“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “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. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I never really understood how deep the divisions were among Christians until I returned to the faith. One of the very first things I was told by an alleged leader in the church was that there was a “them” and there was an “us”. And I remember how saddened I felt when I heard this. I was also bewildered because I could not really understand the reasons for this animosity. But, then, I figured I was new to the faith, there was probably much I didn’t understand, but as I grew in the faith, this bewilderment deepened. And a big reason for the bewilderment is because of today’s passage.
Let me explain. The apostles went to the Lord Jesus one day, and asked him to teach them to pray. After a series of instructions, he taught them the prayer we heard today. Every Christian, regardless of denomination says this prayer, commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. I have always believed it was one of the best prayers anybody could say. This wasn’t surprising. After all, our Lord taught it to us. Every word had so much meaning; so much depth. It would move me deeply. And, then I would hear other Christians saying the prayer, often with their hands lifted up in reverence, and then bash their brothers, and think: don’t they get it?
Because the entire prayer is not the supplication of a single individual seeking blessings for himself, but for everybody. There is not a single “I”, “me”, or “mine” in it; there is only a prayer for “us”. When I say this prayer, I am also praying for my brothers and sisters. And who are they? Every other Christian! The prayer begins with the words, “OUR Father.” We acknowledge two things when we say this. One, that I am a child of the Father; two, every other believer is also a child of the Father. John attests to this in his gospel: “But to ALL who received (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
So, if we acknowledge this, then we have to acknowledge that every other Christian, regardless of what they believe in, if they believe in Jesus, they are my brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters should care for each other, no? Brothers and sisters should protect each other, no? Brothers and sisters should live together, and work together, and pray together in harmony, no? So, why then are we always fighting with each other? Why are we constantly trying to pull one another down? Doesn’t anyone care to ask these questions?
Have you heard of a word called statesmanship? It is not a word I have ever heard used in the context of the faith, but I think it is one we need to hear. Simply put, statesmanship can be defined as morally excellent leadership. Statesmen rise above the pettiness, and power hungry, and manipulative practices of politicians to provide strong leadership. We need people like this in the church today, who will see the bigger picture, and understand that it is the way of the devil to divide and rule. The way of God is to unite and bless. And also understand that when we say, “Our Father”, we are declaring we are all his children.
My brothers, my sisters: may our Father bless you.