It was on September 6, 1997, together with an estimated audience of 2.5 billion others, that I watched the funeral of Princess Diana from Westminster Abbey, London, England. A four mile procession with over a million people lining the route of the funeral cortege had brought her coffin to the church.At that time, the most heart wrenching part to me was watching her two sons, William and Harry, walking behind the coffin, while on top of it was a card to “Mummy” from one of them.
The service itself was moving: her sister’s poems, her brother’s eulogy, Elton John playing “Candle in the Wind” and the archbishop’s prayer. But most of all, I was fascinated as I watched people praying the Lord’s prayer (in whatever language, all around the world).
Like many of you, I memorized that prayer in public school as a Grade 1 student and said it every school day of my life till I graduated from high school. Today, however, as we all know, that prayer no longer is said in public schools, though private schools still can and often do. And so also, in our church we say it every Sunday morning.
The scripture tells us that the disciples of Jesus came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” So He gave them, in 66 words, a model for what our praying is to be like: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.”
It takes less than a minute to say it and is probably the best known passage of scripture in the world, having been repeated by countless numbers of human beings for 20 centuries. So, I thought it would be helpful to look at it in more detail (In the weeks to follow, I intend to look at each specific phrase of that prayer and what it means to us.)
While we can and do recite it, as I said before, I believe that Jesus intended it more as a “model”: a suggestion of the various facets that talking to God should include. Richard Love suggests these are the things we are really to be thinking as we are saying it:
“Our Father”: “We belong to Your family.”
“Which art in Heaven”: “You see things from a better vantage point.”
“Hallowed be Thy name”: “Extend Your reputation.”
“Thy kingdom come”: “Build Your kingdom.”
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”: “Do what You want done.”
“Give us this day our daily bread”: “Meet our needs daily.”
“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”: “Clean our slate.”
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”: “Direct our lives.”
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”: “It’s all about You, God.”
May I encourage you to make this prayer a daily habit in your life and may those thoughts fill your mind as you say it.
Henry Ozirney was the founding pastor of New Life Church in Stonewall, where he served from 1970 until he retired in 2014. He is currently Interim Pastor at New Life Church in Teulon, Manitoba. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-461-1105.