Have you ever noticed how much shorter the Lord’s Prayer is in Luke’s gospel (Luke 11:1-4) than it is in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 6:9-13)? Yet even though Matthew’s version is several verses longer they both still have the same five main petitions or imperatives, which are:
The holiness, goodness, and sovereignty of God;
Our desire for God’s Kingdom to be brought to full realization in all the world (which requires our full participation);
The petition for our daily bread;
Forgiveness of sins (which opens a new way of being in relationship with God and others - the old is replaced by the new); and,
That God will help us through our times of trial (that we will never be alone).
It’s really quite simple: 1) There is a God. 2) I’m not it. 3) Life will be much better the more I learn and follow God’s plan. It sounds so easy. So why does it often seem so hard?
There are times when life can seem discombobulating, overwhelming, and/or overly complicated. Times of transition can leave us feeling off-balance, on-guard, and not sure how best to proceed. Perhaps a change in health, relationship(s), work, or our living situation has left us groping to figure out “what’s next.” Every time things change we need to find our new center of gravity, our new “normal.” What’s different? What has passed into the past? What lies ahead? Where are we going and how do we get there? What are our main goals and priorities? Where are we anxious and afraid, and why? What would God have me do?
The disciples saw in Jesus someone who was more poised, centered, faithful, generous, and inwardly resonant than anyone they’d ever met, and so they asked him to teach them how to pray. Essentially they were asking how they could be more like him. “We want what you’ve got; teach us how.” He responded by giving them – and giving us – a very simple formula for life which we find in the Lord’s Prayer. Can’t you just see Jesus smiling as he looked with compassion upon all who looked to him for help, both then and now? It’s as if he’s saying, “When in doubt, keep it simple.” He told us not to be anxious or afraid, and he offers us the joy, abundance, and peace for which we all so deeply long. How do we get it? How do we shake off all the things that leave us feeling fearful, threatened, insecure, and defensive? How do we, instead, walk through life with the poise and elegance with which Jesus did? I can see Him smiling right now as he says, “Oh, my beloved, keep it simple. The entire formula can be found in this one short prayer that I’ve given you.” Aim your entire life at God, no matter what, and trust God every single step of the way. When in doubt, let go of everything and focus on this simple prayer. It will be your map and your compass. With it you will walk into the Land of Plenty where joy and peace and abundance reign. “Come,” he says, “and follow me.”