Archive for December, 2011

Give us this day our daily bread

Posted in Uncategorized on December 26, 2011 by ancienthopes

Being a “daily bread” sort of guy

I confess that I have had a rough time with this petition over the last few years, but have worked through it recently. You see, I was raised in a conservative home where conservation of resources, saving for the future, having steady employment, and possessing a financial cushion was fundamental to life. It is an unforgiving world out there; you have to protect yourself and be self sufficient.

The year 2009 when the LIJ community folded I found myself out of work at the worst possible moment in recent economic history. It has been a glorious time in that God has provided for me and my family in so many ways. It has also been humbling in that He provided in ways that went against my pride. For instance, we were on food stamps for a whole year. God provided Kathy with a job nearby with medical benefits at just the crucial moment. I continue teaching part time, and by God’s grace we just get by … daily. Over the last 3 years I have had to wrestle with God over daily bread. There is that pressure within me to get my “profession” back to full time status, start building things up to where I no longer have to wonder where the money will come in to pay the bills. Though God was graciously providing for me on His terms, I wanted to provide for myself on my terms. I sort of resented being a “daily bread” sort of guy.

Recently, I have come to embrace the fact that I am a “daily bread” sort of guy. We all know what is behind this. God wants his people to be daily bread sort of people because this is the life of faith. Hording manna for the future always rots! We so easily fall into the trap that if we can just get more, just get over “the hump,” that it will be enough, but it never is. Sure, there are those few among us that rich and never have to wonder how the next bills will be paid, but this comes with dangers and temptations of its own. I am convinced that God did not make me wealthy in a financial sort of way because He could not trust me with it; I would self destruct!

How rich indeed, however, are the “daily bread” sort of people! There is always enough! We draw from God’s inexhaustible resources, learn humility, trust in God, and see Him work miraculously on a daily basis! Life now becomes all about God rather than all about us and our wants. Let us not complain and murmur about what God provides for us. Let us hallow our Father’s name who daily loads us with such wonderful and undeserving benefits!

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Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2011 by ancienthopes

I sense that with this petition we enter into the very heart of our Lord’s Prayer. In it we are confronted face to face with the divine will. On the surface, the phrase can inspire anxiety concerning the sovereignty of God and the problem of praying for something that is going to come about anyways─so why pray for it? This can lead to a sort of fatalism where we brace ourselves for the inevitable clash between our will and God’s will where we stand to lose something dear to us. If we stay here, then the prayer will inspire fear in us rather than peace, the very opposite of what Jesus intended in this petition.

True, the petition has a lot to do with submission of our will to God’s will. Submission is never easy, and it is a scary thing. We have to understand, however, that God has a whole lot of respect for our wills. Our will is a central feature of the image-of-God in us; it is a power that God is very interested in, and will not crush or violate. Humans often desire to dominate others and control the wills of others, but this is a demonic, not a divine, intent.

So we again see that we have to approach this petition, as well as all the others, with the entry point of the prayer, “Our Father.” It is a good father’s intent to set their children free. Here Jesus is encouraging us to freely embrace our good Father’s will for us. It is then that our will truly comes into its own, when it is working in complete harmony with God’s will. This petition is, in fact, a prayer for union, an ever deepening union, between us and God, healing the breach created between us and God at the fall. And so we see that there is no room for fatalism in our blessed religion. Submission is an act that we freely embrace by the grace we receive in praying for it. When this happens, heaven and earth come together in our hearts, and the petition “… on earth as it is in heaven” is fulfilled in us.

Your Kingdom Come cont.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2011 by ancienthopes

The first two entries on this phrase focuses on the very idea of Kingship and Kingdom, and how we need to reorient our western way of thinking and being through our prayer life so as to live in the reality of the Kingdom.

In thinking more about this petition, it seems to be the one phrase in the prayer that is most full of longing. In truth, when we experience the power of Christ in our lives on every level, we are experiencing the power of the Kingdom. But in some mysterious way, when we pray this phrase with longing, we are, in fact, living in the light of the Kingdom now. Here is a quote from St. Augustine when he realized on a profound level that he would never be the complete person in this life that he was striving to be:

“Let me leave them [i.e. those who strive for the classical ideal of Greek perfection] outside, breathing into the dust, and filling their eyes with earth, and let me enter into my chamber and sing my songs of love to Thee, groaning with inexpressible groaning in my distant wandering, and remembering Jerusalem with my heart stretching upwards in longing for it: Jerusalem my Fatherland, Jerusalem who is my mother…” Confessions XII, 23

Longing for the Kingdom is itself a sweet and powerful prayer. Longing purifies the soul, and as St. Augustine says elsewhere, “it is yearning that makes the heart deep” Tract. In John. 40.10. Read Peter Brown’s Biography on Augustine, chapter 15 for further reflection on this.

