A Prayer for All Christians and Churches

National has had a long-standing relationship with a predominantly African-American congregation in DC, Third Street Church of God. The relationship goes back to the 1980s, and was led by NPC pastor, Louis Evans, and by Third Street pastor, Samuel Hines. This coming Sunday, Dr Cheryl Sanders, the current pastor of Third Street will be preaching at National as the second part of a “two-week pulpit exchange” which began this past Sunday when I had the privilege of preaching at Third Street.

It’s always a challenge to connect to a new congregation, so I decided to use a text that I knew we had in common – the Lord’s Prayer. Each week, the congregation at Third Street prays the same prayer that we do, the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. And they face the same temptation: to say it quickly and without thinking too much about the remarkable… so… let’s pray thoughtfully together:

Our Father who art in Heaven, [Hallowed be Thy Name]
What an amazing truth: God is the god of the heavens – a god of infinite power who created the universe (some say, two trillion galaxies and counting) and yet a god who also stoops down to us in humility as a parent to a child, inviting us to speak and promising to listen. May God help us never to lose the balance between the miraculous intimacy and infinite grandeur of God.
THY name be hallowed; THY kingdom come; THY will be done.
Jesus calls us to ask for God’s help: first of all, to re-orient and re-center our lives on God. The message become clear with the capitalization of THY, or with the addition of a few words: “Lord, hallowed be thy name – not my name; thy kingdom come – not my kingdom; thy will be done, not my will.” Without God’s power we stay stuck inside ourselves: how deadly. With God’s power found through prayer, a new orientation and center in God opens the door to all kinds of new paths to follow.
On earth as it is in heaven
What a bold vision – praying for nothing less than God’s power to bring as much heaven down to earth as possible. But what aspects of heaven? The prophet Isaiah (2:4) speaks about heaven as a place where “weapons are turned into farm implements,” and the Book of Revelation (21:3-4) speaks about heaven as the place where God is fully present and where death and sorrow are fully absent: “the home of God is among mortals… he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Revelation (7:9-10) also paints a picture of heaven as the place where true community is restored and God’s children of every stripe sing in the same choir: “I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every ethnic group, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands… singing…” Pray, says Jesus, for as much of this vision of heaven as possible to come to earth through us!
Give us this day our daily bread; Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
When Jesus finally gets around to teaching us what requests to make of God, the purpose is not to “get stuff” but to “get what we need” in order to be equipped to do God’s will as members of his kingdom.

  • We ask for enough food to strengthen our bodies to serve God each new day.
  • We ask for mercy so that we have power ourselves to be merciful, and to be healers of broken relationships with God and others.
  • And we ask for stamina that never forgets that we are soldiers in a battle; that evil is real and personal, and that the devil will render our lives useless to God without God’s strength… which is what we remember in the last line of the prayer:

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Amen? Amen!

Glad to be your pastor,