keep the animals occupied. But I couldn’t help feeling sad when I saw mum and dad tiger pace up and down those magnificent beasts were caged up. It’s not that they had been domesticated, I’m sure if you’d tried to reach in and scratch them under the chin, they would of let you know they were still wild at heart, but they were caged, yes sadly for the protection of their species, but still caged. I couldn’t help but think that we often treat the Lord’s Prayer like that as well. We’ve kind of domesticated it, it’s become something that we’ve locked into our liturgy and we can say it without thinking but in actual fact it’s a dangerous and wild prayer. A Journey to the heart of Prayer, is a journey of unchaining this prayer Jesus taught us to allow it to bring change and transformation in us and our world, as we bring those things to Our Heavenly Father.


Leon Morris says “this is a prayer for the desperate,” Those who know their spiritual poverty who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” who recognise that this world is not as it should be at all and only God can set things right”…a Prayer that says

” God By Your name and in your character,
by your holiness, in your perfects way,
repair the world.
Take all the broken things and fix them.
Take every out of joint thing and set it in its proper place.
Take all the ugly things and make them Beautiful,
Take every tragic tale and weave it into a redemption story,
As you manifest your ultimate kingdom glory now.”

A prayer that a Chinese Christian has summed up Thy Kingdom come…start the work in me’… renew your world and start the work in me.” The journey to the heart of prayer is a journey to change and transformation.


The first transformation in praying the Lord’s Prayer is a simple one on the face of it but a powerful one at its heart. It’s a change of one letter.  That it changes our focus to ‘your’ not ‘our’. After we start the prayer with affirming relationship with God is based on God’s Fatherly love, the focus is on God first and foremost, your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, your will be done. Then we have the “ours”, ‘our daily bread’, ‘forgive our sins’, ‘our future’… ‘lead us not into the time of trial deliver us from evil’. These ours are the things that can consume our hours but they come into perspective when we  pause and focus on the “yours”. In light of who God is, what we know of God’s kingdom and his will we are able to be at rest and trust God for the rest… as Jesus will say later in the Sermon on the Mount when he gets down the brass tacks and dollar bills of economics.. why worry about what you will eat and what you will wear… rather put first the Kingdom of heaven and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”… your Father knows what you need even before you ask him… Therefore pray.


 Now there is an old clique, an old joke that I wasn’t going to share about the rather archaic use of language “hallowed be your name” … which threw me a curve ball this week. We don’t use the word ‘hallowed’ in our regular language anymore. In fact as a passive tense of the word to make holy it is a rarity. It means to take the ordinary and turn it into something holy or consecrate or give reverence to. We can’t make God holy, we are praying that God would be treated and revered for who he is. The old joke of course is that many people go through life thinking that God’s real name, God’s first name at least is Harold. ‘Harold be your name’ it gets a giggle from preachers who resort to it from time to time. But it came home to me in a new way this week when I read a book where because of the English accent used they said ‘Howard be your name”. wow… now that’s not me being egotistical but it made me think… Do I live in a way in all my life that revers God, that seek God’s kingdom, that desires to do God’s will. John Stott puts it like this “ we are under pressure to conform to our self-centered society, with its emphasis on our own names, our own little empires our own silly little will.”


To Pray Hallowed be thy name’ is to focus on reverencing God.  We often ask the question, what’s in a name? and in the ancient near east, in biblical times when you spoke of someone’s name you were summing up their whole character. To honour God’s name is to honour the whole of who God is. EM Blaiklock says it calls us first and foremost for gratitude and worship. The Lord’s Prayer starts with praise, it starts with us acknowledging the goodness and greatness of God.


 William Barkley says we so that in two ways. The first is in having a totally Christian doctrine. That we grasp something of the whole character of God…We can believe in God and many people do, James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God, but it is that we comprehend the whole revelation of God. Of course we have that only in Christ, through the cross. It’s why doctrine, our theology is important.


The second is that we honour God in how we live. Not only in our words but in our hearts and in how we live that out in our lives. In his catechism Martin Luther puts it like this ‘How is God’s name Hallowed amongst us?-when our lives and doctrine and truly Christian.”


