The Lord’s Prayer For Our Country

Last week, we began to pray for our country using the Lord’s Prayer as our framework and prayer prompts. This week, we begin with the line, “Forgive us our Sins.”

Forgive us our sins…As I wrote last month, “The last I checked my own heart, I discovered hatred, rage, revenge, incredible selfishness, superficiality, immorality and disbelief. I am part of the problem and the sooner I can start working on my own heart and continue to transform into a Christlike version of myself, the sooner the world will change around me.” How easy we can be self righteous and judgemental when it comes to our political lives yet the world is calling for us to “walk humbly.” We can start by seeking forgiveness for all the ways we screw things up.

As we forgive those who sin against usDesmond Tutu says, “Forgiveness is nothing less than the way we heal the world. We heal the world by healing each and every one of our hearts. The process is simple, but it is not easy.” In the Matthew version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says that if we do not forgive the wrongs done to us then God will not forgive us. We cannot take the forgiveness from the nailed-scarred hands of Jesus and then hold unforgiveness back from others. Life doesn’t work the way it should with this approach. It just doesn’t. Is there any place in our public lives that needs more signs of forgiveness than our political lives?

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Lead us not into temptation…This is the call for God to put the reins on our proclivity to take matters into our own hands. As we think about what is best for our country the temptation is for us to use any means necessary to achieve our desired outcome. If those means push us towards evil or abuse of power or harm to others then it is not of God. This is our great political temptation – that everything is on the table. This is a lie and something we should desperately avoid.

And deliver us from evil…In this prayer, we have established who God is, where his place in the order of things resides, and how great his name is. He has the power to deliver us from anything, including radical evil of our own making and the evil made by others. Our memorization and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer makes this final portion of the prayer almost a throw away line but there is nothing unimportant about the deliverance we need and the deliverance our country is crying out for. Let God handle the deliverance business, it will work out better that way.

For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever…Again, this isn’t some throw away line at the end of the prayer because it needs a way to wrap up. No, this is our declaration of where our allegiance lies. God’s kingdom is above all kingdoms. God’s power is above all power. God’s glory will be forever and ever. This is a great reminder that our country has been blessed by God but it is not the same as the Kingdom of God and the power and responsibility that has been granted to our country should be in submission to the power held only by God. Our glory is only found in God’s glory.

Amen”That is just the way we want it.”

The Lord’s Prayer For Our Country

I am not very imaginative and especially not when it comes to my prayers. I use the Lord’s Prayer to give my daily prayers an outline and a framework to know what to pray for and where my heart should be in the matter.

Today, I would like to use the Lord’s Prayer as a way to pray for our country. I often find the call for prayer for our country to be a veiled attempt to push our own agenda and political preferences instead of emulating the heart of Jesus and the way that he taught us to pray. So, here is a way to pray for the United States or any country using the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father…He is our Abba, our Daddy. He is not a heavy handed taskmaster ready to lash out at our country. He loves our country and the people who inhabit it. All of the people.

Who art in heaven…God is intimate like a father but also beyond us in majesty, glory, power, and might. He inhabits a place of such grandeur we cannot comprehend yet we have to consider the Jewish concept of heaven which was multilayered. This Father of ours inhabits the heaven that is simply the sky above us and the air we breath. God is here – in the election booth, in the hospital rooms, in the Governor’s mansion, in the White House, in the unemployment line. God is here.

Hallowed be thy name…His name is above all names, including our candidate of choice or political party affiliation. Our allegiance belongs to him and we pray that his name will be glorified in our country no matter who wins in November.

The Lord’s Prayer (Le Pater Noster), by James TissotBrooklyn Museum

Thy kingdom come…God’s kingdom is where what God wants done is done. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is at hand. That means that we can call down God’s kingdom now and in this place. We can pray for this kingdom to move and spread and take hold in all aspects of our culture even if it counters some of the ways and means of our political party of choice.

Thy will be done...God’s will is perfect and good and it is also our maximum fulfillment. In other words we can trust that God knows what he is doing and that what he is doing will bring us what we long for. To ask for God’s will to be done in our country doesn’t mean that we don’t vote or champion causes or fight for what we feel will bring the most good to our nation but it does mean that our best posture is a yielding to what God wants done and not just our own desires.

On earth as it is in Heaven…The Kingdom of God is a now thing and an eternity thing. Our prayer for our country is a prayer for the best of Heaven to be found among us despite how ludicrous that sounds.

