Tag Archives: Lord’s Prayer

The Forgiveness Blessing

In my last post, The Forgiveness Challenge, I wrote about the misunderstandings regarding our ability to forgive others. Forgiveness is not condoning what someone has done to us. In fact part of forgiveness is to acknowledge how I have been hurt by the actions of another.

Forgiveness does not mean that trust, love or friendship will automatically be restored. I can forgive someone and still avoid situations where the person who harmed me might repeat the action. An example is a wife whose husband is abusive to her and her children. She can for forgive his actions, but needs to physically remove herself from the relationship to avoid future abuse.

God's Hand of Blessing

God’s Hand of Blessing

So then, what is forgiveness and its blessing?

The blessing is that the one forgiving is able to let go of the heavy burden of resentment, anger and desire for retribution. She releases the anger and resentment toward the person who wronged her  so that she can continue a vibrant life of faith and love. Forgiveness frees the person who forgives, regardless of what happens to the person forgiven.

The opposite of forgiveness is to bear a grudge, to carry an ongoing memory of the hurt/wrong and to seek some form of retribution. “I have been hurt and I want someone to pay for it!”  The grudge may come from a tragic one time incident (like a horrible automobile accident) or from countless encounters (such as a co-worker who is constantly using verbal put-downs). The grudge becomes a burden that weighs on our hearts and minds. It grows as we feed it more resentments and negative thoughts and in time the grudge can absorb our whole life. What a blessing to lay that burden down.

heavy-burdenThe best way to lay that burden down is a three-fold path.

First, recognize that the resentment and anger has become a toxic burden that is destroying your life.

Second, pray that God will give you the ability to forgive and give up the burden. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Third, pray for the one who hurt you and for God’s power and love to surround them. Visualize them as a child of God, broken and flawed, but still loved. Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:44).

This is a process that takes time. Rarely is it one fervent prayer and all resentment is gone. Rather forgiveness is like a muscle that needs to be activated and exercised regularly. No wonder Jesus place it in the center of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive the sins of others” (Luke 11:4).

When and how has forgiveness been a blessing to you?

Lord Jesus, continually teach us to forgive one another.

Forgiveness Can Be Tough

forgiveness log 2

Forgiveness can be tough. Even though we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” and know that Christ forgives us, we can often struggle to forgive those who wrong us.

I was in college, near the end of my freshman year. A friend and I applied to be resident assistants together in the freshman dorm. We were interviewed for the position by some upper classmates. My friend and I thought the interview had gone well. We both had good references as compassionate, helpful students and since there were only a few applicants, we thought we would both be chosen.

A few days later, I discovered that I had been rejected.

The reason given was that I was too vocal about my Christian faith. The student leaders thought I would be constantly “evangelizing” the freshman on my floor, even though this behavior had not been discussed in the interview. I felt that I had been unfairly rejected and was both disappointed and angry.

I wrestled with how to be forgiving towards the student leaders. I believed they had jumped to a conclusion without ever asking the question. I had helped start a Christian fellowship on the campus where none had existed before, but I was not some “outspoken” evangelist.  In fact, I was often too quiet about my faith in public settings. After the rejection, I wrestled with my resentment towards my fellow students and whether I could forgive them.

Fortunately this wrestling match ended quickly. The Dean of Students (who had written one of my recommendations) heard about this unfair decision and reversed it. I was thankful for his intervention and had a good year as a resident assistant. Still I wonder what I would have done if the Dean had not intervened. How long would I have carried resentments?

Jesus carried no such resentments.  Even as he was nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Have you ever struggled with forgiving someone?

Lord Jesus, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Snow Days and Daily Bread

sleddingsnowblastwebYesterday was a snow day for many school districts in the Twin Cities area. The foot of snow was a fun excuse for many families to be outdoors, sledding on hills and building snow forts. Afterwards they could warm up with hot cocoa or bake fresh cookies.

