Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This prayer, prayed by Jesus as an instruction to us, is bookended by instructions not to do your good deeds for public recognition and to forgive if we wish to be forgiven. Perhaps these are hints as to where the answer to this prayer lies.
What if, just maybe, God’s answer to this prayer and many of our prayers, is simply us. Yes, you. Yes, me.
Last week I read the 2014 Gates Annual Letter in which Bill & Melinda outlined the 3 myths that block progress for the poor. It is an amazing letter. I hope you will go read it. It is an eye-opening and inspiring education on changing the world for the better. After you have read it, come back and tell me that Bill & Melinda Gates are not part of God’s answer to the prayers of millions. Tell me they are not helping God’s will to be done on earth.
Let’s think about Jesus’ prayer, which he says should be our prayer. The first request is for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Every time we love our neighbor, our family or our enemy we fulfill this request. Every time we stand up for the oppressed, every time we give food or drink or clothing or provide shelter, we are being part of the answer. When God hears this request he is looking at us and asking, “Well, what are you doing about it?” His kingdom breaks though whenever and wherever love is winning, grace is extended, and liberty is defended.
Next request, give us this day our daily bread. I think this is more than just food. It implies not only the satisfying of our physical hunger but all our daily needs. In Matthew 24, Jesus says,
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
What is Jesus saying here? I believe he is saying, we are the answer to people’s prayers for relief. This is what it means to be truly human. To recognize that we are all in this together. That each person we meet bears the image of God. And as you do to one another, we do to Jesus himself. And what does Jesus say about the Kingdom coming here? He says it comes to us when we care for and love each other.
This brings us to the next request: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. In the verses following the prayer Jesus clarifies this part as , “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Wow. So yeah, forgiveness is kind of a big deal. In Colossians 2 it says, that he canceled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands”. This is a high standard. This is forgiveness for all, past, present and future. It is grace extended to the undeserving. It is mercy when undeserved. It is the lifting of another’s burden. It is the overlooking of faults. Let’s ask ourselves how we can do this today? Can we overlook the faults of our spouse? Can we extend mercy to someone who has wronged us? Can we finally stop keeping the ledger of grievances we so carefully tally?
And the final request of the Lord’s Prayer? Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. How can we be a part of the answer here? Maybe by this point you know where I am going. We can be support and encouragement for those struggling with addictions, we can stand for and be a part of liberating sex trafficking victims, we can be there when our friend struggles with depression, we can share our stories for victory and defeat and somehow lift each other up and help carry each other’s burdens. We can fight for justice for the oppressed. We can educate people about bullying. We can speak out in favor of equality. We can write letters to our representatives. We can run for office. We can vote.
When it comes down to it there are as many ways to be a part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer as there are people who bear his image. How will you be the answer today? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!