Has prayer ever puzzled you? The spiritual discipline of prayer has always been a challenge for me. So many things in life work against it: busyness, distractions, fatigue, mobile devices, desire for instant gratification, ADHDwhere was I again? Oh, yes! Apathy, doubt in prayer's effectiveness, over-familiarity with the words that guide me in prayer, selfish motivations should I go on? Wow! After reading that list, prayer seems defeated from the start.
Many people have formulated "guides" and "tools" to assist us in more effective prayer. One of these guides uses the acronym "ACTS," which breaks prayer down into: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (our requests). This has been helpful to me, however I tend to be very heavy on the Confession and Supplication parts of prayer, which in itself reveals much of my problem.
There's a prayer that is shaping me like never before. It is referred to as "The Lord's Prayer." If you aren't familiar with it, you can find it in the Bible in Matthew chapter 6 and it reads like this:
Pastor Eric Bonness
"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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Matthew 6:9-13
If you grew up in a Christian family, you may be so familiar with this prayer that the words roll off your tongue effortlessly. If you do not have this background, you may have an advantage by not being over-familiar, leading to numbness to the prayer's meaning. Whether this was your family background or not, words like "hallowed," "kingdom," and "daily bread" are either foreign to us, or take us down completely different roads. However, when the prayer shifts to the words "forgive," "debts," "temptation" and "evil" we relate fairly well.
I have to be honest. I've tended to gloss over the first sentence and get right to the point: Give us, forgive us and lead us. Maybe it's just my personality? Maybe I thought the first line was just an "intro"? Here is the reality that is shaping me like never before. I need the first line more than all the rest. Or should I say, all the rest flow out of the first line. Here's what I mean by this: He is my heavenly father because of what he has done, not me. I have no control over his adoption of me. This grace amazes me, and yet I turn away so quickly.
Reflections, a mini-sermon written by Minot and area clergy, will appear each Saturday in The Minot Daily News. Clergy interested in writing a mini-sermon should contact Religion Editor Loretta Johnson at 857-1952 or Debbie Sandvold at 857-1950. The toll-free number is 1-800-735-3229.
"Hallowed be your name" means that no other name comes close in my life. Not my name, fame or reputation. Not my work. Not the "mighty dollar." Then comes this "Your kingdom come" phrase. I spend most of my life worried about a kingdom, but it is not God's. It's my kingdom with its own set of plans, goals, objectives and measures of beauty and success.
Therefore, I have a new perspective on prayer. It is really about me being reminded of who God is, not who I am, what I want, or what my circumstances are. I need one thing in my life to be solid and unchanging. Prayer doesn't change God; he is sovereign and eternal, two words that have lost meaning in our lives. If I'm looking for hope and security, I must pray. Prayer doesn't change anything, it changes someoneme!
Pastor Eric Bonness is executive pastor at Trinity Church in Minot.