(Note: This is one of two reflections on The Lord’s Prayer.)
How is it that I have heard the Lord’s Prayer prayed by people everywhere in the world, crossing different nations, with differing backgrounds and differing means-from the Sambura in northern Kenya to the Kurdish in Kurdistan and northern Iraq, to the people in northern Canada whom I have the privilege to minister with, to the people in Northern Ireland? The Lord’s Prayer was among the first prayers I learned as a child and it was among the first prayers I learned in Inuktitut, the language used among the Inuit in this part of northern Canada.
Why does the Lord’s Prayer have such significance within the life of the church, throughout her history up until this very day?
I believe the reason is partly due to a deep need or desire within each of us to communicate with God Almighty. According to Holy Scripture, the Lord’s Prayer comes to us as a result of that need being articulated by the first disciples: “Lord, teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1). And so we hear these words coming from the lips of the teacher as he teaches his disciples.
I wonder what encouragement it may have been for the disciples to have heard their teacher encouraging them to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…”?
“Our Father…when last have we given much thought to the relationship presented by Jesus according to the New Testament writers? Jesus encourages the first disciples to come to God as a child would to a father-a father who is there for his children, a father who takes an active interest in their welfare and needs, who has a desire to spend time with, listen to and teach his children. Unfortunately, within my ministry I see that not everyone has such a relationship. I know that not everyone who reads these words will have a healthy image when trying to relate to God as a child to a father, and I know that for many, their experience presents a challenge. If this is the case for you, it may help to come alongside Christ. It may help to explore his relationship with the one whom he calls “Father” and the one whom he encourages us to claim as ours, too.
Jesus presents a picture of his father-our father-as one who longs for us to spend time with him, who wishes to share with us his thoughts, his creation, his salvation, his ways.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful of all the teachings that Jesus imparts to his disciples-you and I-“who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:20) is the picture of the loving father, longing and looking for the estranged child (Luke 15: 11-32) How long, I wonder, did the father linger at the window, the door or out on the land, waiting? In the imagery we can see the father’s effort as he runs to get to the place where reconciliation begins, the embrace as father and child come together.
Now, I am not saying that all was then wonderful, but it was the beginning, and that beginning would never have taken place if the child and father had not longed for a relationship and both moved in that direction. For me, this beautiful imagery is one that encourages me as I seek to develop my relationship with “Our Father who art in heaven.”
The Rt. Rev. Darren McCartney is suffragan bishop in the diocese of the Arctic.