reflecting on prayer.

May I think out loud with you for a bit this morning and not very completely?

Years ago, I remember reading Eugene Peterson talking about an “educational task that is entrusted to pastors that is very different from that assigned to professors.” He realized, he said, “that my primary educational task as a pastor was to teach people to pray.” (from The Contemplative Pastor)

CrossAt the moment, I would add that this was Diana’s assignment for those of us at her funeral. The one request for her service, that I heard about anyway, was that someone sing “The Lord’s Prayer.” Her family chose that as the verse that goes inside the program. And so, of course, I’m using that as the text for my words to the family and to myself.

Jesus didn’t offer what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” as a mantra, as a formula to be repeated exactly right to get something from God. If that were true, we wouldn’t read all the other ways that he talks to his Father in the Gospels.

Instead, I think, he wants to give us training wheels. He wants to have a framework, a theme to use for improvisation.

It starts simply: Our Father in heaven. This invites a we-ness to praying rather than an I-ness.

And then there are three things that we can ask will happen in earth in the same way they happen in heaven: that God’s name be set apart as special, that his kingdom will be present, and that his will be evident.We’re to ask God that these things happen, by the way. This is much different than inflicting them ourselves.

And then there are three things Jesus says to ask for: daily food, forgiveness, and protection from the evil one. These feel pretty basic. And often in short supply.

That’s it.

It’s not that we can’t ask for people to be healed, or stuff, or parking places. But often those are what we think we want. And they are often based on an earth-only, tangible-only, painfree-preferring set of values. (Values I understand well).

So I ask for those things. But I’m trying to remember that other framework, the one Jesus offered. God’s elevation, not mine. And basic human needs.