Like the creed, a lot of people seem to have a problem with the regular use of the Lord’s Prayer in corporate or private worship. Why? Because they see it as rote memorization. Once you get so used to saying the same thing over and over and over again, you might not put your heart into it sometimes. And to be slightly fair to its critics — they’re not always wrong, are they? Especially when we insist in christendom that we retain the King James translation of the Prayer. I have a hunch Martin Luther also had this fear in mind which is why he insisted that it be a part of his Small Catechism. Kids should not just be taught the words of the Lord’s Prayer, but they should also be taught what it is they’re praying. It is a prayer for dust and ashes (daily bread). It is a prayer for sinners (forgive us our trespasses…lead us not into temptation) and it is a prayer for the redeemed children of God (Our Father).
I. Lead us not into temptation. I’ve asked this before: Can you imagine if we didn’t pray this petition? Can you imagine what our weeks and days would be like if we didn’t ask God to stave off temptation for us? We’d get nuthin done at our jobs. We’d misuse every device God gives to us for blessing: food and drink, televisions, computers, smart phones, you name it. Imagine what diabolical temptations that we might run into around every corner of our day if we didn’t ask for God’s help in all this. It makes me wonder how Christians who tend not to pray the Lord’s Prayer get by. (I suppose, unless they use their own wording in this regard.) But here’s the thing, fellow dust and ashes: even though we pray this (and make no mistake he hears and answers) we still manage to find ways to fall into temptation, don’t we. We too live in a “body of death,” as Saint Paul describes it. We still find ways not to stand up under temptation, but to fall to it. Again and again and again.
II. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. While this may come across as a quid pro quo statement, in other words if we forgive others, then our Father will forgive us, we know from Saint John that we love because he first loved us. Plain and simple. It is God’s forgiveness that motivates us to forgive our neighbor. To forgive our spouses, our children, our coworkers, even other drivers on the streets. And God’s forgiveness isn’t earned in the slightest. Well…at least not by us. We continue to march ever closer to Holy Week where we see our Savior undertaking the great and awful task of earning God’s forgiveness on our behalf. God’s grace and mercy had to be purchased. Nothing short of a perfectly lived life would do. A life that faced temptations just like you and I face as well. But a life victorious over those temptations. And then, as the spotless Lamb of God, a life sacrificed as our sin and guilt and fellowship offering at one time and in one place and once and for all. To try to add anything — ANYTHING — to the Lamb’s work is nuthin short of a slap in the face to God. He did it cuz we can’t. So now, sinners though we are praying the prayer our Lord taught us, we can and do confidently address him as Father. We are his children whose greatest Brother taught us the very words to pray. We are forgiven, cared for, and in the eternal family.