We are very used to thinking of kingdoms as like nation states, that it has to do with territory, while the map may change with great rapidity in our fluid world, in the ancient near east kingdoms were seen not necessarily as a fixed territory but where a certain king held sway, where that King ruled. To Pray thy kingdom come is to pray that the rule of God might break more and more into the Kingdom of humanity. In Hebrew poetry it is not always about rhyming lines but rather rhyming ideas, parallels that help us understand meaning… So here Jesus helps us understand what “thy Kingdom comes” mean by saying “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven scripture tells us is the realm where God rules, and Jesus had talked about in a new and different way establishing the kingdom of heaven as Matthew says or the kingdom of God as the other gospels record it here in the realms of humanity. The prayer is that God might rule in this place.


It has a personal element, as we accept Jesus as our Lord and saviour our king our prayer is that God’s rule and God’s will may be done in our lives. To pray this prayer is also a call to confession and repentance to pray that in our lives, our work place, our thought life our use of money, our relationships everything would be committed to Christ. It’s an on-going process, the big word is sanctification, we often think of conversation as a one off event but it is the continued process of opening ourselves up to knowing who God is and what God’s will is and allowing that to shine its light in every corner of our lives.


I have heard it put like this imagine your life is a house, the process of praying thy kingdom come in our own lifes is the process of inviting Jesus into the various rooms of our house. Maybe we just let him into the living area, where we have the public space. What about the bedroom, the place where you keep the dirty laundry. You may think that the kitchen is a safe place to invite Jesus to be the boss, can I tell you one of the most challenging verses in life over recent years has been Isaiah 55:1-2 why spend money on food that will not satisfy” handing my whole eating regime over to God. When you think that this prayer also transcends the personal to the societal and the global, how can we consume so much of the world’s food resources when we know that God’s will is that the poor are fed.


If you are more in to cars than houses…To pray this prayer on a personal level is to drop a ‘u’-ie. To repent, which means like a handbreak turn to stop going our way to go your way O God. I find great comfort in the honesty of heros of the faith like Paul who in romans speaks of the great wrestling match that goes on not on his pay for view sports channel on his 50inch plasma but in the recesses of his own heart, between his old nature and the new nature, that seeks to follow Christ.


It not only calls us to worship and to confession but also to action… It’s also a prayer as we mentioned before about changing the world we live in, at a societal level. I am encouraged and challenged by the words of William Wilberforce. He summed up God’s call on his life as “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” The second part may seem a bit archaic to us but the scope of which Wilberforce’s reforms carried, he and his cohorts not only stopped the slave trade, they founded the RSPCA, for the humane treatment of animals, school reforms, prison reforms work reforms, they were instrumental in establishing the bible society… I could go on. There Christian faith caused them to see the world’s ills and to act to bring transformation. It not only calls us to see people become followers of Jesus, spreading his kingdom to others, and we know that that is God’s will in 1 Timothy Paul encourages God’s people to pray because God wants all people to come to a saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. But also to bring change in the world we see around us. Prayer is action Mother Teresa called her order of nuns a contemplative order which surprised many people, an order dedicated to pray, she said that they gathered to meditate on the face of Jesus and then would go out to see the face of Jesus in the faces of the poor and the dying in the streets of the Mumbai.


We  often pray ‘thy will be done’ as a sort of cope out, usually when we are praying for a situation we use it as an out clause for God. We understand if the answer is no God, we accept that this is your will. We think that the will of God is a hidden thing, a mystery, can I just say that God has revealed his will to us through scripture and through Jesus and calls us out into the world to do that.


In the end thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ are a catch cry for action in this world but also a cry for the future, knowing that God kingdom has been established in Jesus, knowing that God’s will has been revelled to us and also knowing that they will only be consummated, made perfect when Christ returns again. Until then we are called to wait. Not a passive thing but rather a call to pray. To worship, confess, bring the world before its God and to see where God is at work in the world and go and be part of that.


You know I often find myself wondering what to do with my hands when I pray. I don’t know if you noticed the motif in most of the slides we used in our service today was hands, hands held out in prayer, in worship, holding the scriptures to seek to know God and his revealed will more and reaching out in action… The Lord’s prayer calls us to all these postures in our lives. The Lord’s Prayer as I said before is dangerous and wild it cannot be tamed, or domesticated. It is a call to change and transformation. NT Wright says to pray


 ‘Thy kingdom come is seeing the world in binocular vision. To see it with the love of the creator for its spectacular beauty, and see it for the battered and battle scared state in which the world now finds itself. Put those two together and bring the binocular picture into focus, the love and the grief join into the Jesus shape, the Kingdom shape, the shape of the Cross’.

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