You know when you do something questionable (this time in terms of Bible study method) and learn something profound from the experience? You want to share what you learned without sharing the questionable bit…
but after almost a week, I haven’t figured out how to do so, in this case. So here goes, and you may forgive my questionable methods in advance.
The subject of study in my Sunday School class last week was the Lord’s Prayer. I figure that by high school, my students have studied Jesus’ instructions on prayer more than once and decided to skip the “this is what it means” piece. One of my classroom mantras (thanks to Joan Moser!) is “the one who works the most learns the most.” So I wanted my students to work.
We started by writing out the text from Matthew, cutting the words apart (yes, into one-word chunks), and sorting the words. We pulled out the and/but/in/etc. words and grouped the others into pronouns, nouns, and verbs.
The pronouns were profound. All references to us- the pray-ers- were plural, and we were reminded that we pray not only in our closets but also in community, even when physically alone.
Next, we looked at the nouns and saw that heaven and kingdom were the lone repeats. This prayer is all about how to live the kingdom life now, how to let the not yet become more and more reality.
Finally, we worked on the verbs. All in the imperative voice, they demand the attention of Our Father, something we, quite honestly, have no right to do. Who are we to direct His forgiveness in our direction? Yes, I know that the heart determines our posture of prayer. However, looking at these isolated words was a stark reminder that, at least in English, this is a hedge-less prayer. There is no, “Maybe, Lord, if You wouldn’t mind…I hope you get a chance to…if it’s not too much trouble…”
Why can I, unworthy of forgiveness, direction, provision, approach God and ask for His kingdom to come here? Because Jesus made the way. Because He faced the wrath of God, I can come in confidence. Because I am made righteous in His sight, I am invited to pray, with brothers and sisters around the world and throughout time, “Our Father…”
How can I not?