Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Top of the List

Hallowed be your name . . . (Matt. 6:9).

Where are you focusing your praying energy these days?

For me it’s my children. I’m sensing an urgency there that hasn’t always been true of my prayers. These days I find myself praying for them all the time - and not just pious petitions for their wellbeing. What I feel is more like a holy ferocity, waging war on their behalf.

For you it may be something different. Health issues often top the list. Marriages rank fairly high as well, so many of them fragile and others damaged beyond recognition. Employment pressures are constant: jobs we can’t find, jobs we have but hate, as well as jobs that we used to love but find are driving us into the ground.

Whenever we make lists we usually begin with what is most pressing. The things that cannot wait are named first. We pray the same way: the most threatening circumstance, the people closest to our heart, the decision with no good option, the illness that won’t go away, these top the list. No surprise there.

When Jesus taught us to pray, the name of God was at the top of the list. We begin by praying for the hallowing of God’s name. We move from there to the coming of God’s kingdom and the doing of God’s will. After that we offer our prayers for daily provision (bread), for forgiveness (both getting it and giving it) and for protection from what is evil and pulls us away from God.

What Moses gave us as a command, Jesus taught us as a prayer.

Moses used the negative ‘do not.’ Do not take the name of God carelessly or ‘in vain.’ Jesus stated the law positively in telling us to ask for the ‘hallowing’ of God’s name. We call on God to work in such a way that his name will be highly esteemed and loved and honored.

But what we feel when we pray usually has to do with more urgent and practical matters, the latter three petitions. We sense urgency over meeting our basic material needs (bread), the wholeness of relationships (forgiveness), and protection from moral temptations and the larger evils in this world. That’s what gets our energy.

The beauty of the Lord’s Prayer is that as God answers our prayers regarding those last three petitions he also answers the very first petition at the very same time. In giving us bread, in restoring relationships with God and others, in protecting us and guiding us through this broken world God’s name is honored or hallowed.

So pray whatever sits heavily on your heart and mind right now: Job, marriage, children, health, guidance in a decision, protection on a long flight, a fresh zeal for your faith.

And at some point in your prayer come back to the top of the list. God blesses us and answers ordinary prayers for the purpose of hallowing his name. The great large prayer is answered in small and mundane things. Thanks be to God.

Merciful God, I do not always ask for the hallowing of your name. I say the words – but what I want has more to do with bread and protection and relationships that are whole. Take the prayers I offer today – the yearning for your blessing and grace and favor – and hallow your name. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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