One theologian has described mission as being caught up in the ‘heartbeat of God’. One of the most important ways in which we’re drawn into God’s heartbeat is prayer. In the August–September edition of The Lutheran, we’re going to explore how Jesus shapes us for mission through the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13 – NRSV).
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Read Matthew 5:43–48. What does it mean for us to call God ‘Father’?
Does this change the way that we relate to other people?
The beginning of the prayer invites us into a new identity, giving us a new status as God’s children. This means God’s holiness is reflected in us and when Jesus teaches us to pray to ‘our Father’, he shares with us his own relationship with God.
In the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear that ‘now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters’ (Heb 2:11 – NLT). By inviting us into God’s life, the beginning of the prayer joins us to Jesus’ mission. It is only because ‘the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost’ (Luke 19:10) that we can even begin this prayer.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Read Matthew 6:25–33. What things do you worry about? What would it mean for the kingdom of God to dominate your thoughts as much as these things?
Before we pray for our own needs, Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s kingdom comes, and for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. This prayer draws us beyond ourselves.
Most of us in modern Australia and New Zealand think we need more things in our lives than we actually do. By teaching us to pray for God’s kingdom and just for the needs of today, not tomorrow, Jesus sets us free from worry about getting what we think we need so that we can simply live out God’s mission as we love God and our neighbours.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Read Matthew 18:23–35. In what ways has God’s forgiveness shaped your life? Can you recall a time when God’s forgiveness worked through you for someone else?
If Jesus had just left things at ‘forgive us our debts’, that would be a worthy prayer, but it wouldn’t draw us into Jesus’ mission. By asking us to pray ‘as we forgive our debtors’, Jesus invites us to be ambassadors of the kingdom of God. As forgiven people, we are forgiving people – not people worried about what others owe us, or what we think we might deserve. We are drawn further into Jesus’ mission and present God’s compassion, mercy and grace to other people.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
Read Matthew 7:24–29.
Just as the beginning of the prayer invited us into God’s life, its conclusion invites us to continue trusting God. We are reminded that we do not need strength to endure trial, but we need rescue. Jesus did not save himself from the cross, but the Father raised him from the dead. In our lives, we are part of Jesus’ mission when we build our house on his rock.
Our hope for our lives, our mission, our church and our world doesn’t come from our own strength and wisdom but is grounded in God’s deliverance. The Lord’s Prayer leaves us relying on Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – the completion of his mission – as our hope for the future and it shapes us to participate in his ongoing life.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer – slowly. As you do, reflect on the invitation that God is offering to you in each petition. How does this prayer affect your life and relationships? You may wish to make this a regular habit.
Jacob Traeger leads a church plant in Canberra’s Molonglo Valley and serves as Mission Facilitator at the Immanuel Woden Valley sending church.