- (Photo: Brad Johnson)
From childhood, I have been in settings – mainly in church – where the Lord's Prayer was recited. Some of you know it as the "Our Father" prayer. Others call this the "Jesus' Model Prayer."
However you refer to it, you might recall that this particular teaching of Christ came in response to the disciple's request: "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1)
There are such comforting and noble parts in this prayer. Mystery and power vibrate in each line. However, if you are like me, we can comfortably cruise through an out-loud recitation of the prayer almost zombie-like, with no effort, thought, or emotion.
That's a tragedy.
Why? Because tucked in the middle of the prayer is one of the most troubling concepts found in scripture. In the middle of the prayer is something better left unspoken. If you pray this part, then I'd suggest you quickly add: "But Lord, don't answer this!"
What could possibly be so troubling that it should not be spoken?
Verse Four of Luke Eleven
"And forgive us our sins, as we (just like, exactly like, in the very same way, to the same degree) forgive those who sin against us." Luke 11:4
Yikes. Does that send a quiver through your liver? It should.
This would almost be surprising in its implication, IF we didn't hear the same principle within other places Jesus teaches. He virtually repeats Himself when speaking about forgiveness. Seems like it was a big deal to Him and He took pain to be clear.
Do we remember his convicting little story about the man deeply steeped in debt who was forgiven that debt? Then what happened? That same man refused to forgive someone who owed him just a little. The story didn't end well for the man who refused to forgive (just like, exactly like, in the very same way, to the same degree) as he had been forgiven.
Reflecting back on the Lord's Prayer, what if God answered that prayer? Scary thought, especially if we consider the impoverished quality of the forgiveness we offer to others.
Perhaps we should sing aloud the lyric of that country song: "Thank God for unanswered prayer!"