But the school districts in Saint Paul and Minneapolis did not have snow day. Instead the buses took their time delivering these urban children to their school. I don’t know all the reasons they stayed open, but one of them was probably hunger. For many children in poverty, school is the one place where they are assured of getting a nutritious meal. According to Bread for the World, 16.2 million children struggle with hunger every day. You can learn more about hunger through the new documentary, “A Place at the Table.”

BreadAs a Christian I pray the Lord’s prayer daily. In it I pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” I am not simply praying, “Give me today my daily bread,” but for OUR daily bread. I am praying for my brothers and sister in Christ who need food today. After all the book of James cautions,

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2:14-17)

I am thankful for the efforts my congregation (and many congregations) who work to fed others. Efforts like the Cure Ministry that serves meals at East Emmanuel Lutheran in St. Paul and the Christian Cupboard that provides food to many families in the Woodbury area. But I sense that more can be done. What do you think?

Lord Jesus, give us today our daily bread, especially for the hungry children in our midst.

Slow Lent Revisted

Slow Lent Movement

Slow Lent Movement

In two days, Lent begins. Lent is a church season of preparation, looking towards Jesus’ passion. I have written about Lent before and as I stopped to reread it, I realize that I need to learn once again to slow down, to realign my life.

Two years ago I wrote about Bishop Margaret Payne’s passion for a Slow Lent Movement. A brief section of what I wrote then,

She spoke on how pastors have bought into the seduction of our culture’s three A’s: Accomplishment, Adrenalin, and Affirmation. As pastors we think our worth is based on how much we accomplish in our congregations and we enjoy the adrenalin rush that comes from having much to do and being needed by many people. And we relish the public affirmation that often comes from having our hands in many programs and ministries. I found myself nodding my head several time, recognizing my own self-delusions being exposed by her words.

But I don’t think her words are limited to pastors. In spite our professed trust in God’s grace, so many of us who are Christians still seek our self-worth based on our accomplishments. We rush about trying to fulfill the many “shoulds” we carry inside our heads. We seek public affirmation even as we feign humility. We have bought into the prevailing culture without seeing our need for a new way of life.

I confess that I continue to find my primary worth in my accomplishments, rather than my identity as God’s child. This Lent our congregation will be focused on the Lord’s Prayer and the opening phrase always give me pause, “Our Father in heaven.” Jesus instructs us to approach God as a loving father who seek us out.

I pray for you that the season of Lent will provide be a time of slow, reflective prayer, of simply being with God.

Yes, there is much to do.

Yes, our neighbor needs love.

But in our anxious hurry, you and I forget who we are. We need to slow down and be with our loving papa in heaven.

Lord Jesus, remind me once again to slow down in you.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Part Two)

Whichever version of the Lord’s Prayer we pray (the topic of my last post), the words can become a string of sounds without meaning. One helpful way to truly pray the prayer is to slow it down, to breathe each phrase or petition and pause to reflect upon it for a moment. For example: God is our Father, our Papa, our Dad, and like a good father God wants to spend time with us, to be in relationship. May this time of prayer be such a time of holy conversation.  Slowing down the Lord’s Prayer allows it to become a form of meditation rather than recitation. To quickly rattle off the words of the prayer rarely becomes true prayer.

Another way to pray the prayer is to use other biblical translations of the prayer. With the plethora of Bible translations one can find unique wordings that can reawaken Jesus’ prayer for us. For example, Eugene Peterson’s The Message translates Matthew 6:9-13 as following:

With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge! You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.

Or you might try writing your own version of the Lord’s Prayer. A thoughtful personal translation can help you rediscover the beauty and wonder of Jesus’ simple prayer. Here is my recent attempt.

Papa who rules the cosmos,
let Your honor be our vision.
Bring Your desires and justice to our world,
So that heaven can be seen here.
Provides us with sufficient food for today.
Teach us to forgive with the same passion that You forgive us.
Protect us from the evil within and without.
And let us never forget that You are our Glorious King.

