The Lord’s Prayer might be overly familiar. Start with why and discover how it might be expressing a loving wife’s deepest longing.
In his 2009 TED Talk, Simon Sinek drew three concentric circles and noted how effective organizations start in the center with why. The second circle is how, the third, what. Praying effectively works this way. It starts in the first circle, with why we exist.
We exist because God is love. Love is the enjoyment of another and the desire to expand the circle. The Triune God seeks to expand the circle of love by having the Son “marry” a bride. The Jews are God’s betrothed (Hos.2:19). So is the church (II Cor.11:2).
Is this why we pray? Loving couples enjoy conversing with one another. Kathy and I do. My hunch is the disciples, all good Jews, recognized this. This is why, in Luke 11, their only question is: how do we pray (Luke 11)? Jesus says pray this way:
Our Father… When Kathy and I got married, my father became our father. As Jesus’ bride, we are betrothed, married to God’s son. My Father (as Jesus often calls him) becomes Our Father. But there are additional reasons this is the prayer of a loving bride.
… who dwells in the heavens. Yes, heavens, plural. In the Hebrew mindset, there are three circles of heavens. The first is the atmosphere immediately around us. God dwells in this first heaven (as well as the other heavens). We live in a God-bathed universe. When we see God is not just “up there” but right here, we see he is holy.
… holy is your name. C. S. Lewis said we must go further up if we are to see further into the world we inhabit. Paul was “caught up to the third heaven” (II Cor.12), He glimpsed Heaven. He saw the wedding banquet (Rev.19). He saw marriage is the main point of the gospel. Paul then looked back, into our universe (the heavens). He saw they’re bathed in God’s angelic hosts singing, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts. As we go further up, we too pray, “Holy is your name.”
We want your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as it always happens in heaven. Jesus began his preaching with, “The kingdom of the heavens (plural) is now available” (Mt.4:17). The bride longs for what the bridegroom longs for—his kingdom to be manifest on earth (as it is always manifest in heaven).
Give us this day our daily bread… Jesus is the bread of life. Older Christian traditions feast on Jesus daily in the Eucharist. They see communion as when our husband’s body and blood enters us. It’s a foretaste of nuptial union, husband and wife becoming one.
At this point, some of you are thinking this is too far out. But remember Paul, who went furthest out, wrote that the Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding. But one thing is clear enough: it was revealed in flesh (I Tim.3:16). Older Christian traditions see the gospel as best told in our physical bodies, our flesh.
Of course, Jesus invites his bride to ask for more than our daily bread. Ask away. But we ought to do it under the heading: If the Lord wills (James 4:15). I’ve often asked for things I didn’t know were bad for me. Hence, we say what a properly submissive wife says to her husband: “Thy will be done.”
… and forgive us our debts, to the degree that we also have forgiven our debtors. Here’s something else a loving bride prays for: forgiveness. But only to the degree that we forgive others. This echoes Jesus’ longest recorded parable. A man is forgiven millions in debt. Then he turns around and can’t forgive a poor man who owes him pennies. Two become one as Jesus’ bride forgives to the same degree that Jesus has forgiven her.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one… Lucifer hates Jesus’ bride (Rev.12). We easily fall prey to his wiles, as did Peter (c.f. Mt.16:33). Jesus’ bride prays that she will be set free from his deceptions.
For yours’ is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Lucifer tempted Jesus with kingdom, power, glory. Jesus yielded to his Father. The Father delivered him from evil. As Jesus’ bride, we are tempted by the same three. Like our bridegroom, we yield our temptations for conquest (kingdom), control (power), and recognition (glory).
Some say reciting the Lord’s Prayer feels rote. That’s like a married couple saying it feels rote to repeatedly tell each other I love you. It only becomes rote when we forget why we’re married—love. Jesus isn’t against repetitive prayer. He’s against meaningless repetitive prayer. Rote prayer happens when we forget why we pray.
So start with why. The Lord’s Prayer reflects a loving wife’s deepest longings. She longs most deeply for intimacy with her husband so that two become one.
But what do you think?