“Your Kingdom come,” continued.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 12, 2011 by ancienthopes

I think that it is important for us, when praying for the coming of God’s Kingdom, to understand that we are at a disadvantage living in our culture as mentioned in the opening statement. It takes great mental and spiritual struggle, along with creative use of sanctified imagination, to see that the Kingdom has indeed broken into our world as Christ proclaimed it. In fact, that is what we are praying for when we ask for God’s kingdom to come, that God will reveal to us the reality of God’s kingdom now, and that we live more and more in this reality. To the degree that we are not cognizant of this truth is the degree that we are living in illusion, in the darkness of this world.

When we pray rightly, we are, in fact, before the King, and are experiencing the Kingdom. This connects us with the “… who is in Heaven” phrase at the onset of the prayer. God’s kingdom is where heaven and earth touch, and they touch in the church and in believers. God is not only our Father, but our King. We have to learn, as modern Westerners, how to live with a King. This is where spirit guided imagination is critical. We need to be able to see ourselves living not in a democracy, but see ourselves as divine subjects in an order that is absolutely at odds with the social order we live in, that what unifies us is not political ideals, but an absolute devotion to a King who has complete power over us, and a King we are ready to obey, live and die for at the slightest nudging of the Spirit in our hearts.

There is a phrase in the Anglican Breviary that goes: “To Thee, O Lord, all honor be, King of endless majesty.” I find this is a good place to park, on the knees, opening up the soul to the eternal light this phrase lets into the soul. I must confess, however, that I am a long way from living out this reality in the moment by moment, day by day. Lord Jesus, let the reality of your Kingdom transform us!

Your Kingdom come

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2011 by ancienthopes

How can we, in our day and age, connect intuitively with this petition and say it with understanding, not letting it tumble out of our mouths thoughtlessly? Kings and kingdoms no longer exist. We catch a slight glimpse of royalty in England through tabloids, or an occasional royal wedding or funeral, but it is not real. When Jesus first taught this prayer to his disciples, kings and kingdoms were very real, the very center of power, grandeur, and authority in the psyche of all humanity. The idea of kingship and kingdom was unquestionably accepted as a divine arrangement, a focal point of unity, a part of one’s very identity, something to live and die for.

For us, power, more likely than not, is associated with inept democratic governments, mega companies, and banks. We are not happy with this, but it suits our radical individualism. We will not bend the knee to anyone and will mock as pompous any hint of royal protocol or deference. We do as we like; we are our own little kings, and our own little environments are our kingdoms which we desperately try to control. This is not so much a criticism as it is merely a description of the climate and culture in which we all live; it is the very air that we breathe.

And so the question remains for us, what is in our minds and hearts when we ask our Father that His Kingdom come? Do we even know what we are asking? Do we have the ability to genuinely grasp the idea of kingship and kingdom as it pertains to us as we practically live out our day to day lives?

hallowed be Your name

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 by ancienthopes

We have passed through the introductory phrases of the Lord’s Prayer; Our Father, who is in heaven.” Prayer is living in the reality of having God as our Father, and heaven as our point of reference rather than material things and our troubles and fears. Now comes the petitions.

“Hallowed be Your name” is the first petition, and is therefore emphatic. “Hallowed” (make or treat holy, completely sacred) has two dimensions for us, one most exhilarating, and one most frightening. First, it is exhilarating because it sets the high standard and ideal of our life; to honor God in everything we do. This phrase tells us what our soul was made for and what the deepest longing of our soul should be; to have God ever before us as most special, delightful, and wonderful. In fact, this is the essence of prayer; to live in awe of God.

Second, it is most frightening. In fact, there have been times that I have said this petition in deep dark despair. Why? Because I know that I cannot hallow God very well at all. The opposite of holy is to make common. Every time I worry, I make God out to be common. Every time my mind wonders to trivial things in prayer, I make God out to be common. My daily moments are so crammed and jammed with inane thoughts ranging from the ridiculous to the downright evil; all of this static tells me that I am not hollowing God’s name. I daily offend people in one way or another; I am more self centered than what I can every really fathom. In all of this I do not bring honor to God, but make Him out to be common, both to myself and others around me.

And so this petition cuts both ways; it draws us up to God with longing, and it teaches us something dreadfully true about ourselves. Of course, God doesn’t want us to live in despair about our inability to live by this petition. It drives us all the more to God and His grace. Still, God invites us to live deeply in this petition, both in the happiness it brings to our longing souls, and the unpleasant revelations it brings to us about ourselves. To live in both is the life of prayer.