Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #3

15830This is the third week for my Sunday reading series on the book, The Lord and His Prayer, by N. T. Wright. The book was a result of a series of sermons preached in 1995 for Advent and published in 1996. In this book Dr. Wright looks at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase in six chapters. Each week we will look at one chapter. My plan is to pray through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, we focus on the 3rd phrase in the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I have already posted some quotes from this chapter on my Facebook page and there will continue to be a weekly chapter summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. It would be cool to hear from you as you pray the prayer along with me. Quotes from the book are in blue.

‘Give us this day our daily bread’; this clause in the Lord’s Prayer, then, reminds us that our natural longings, for bread and all that it symbolizes, are not to be shunned as though they were of themselves evil...The Kingdom-prayer isn’t a prayer, such as some religions would advocate, for our desires to be taken away or annihilated. In bringing them into the prayer within the setting of the earlier petitions for God’s honour, his kingdom and his will, it asks for our desires to be satisfied in God’s way and God’s time. And, since God himself is most truly the deepest object of our hunger, this clause asks that we may be fed with God himself. And there can be no question of God failing to answer this prayer. 43–44.

As with the other requests in this prayer, this one is Kingdom focused. After the first two phrases in the prayer draw us into God’s presence and focus Us on His kingdom we are now ready to bring our requests before the King of the Universe. We understand who we are and where we are on God's kingdom timetable and our needs, trials and desires take on a proper perspective. This is why Jesus could “party” in the midst of going to the cross. It was a pictures of the heavenly banquet that was coming. To the Jews he was celebrating at the wrong time (they didn’t realize the king was there despite the Romans’ presence) and with the wrong people (the outcasts, sinners, and poor). We are in the “already” phase of God’s kingdom and he meets our needs now, but the prayer also points toward the “not yet” when all enemies are defeated (death) and we celebrate our reigning with Christ.

The banquet, the party, is a sign that God is acting at last, to rescue his people and wipe away all tears from all eyes. Jesus’ parties, and his feeding of his followers in the wilderness, were intended, for those with eyes to see, to pick up this whole theme and celebrate it. 39.

Daily needs and desires point beyond themselves, to God’s promise of the kingdom in which death and sorrow will be no more. But that means, too, that the promise of the Kingdom includes those needs, and doesn’t look down on them sneeringly as somehow second-rate. 41.

This means that we trust God, not only with our daily mundane needs but also with our deepest longings, fears, desires and secrets. He knows them already anyway. “Scripture is full of stories of people who brought their deep natural longings into the presence of God, and found them answered by being taken up within his purposes.” (43) We can, and must, pray for specific needs, but this kingdom focus raises those daily needs and connects them to Our Father’s eternal purpose.

God knows our desires in order that we may turn them into prayer; in order that they may be sorted out, straightened out, untangled and reaffirmed. If we truly pray this prayer, with due weight to each clause, we are taking the first steps from the chaos of our normal interior life towards an order and clarity which will let the joy come through to the surface. 44

This kingdom focus should also raise our eyes beyond our own needs to the needs of others. This request on our behalf should prompt prayer for those who have no bread or are under persecution. Our needs should not drive us to selfish prayers but to also praying for those who have the same needs (often greater) as us.

We should see ourselves, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, as part of the wider Christian family, and human family, standing alongside the hungry, and praying, in that sense, on their behalf. 45–46.

Finally this should remind us of the bread and wine that celebrates the Lord’s presence and His coming kingdom as we celebrate the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. In a way, there we are eating and drinking with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout the world and, even, throughout the history of God’s people. How can we do that? Wright closes the chapter with this suggestion…

The next time you come to the Eucharist, bring with you, in mind and heart, someone you know, or know of, or have seen on television, who desperately needs God’s bread, literally or metaphorically, today. Bring them with you; let them kneel, in your mind’s eye, with you at the altar rail; and let them share the bread and wine with you. And, as you return, strengthened by God’s food, ask yourself what this new friend would mean when she or he prays ‘Give me this day my daily bread’. Then ask how you might be part of God’s answer to that prayer.

After all, we ourselves are only at Jesus’ table because he made a habit of celebrating parties with all the wrong people. Isn’t it about time we started to copy him? 48.

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