Yes, I’m the pastor. Yes, I’ve been praying the prayer since childhood. Yes, I lead the prayer every Sunday.
Still, it was bound to happen.
I’ve feared it would and it finally did. I messed up the Lord’s Prayer. And I don’t mean I substituted trespasses for debts forgetting the tradition of this particular congregation. (There are many slight variations of the prayer.) I mean I jumped from the first lines to the end of the prayer. The congregation confused by my mixup, sat in silence and I had to return to the beginning of the prayer to get back on track.
I guess this kind of thing is why I consistently find reassurance from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Writes the apostle about prayer,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 NRSV
As one who is often called to lead public prayer, the experience of forgetting lines of a prayer so well known is a humbling experience. It is also a reminder that it is not the words I speak but the content of my soul that reaches God. It is also an opportunity to display my humanity before my congregation and give them the opportunity to love me and forgive me through my human flaws.
Altogether, not a bad experience.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
The grain elevator, both metaphorically and literally representing humanity’s need for bread, reigns over the rural skyline. The town of Condon is an oasis in the desert turned vast wheat field. Whether you travel through the arid land from the east, the west, south, or the north, when you approach town the bread elevator is visible. Its presence in town is evidence that our species needs food (and water) for survival.
Recently, I have begun to use it as a touchstone in a new spiritual practice. As metaphorical altar, the grain elevator reminds me that humanity will whither in the field without the divine One. And, so, each time I glimpse Condon’s giant bread box, I pause to consciously feel God’s presence, to say a micro-prayer of recognition to God.
Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.”
Jargon rarely furthers the extravagant love of the Divine beyond those already on the inside. Jesus calls us to borderlands where outsiders have been discarded & too often forgotten by those in-power, on the in-side, & who are in-focused.
God, today & everyday push me to the borderlands that I might not only be your presence but see you in everyone I meet. AMEN.
“God works with the world as it is in order to bring it to where it can be. Prayer changes the way the world is, and therefore changes what the world can be. Prayer opens the world to its own transformation.” –Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer)
I wish you could see the Holy Spirit in your eyes like I do.
It is my pattern to pray with folks at the end of every pastoral visit. I often mention something that we’ve discussed or that I’ve sensed is on your heart. Sometimes I stumble over my words. Sometimes the words flow. Sometimes I don’t name that which you are most concerned to share. Regardless, when I finish my prayer and we make eye contact, as we typically do, I see the Holy Spirit has done the Holy Spirit’s work. Sometimes you express the feeling and tell me thank you. Sometimes you express it only in your eyes. However it is that you express it, I see in your eyes and demeanor that the Spirit has interceded and our prayer has reached God.
As we discussed prayer in one of my classes this week, I thought about you. I thought about the Advocate who takes our conscious words, thoughts, and feelings as well as that which we have not yet felt, spoken, or thought and intercedes with God with “sighs too deep for words.” This is what Paul wrote about in Romans 8,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spiritintercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27 NRSV
In seminary this week, we’ve spent time trying to find just the right words to pray. We’ve been seeking just the right phrases and punctuation to use in public prayer. As Paul tells us, though, ultimately none of that matters. If you or I stumble in our prayers, God hears and knows. If you or I have poetic words, God hears and knows. If you or I say words that are far from the truth or brutally honest, God hears and knows. God hears and knows because we have the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who intercedes on our behalf. And it is the Holy Spirit that I see in your eyes after we pray.
Your presence in my life is a Gift that reaches through all aspects of my life. I feel your presence in my studies, in my friendships, in my challenges, in my longing to be with those I love, and in the new ways in which I am learning to be your servant.
Help me to remember that my education is about you. Help me to let go of the anxieties that come when I make this journey about my grades, about proving a point, about what I want others to think of me, or about proving my worth. As I seek to do your will in this hour, this day, and this semester, help me to remember that it is you who has Called me to ministry and that because it is your Call, and not mine, that any hurdle will ultimately be overcome to your satisfaction.
As I begin this moment, open my ears and my heart that I can respond to what you would have me do now and in the hours and days ahead. Help me to recognize your presence as I do your will.