November 18, 2005

A Different Look At The Lord's Prayer

“Our Father which art in heaven . . .”




Don’t interrupt me. I’m praying.


            But you called me!


Called you? I didn’t call you. I’m praying. “Our Father which art in heaven . . . ”


            There, you did it again.


Did what?


You called me. You said, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Here I am . . . What’s on your mind?


But I didn’t mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day.


            All right. Go on.


“Hallowed be thy name . . .”


            Hold it. What do you mean by that?


By what?


            By “hallowed be thy name”?


It means . . . it means . . . good grief! I don’t know what it means. How should I know? By the way, what does it mean?


            It means honored, holy, wonderful.


Hey, that makes sense. I never thought about what “hallowed” meant before. “Thy kingdom come. thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”


            Do you really mean that?


Sure, why not?


            What are you doing about it?


Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.


            Have I got control of you?



Well, I go to church . . .


That isn’t what I asked you. What about your bad temper? You’ve really got a problem there, you know. And then there’s the way you spend your money--all on yourself. And what about the kind of books you read?


Stop picking on me! I’m just as good as some of the rest of those people at the church. Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. But I really would like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.


            Good. Now we’re getting somewhere.

            We’ll work together, you and I. Some victories can truly be won. I’m proud of you.


Look, Lord, I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does. “Give us this day our daily bread.”


            You need to cut out the bread. You’re overweight as is.


Hey, wait a minute. What is this, “Criticize me day”?


Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed, you know. You called me, and here I am. It’s too late to stop now. Keep praying. I’m interested in the next part of your prayer . . . (pause). Well, go on.


I’m scared to.


            Scared? Of what?


I know what you’ll say.


            Try me and see.


“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”


            What about Ann?


See? I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why, Lord, she’s told lies about me, spread stories about my family. She never paid back the debt she owes me. I’ve sworn to get even with her!


            But what about your prayer?


I didn’t mean it.


Well, at least you’re honest. But it’s not much fun carrying that load of bitterness around inside, is it?


No. But I’ll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I got some plans for that neighbor. She’ll wish she had never moved into this neighborhood.


Revenge isn’t sweet. Think of how unhappy you already are. But I can change all that.


You can? How?


Forgive Ann. Then I’ll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Ann’s problem, and not yours.


Oh, you’re right. You always are. And more than I want to revenge Ann, I want to be right with you. Ann, I want to be right with you . . . (pause) . . . (sigh). All right! All right. I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She’s bound to be awfully miserable now that I think about it. Anybody who goes around doing the things she does to others has to be out of it. Someway, somehow, show her the right way.


            There now! Wonderful! How do you feel?


Well, not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, I feel pretty great! You know, I don’t think I’ll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first time since I can remember.


            You’re not through with your prayer. Go on . . .


Oh, all right. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”


            Good! I’ll do that. Just don’t put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.


What do you mean by that?


Don’t turn on the TV when you know the laundry needs to be done and the house needs to be picked up. Also, about the time you spend coffeeing with your friends. If you can’t influence the conversation to positive things, perhaps you should rethink the value of those friendships. Another thing: your neighbors and friends shouldn’t be your standard for “keeping up.” And please don’t use me for an escape hatch.


I don’t understand the last part.


Sure you do. You’ve done it a lot of times. You get into trouble, and then you come running to me, “Lord, help me out of this mess, and I promise you I’ll never do it again.” You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?


Yes, and I’m ashamed, Lord. I really am.


            Go ahead and finish your prayer.


“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”


            Do you know what would bring me glory? What would really make me happy?


No, but I’d like to know. I want now to please you.  I can see what a mess I’ve made of my life. And I can see how great it would be to really be one of your followers.


            You just answered the question.


I did?


Yes. The thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I see that happening between us. Now that some of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, there is no telling what we can do together.

*Taken from If God Talked Out Loud, by Clyde Lee Herring (Nashville:  Broadman Press,1977).