Last week I spoke during a service about spending time in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. I’d hoped to inspire at least some of the people in the congregation to go and speak to their MP about breaches of international law that are taking place. After the service, a lady from the congregation approached me. We had an interesting chat and then she concluded with: “Well, I guess all we can do is pray about it.”
I’ll be honest, there was a voice inside of me that was shouting: “NO! No we shouldn’t just pray about it; I need you to DO something about it!” At least a little part of me felt that her praying was going to have absolutely no impact on peace and justice in the Middle East. Is that wrong? Does it invalidate my faith? Make me a bad Christian?
I pray quite often. But I have to admit, I probably spend more time wondering why I bother. I’m not such a good pray-er. I ramble, I can’t concentrate, I go off on a tangent. I rarely feel like God is listening, never mind responding.
But I know it is important and I want to be better, so I’m attempting to ask – and maybe one day even answer – what’s the point of prayer? There’s only one prayer that Jesus taught us, so I figured that’s a good place to start.
The problem with the Lord’s Prayer though is that it trips off the tongue. I say the words, but I’m not always thinking about them. But since I have started trying to think about them, I’m happy to say I’m encouraged.
I’m encouraged that it’s short and to the point. That makes it easy for people like me who mostly like to work in 140 characters. If we never prayed any other prayer, Jesus would be happy with this one.
I’m encouraged that even though I’ve always found “Our father who art in heaven” a bit formal and stuffy, the father bit comes from the word ‘Abba’ – the familiar word for dad, or a very special spiritual teacher. It’s about being close to someone, and God wants us to use it for Him.
I’m encouraged by what’s in the rest of the prayer. For us to forgive our debts to each other and make sure everyone has enough bread. Marcus Borg reminds us that the people Jesus spent his time with were peasants. Food and debts were the main worries for poor people in the first century, and Jesus wants us to be free from those worries.
I’m encouraged that we don’t pray for ‘my daily bread’ we pray for “our daily bread”. My petition isn’t fulfilled while I have enough to eat but others are still going hungry.
So as I see it, in this summary of what is most important to God; it’s that we feel we’re loved by God and that there’s food and justice – for everyone. It’s not about eternity, but it is about bringing the kingdom to earth. So I think it shows us that God needs us to pray for it, and then go and do something about it.
Maybe that’s why it’s only a few lines – it leaves us with plenty of time to get on with it.
Image ‘Gethsemane Grotto’ by Gary Hardman, stock.xchng images.