Give us today our daily bread…Since we have already praised God for who he is and asked for him to take action and spread his kingdom we can now get down to our basic needs. Americans are in the midst of division, are combating racism, fighting a pandemic, facing economic uncertainty, and are navigating the mental and emotional strain of personal and national crisis. We can pray that people will have food to live on, medical care to fight the virus, financial means to provide for their family, vaccines that will eliminate and protect, and a sense of community and relationships that are life giving and sustaining. God can provide these things and desires to provide these things but we need to ask, not just for ourselves but for Americans collectively.

Next week, as we continue to pray for our country, we will look at the remainder of the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus the Carpenter

One of my most embarrassing weaknesses is my complete lack of mechanical ability. Changing light bulbs sometimes prove a challenge and anything beyond replacing a tire air cap on a car is a monumental feat. 

I consider some of my greatest accomplishments being replacing car batteries and a toilet seat. The day I changed a tire, with the help of YouTube and hours to waste, was akin to climbing a great peak. I am a librarian that is often outnumbered by women but still have had to refer to certain coworkers with heightened mechanical ability to solve problems with a disabled stapler or a cantankerous hole punch. Ask me who won the 1982 World Series or the difference between an Atom Bomb and a Hydrogen Bomb and I can be your Google substitute but ask me to build a bird house and I would be completely inept and laughable. If a Nailed It exists for handyman tasks then sign me up. 

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

As someone who operates much more in their head rather than with their hands, I am sympathetic to those who would have the opposite problem. I recognize that I would have an advantage in understanding, for example, the connection the ancient Hebrews had with the early Christian church. I have a better grasp than some on the history, culture, political makeup, and spiritual heritage that leads to the early church and its ultimate spiritual significance. But, what does that teach me about living or blessing others or what works in society?

So, if Spiritual Formation, or what I like to call Growing Up, doesn’t come easy to you because you feel as if you are not wired like a Pastor or a monk or even a librarian, that is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that Jesus was a carpenter and probably plied his trade as a carpenter longer than he spent teaching, healing, and spreading the Gospel. How did being a carpenter help Jesus form his ministry? What spiritual and leadership problems did he work out in his carpentry shop? What did his calloused hands have to show him about building a life that mattered and would withstand the storms of life?

One thing he learned was his teaching about the Kingdom of God was going to be the foundation for a good life. He once said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” He knew the value of a strong foundation, the reality of strong winds and shifting sand, and the wisdom it takes to make life work the way it should. He knew that he had the building blocks and the power to help people build a life that matters, that blesses others, and is strong enough for the worst that life can bring. Some have called Jesus the most intelligent person who ever lived and a great teacher but we can imagine that he was a pretty good carpenter too. And that helped him grow in wisdom and stature and find favor with God and man.

So if you are the opposite of me and can do great things with your hands and build and fix things then you possess a great gift. Not only are you incredibly useful but you share in Jesus’ experience of tangibly and physically turning nothing into something or repairing that which is broken into something that works and works well. Thank you for your valuable gift and embrace your strength as it teaches you more and more about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

Out of the Depths: A Meditation on Psalm 130

Read the psalm below or here and then join me in reflecting on the message.

“Out of the depths”…The Lord loves to answer our emergency prayers. It doesn’t matter if we are to blame for being in the depths we can still cry out to God and he will listen.

“Hear my voice”…God knows my voice. He knows my heart when it aches or bleeds or is broken. He recognizes my soul as one in a universe. My cries of mercy will be listened to by the Lord of all creation.

If you Lord, kept a record of sins”...My ledger would be full. Volumes would be written on me. The record would show ample evidence of my propensity to fail you and those around me.

“But with you there is forgiveness”…My sin doesn’t secure my future, God’s forgiveness is my security and destiny. Not so I can gloat and feel proud of myself but so I can serve with reverence.

“I wait for the Lord”...Every part of myself waits for the Lord. Just a word for him is enough to fill me with hope. My mind waits to be covered in thoughts from above. My soul waits to be restored. My body waits to be empowered to do good things. My heart waits to be mended and stitched to resemble Christ’s heart.

“More than watchmen”…I long for the light and for the darkness to be finished. At that moment, my striving and straining will be over and my hope will be fulfilled.

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord”…To hope is to anticipate the good that is coming. God is full of goodness and steadfast (unceasing) love. Nothing can separate us from this goodness. This good is coming.

“And with him is full redemption”…What I have trashed and torn apart through my sin and unfaithfulness, God will completely restore to what it should be.

“He himself”…There is nothing I can do to make this redemption happen, only God. I cry out and he listens. I seek forgiveness and he absolves me of my mistakes. I wait and he brings hope. I am in his hands and he is making me a child of His.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive

    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

    Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,

    and in his word I put my hope.

I wait for the Lord

    more than watchmen wait for the morning,

    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,

    for with the Lord is unfailing love

    and with him is full redemption.

He himself will redeem Israel

    from all their sins.