Lord Jesus, continue to imprint your words on our hearts and lives

Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Part One)

Jesus instructed his disciples to pray. He modeled a life of prayer, taking time to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35). After a time of prayer, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray and he taught them the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven. . .”

I grew up in a traditional Lutheran home and memorized the familiar words of the prayer at a young age. My confirmation instructor, Pastor Crawford, unpacked the meaning of each petition. I learned about God’s kingdom, daily bread, forgiving trespasses and deliverance from evil. Every Sunday during worship, the congregation would recite the familiar words that seemed to become stronger as we finished, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. AMEN!”

The traditional words and phrases stayed with me into adulthood. I found great comfort with it, but I also noticed that I often recited the prayer rather than consciously praying it. I would catch my mind starting to drift and realized that though my lips were saying the sacred words, my heart was not in synch. Partly it was the speed at which we “prayed” it, partly it was my own inattentiveness.

In seminary I was introduced to some of the newer translations of the prayer. The replacement of “thy” and “thine” with “your,” made perfect sense to me. Prayer need not be some formal exercise of old language. Prayer is conversation with God.  At the same time I knew that switching to the new language/translation would be very difficult. The Lord’s Prayer was deeply imprinted in our minds and souls, a kind of rock in the chaotic sea of spirituality.

My first twenty-five years of ministry was in a congregation whose worship stripped away several liturgical practices of traditional Lutheran worship: the Kyrie, the Great Thanksgiving, but we continued to use the traditional wording of the Lord’s Prayer. Intellectually I believed that someday the words would need to change, but emotionally I liked being able to guide a family at a graveside service in praying the familiar words, “Our Father who art in heaven. . .”

When I came to Resurrection I immediately discovered that in worship, the congregation had embraced the new translation, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”  I embraced the change intellectually, but found myself stumbling over the new wording as my heart and soul tried to catch up. The deep imprint of memorization would not quickly adapt.

Now two years later, I can recite the words without too much difficulty, but I also discovered something else. I sense that I am more often “praying” the prayer, truly connecting with the words. I am more conscious that I am asking God to save me from the time of trial and to protect me from the evil one. The bumpy transition and the new translation has pushed me out of my rut into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus is teaching us.

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.

Your Will Be Done RIGHT NOW!

Learning to Pray Anew

On coming to Resurrection Lutheran Church four months ago, I discovered that the congregation had adopted the contemporary translation of the Lord’s Prayer.   I appreciated this because the only time I used “thee” and “thine” in prayer was in the Lord’s Prayer.    Praying “forgive us our sins” makes much more sense than “forgive us our trespasses” as does “save us from the time of trial.”  But I knew that it would be a challenge to change my interior prayer life to the new translation, just as it is for congregations when they embrace the newer version.  The old is deeply imbedded.

I have had little trouble during public worship, since it is projected on the screen to read.   The real challenge is for me to pray it in non-worship settings.  After our annual meeting, I wanted us to close with the Lord’s Prayer.   I started off strong, but after praying “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” I crashed and burned, stumbling over “lead, ah, save us from time,  . . temptation, No,  of trial?”  My voice trailed off.  Fortunately strong prayer leaders picked up the congregation as I fell.  It was a congregational prayer after all.

With this in mind, I decided to practice the prayer through Lent, using it as part of my drive to church.  My intention was not to simply recite the prayer, but to pray it with all my heart and mind. Still I would keep eyes open as I drove.

Am I praying or driving?

So last Saturday morning as I pulled onto the partially plowed freeway,  I began to pray.  Suddenly I saw the car next to me pull to the shoulder,  and at the same instance an ambulance dashed by, its lights blazing.   Also I was surprised to see a police car stopped to assist two cars in the ditch; I touched my brakes and realized that road was more slick than I anticipated.  I was praying the petition, “your will be done,”  and it struck me, “God’s will is for me to be a non-distracted driver RIGHT NOW!”  I stopped praying and immediately gave full attention to driving my car.  Later I could give God full my full attention.

How has prayer impacted your life?