I love today’s Lenten reflection by the Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Grey on the first verse of the Lord’s Prayer.
Some of my favorite quotes:
“Praying this each day calls us to orientate our intention away from ourselves and remember that we are not the centre of the universe. Instead it reminds us of our rightful place, alongside all our brothers and sister in adoration of our great God.”
“This prayer is a call to action. It makes a demand of us. How are we as God’s people going to make God’s name holy? This is a call to action to make known the beauty of God. The justice and perfection of God. And the majesty of God’s name in a world that wants to ignore it.”
“It’s a call for our lives to mirror the same beauty and holiness of God. To truly live up to our vocation as image bearers of our glorious God.”
“We are part of the family. So let’s do the family business of bringing light to the world.”
Watch Dr. Jaqueline Grey speak on the Lord's Prayer below.
After reciting what we call the Lord’s prayer one Sunday, I got to thinking about how many times I’d said those words. Thousands? But how many times have I actually thought about what the words mean?
If we pay attention, it’s a prayer that makes us very uncomfortable.* These words of a peasant Jewish rabbi from 2,000 years ago challenge so much about the way we live — all of us, regardless of what religion we follow. If we’re honest, most of us don’t like it and have no intention of living by what it says.
Which presents a question: Isn’t it a problem if we pray one way and live another? Shouldn’t our prayers reflect how we actually try to live?
Along those lines, perhaps we should rewrite the Lord’s prayer and make it conform to what we really believe. In that spirit, here’s a rough draft of what it might sound like if the Lord‘s prayer was actually our prayer.
When I want to remind myself of the power of prayer, I go to the Astor Place Kmart on the lower east side of Manhattan. Sure, I could read Kierkegaard or Augustine, but I prefer the Kmart. Specifically I favor an area in the far back corner of the basement. It is devoid of windows or natural light with a back wall of clear glass that faces the dungeon-like dark tunnel of the Number 6 subway train. There, you will find the most unexpected of things — like a plant nursery.
Sprouting out of this dreary prison are tender green leaves of ficus trees and the vibrant gold blossoms of marigolds. A tiny plastic tab peeks out of each pot with an image of what that particular plant could grow into if it received proper light and care; a cruel irony, as there is little hope in this place that such care or light will be offered. Even amid the bleak circumstances, these tiny members of creation still struggle, every moment of every day, to tap into the energy around them so that they might grow into that potential.
In short, they pray.
The evening was warm. Seated at the small desk by the windows I opened my Bible and started to read from Jeremiah, "Seek the welfare of the city to which I send you." The passage was also inscribed over the entrance to the cloisters of Richmond Hill, the old convent turned retreat center in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Va., overlooking downtown. I was on retreat and seeking a little inspiration.
Seek the welfare of the city, said Jeremiah. Pray for the city, say the people of Richmond Hill. Love the city. Work for the good of the city. This is the city of God. Every city is the Holy City.
The verse from Jeremiah actually continues on. It's a bit more involved than the brief passage inscribed over the entryway:
"But seek the welfare of the city
to which I have sent you into Exile,
and pray to the Lord on its behalf,
for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer. 29:7)
Oh no ... I'm gonna have to work this out.