My congregation is in the middle of its worship series entitled, “Experiments in Kingdom Living”. We’re studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and attempting to put his teachings into action in a manner similar to the one that Mark Scandrette outlines in his new book, Practicing the Way of Jesus.
One of the things that I’ve been learning throughout this series is a new appreciation of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Many people are familiar with it. In Matthew’s gospel, it reads like this:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
In our experiments, we’re trying to experience a new way of living — one that is Christ-like and rooted in discipleship. That new way of living is tied to a new way of thinking*, and that way of thinking was taught to Jesus’ disciples in the Lord’s Prayer. In this short prayer, we seem to find references to the entire Sermon on the Mount, if we look for it.
Scandrette talks about this in his book**. As they read the gospels, Scandrette and his community wanted a way to simplify all of the different teachings that they found. They identified five broad themes which seemed to encapsulate the individual instructions that Jesus gave to the disciples:
5) Freedom and peace
And these themes are mirrored in the five lines of the Lord’s Prayer, as I’ve formatted it above.
Those of us who have memorized this prayer may have a tendency to recite it without thinking. After all, there is a good chance that we’ve been saying it since we were children. Throughout this worship series, the experiment that seems to be transforming me most is an intentional, deliberate, and conscious practice of prayer – learning the Lord’s Prayer again for the first time.
* Which comes first: Christ-like thinking or Christ-like living? Talk amongst yourselves.
** Practicing the Way of Jesus by Mark Scandrette, pp. 64-67.