Several months ago there was a kerfuffle over an advertisement in which the Lord’s Prayer is prayed by various people across the UK. It was banned because it could offend or upset people of other faiths or none.
The response was fairly predictable: secularists cheering because they think the Lord’s Prayer is offensive, and Christians lamenting because they don’t. Personally, I think the advertisement was great.
But as to whether it was offensive, I have to come out and say it: the secularists were right.
The Lord’s Prayer is not mild, inoffensive, vanilla, listless, nominal, wishy-washy, or wallpapery. If you don’t worship the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is deeply subversive, upsetting, and offensive—from the first phrase to the last.
‘Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name’
Oh lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days;Let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my day’s a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a shadow before you! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
And now, oh Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Psalm 39.4–7
Sovereign Father, though I have no desire to know the exact day or means by which you will take me home, I am committed to live with that they in view. Because the gospel is true, I have no fear of dying. I really believe that to be absent from my body will mean that I am immediately present with you. The sting of my death has been removed. The grave has been robbed of its victory over me and my body. I can honestly say with Paul that it is better by far to depart and be with the Lord.
But until that departure, how do you want me to invest the rest of my days? I have spent enough years bustling about in vanity, keeping up stuff that will surely only end up in the ash heap one day. Should you give me one more, 10 more, 25 more years, how can the gospel of your kingdom and the riches of your grace claim and fill the span of those brief years?
What do I need to make a bigger deal about—and a lesser deal up? What things do I simply need to let go of? Who should I be spending more time with or, quite honestly, less time with?
The two things that define the rest of history are your commitment to redeem your people through the gospel and your commitment to make all things new through Jesus. How do you want me to engage with both of those stories with my friends in church?
Indeed, give me a greater love for people who don’t know Jesus, Father. I spend way too much time just with other Christians. And help me live more intentionally as an agent of redemption and restoration in my community and neighborhood. I pray in Jesus magnificent name. Amen
~ Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
The form of this psalm is instructive.
In Psalm 23:1–3 David refers to God as “he”:
The Lord is my shepherd . . .
he makes me lie down . . .
he leads me . . .
he restores my soul.
Then in verses 4 and 5 David refers to God as “you”:
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me.
You anoint my head with oil.
Then in verse 6 he switches back to the third person:
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord.
The lesson I have learned from this form is that it is good not to talk very long about God without talking to God.
Every Christian is at least an amateur theologian — that is, a person who tries to understand the character and ways of God, and then put that into words. If we aren’t little theologians, then we won’t ever say anything to each other about God, and we’ll be of very little real help to each other’s faith.
But what I have learned from David in Psalm 23 and other psalms is that I should interweave my theology with prayer. I should frequently interrupt my talking about God by talking to God.
Not far behind the theological sentence, “God is generous,” should come the prayerful sentence, “Thank you, God.”
On the heels of, “God is glorious,” should come, “I adore your glory.”
What I have come to see is that this is the way it must be if we are feeling God’s reality in our hearts as well as describing it with our heads.
All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Prayer is a response to promises, that is, to the assurances of God’s future grace.
Prayer is drawing on the account where God has deposited all his promises of future grace.
Prayer is not hoping in the dark that there might be a God of good intentions out there. Prayer goes to the bank every day and draws on promises for the future grace needed for that day.
Don’t miss the connection between the two halves of this great verse. Notice the “that is why”: “All the promises of God are Yes in Christ. That is why (therefore) we pray Amen through him, to God’s glory” (my translation).
To make sure we see it, let’s turn the two halves around: When we pray, we say Amen to God through Christ, because God has said Amen to all his promises in Christ. Prayer is the confident plea for God to make good on his promises of future grace for Christ’s sake. Prayer links our faith in future grace with the foundation of it all, Jesus Christ.
Which leads to the final point: “Amen” is a full and precious word in times of prayer. It doesn’t mean primarily, “Yes, I have now said all this prayer.” It means primarily, “Yes, God has made all these promises.”
Amen means, “Yes, Lord, you can do it.” It means, “Yes, Lord, you are powerful. Yes, Lord, you are wise. Yes, Lord, you are merciful. Yes, Lord, all future grace comes from you and has been confirmed in Christ.”
“Amen” is an exclamation point of hope after a prayer for help.