Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Daddy, You Promised!": A Poem of Promises in Prayer

The prayer traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” is frankly a simple request: “Daddy, you promised!”  And the ones who pray this child-like prayer are those who are so helpless that they are in need.

Our Father in heaven
“Father” in the ancient world meant not only one’s dad, but also one’s ruler.  One of Caesar’s many titles in ancient Rome was “Father” because, ultimately, he was the one who provided for and judged every citizen of Rome throughout the world.  God, for Jesus, is the one that encompassed every aspect of positive fatherhood.  His heart yearned for his children and set himself aside to meet their needs.37  He is both unbelievably powerful and lovingly intimate with his helpless children. 

He sees his toddler across the room and says, “Give me a hug!” 
She paddles across the floor and is wrapped in her Daddy’s secure arms.  He tickles her and then whispers in her ear, “Hungry?”  She nods and, almost magically, a plate of eggs and toast appears.  She sits down to eat and he looks at her with eyes of joy.  

May your name be sanctified 38
God’s reputation has been, and continues to be, defiled.39  People who call God by his name have been hypocrites, and the enemies of God has used this as an excuse to defile God, to say that the Father of power and love does not exist.  This is the prayer of the faithful in God who cannot accept that God’s reputation is sullied.  But, at the same time, they know that only He can cleanse his own reputation.

In his eyes there is a sadness.  She cannot accept her daddy being sad, so she will take care of it. “Daddy, are you okay?” 
“Oh, some bad people have been saying things about your daddy.” 
She stamps her foot.  “Don’t let them!” 
He smiles with a tear in his eye, “I’ll take care of it, little girl.”
 “Good,” she murmurs.

May your kingdom come
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God’s promises are all toward the fulfillment of the utopia of God.  A land where God’s people will be secure, provided for and God would rule.40  The earth, as it stands, is far from that ideal, but the people of God continually hope and expect God to take over the world and make all things right.

“I’m tired of being stuck in this place.  I want to play!”
“We can go to a park.”
“But I can’t go out by myself!”
“It’s pretty dangerous out there.” 
“Daddy, we will live in a big house, right?”
 “With a backyard for you to play in.” 41
“And a pony.  You know I want a pony!” 
“We’ll see,” he smiles.

Give us today our daily bread.
In our society of full refrigerators and overstuffed cupboards, it seems hard to imagine that more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night.    Yet God promised them plenty and generous food.42  If God provides for his anawim daily—even as he did the children of Israel in the wilderness—it would be seen that God’s power is greater than any god or government or wealthy patron.  For who feeds all of their people, every day?  Who has that kind of resources?  Only God.43

She and her daddy play with a ball on the wood floor.  Suddenly she jumps up, “Daddy, guess what?” 
 “I’m hungry again!”
 “Imagine that! How often do you get hungry, anyway?  Don’t you ever quit?” 
She throws her hands on her hips, making a defiant stance. “Nope.  I’m always hungry.” 
“So what do you want?  A rock?” 
“Nooooo!  I want food.” 
“Ah, let’s see what we can do for you, then.”44

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
God promised to forgive his people.45  But forgiveness is never unconditional.  According to Jesus, forgiveness is conditional on two things:  forgiving others and repenting of what one needs to be forgiven of.46  Thus, God must send his Spirit—a promise of God—so his people would be able to fulfill the conditions and thus gain the promised forgiveness.

She walks up to him with her hands behind her back and her eyes fixed on the floor.  “I broke something.”             
His face is serious, “What?” 
“Your calculator.” 
“Didn’t I tell you not to play with it?”  She says nothing, but her cheeks burn red.  “Give it to me.”  She takes it from behind her back and shows it to him.  He gently takes it from her hand, looking at it closely. 
“Are you going to punish me?” 
“Do you want me to?” 
“Well, it was good you told me.  If you had tried to hide it, then I might punish you.”  He pushes the corner of the object back into place.  “See, it just came out of the casing.  It’s okay now.”
 She stares at it with eyes wide, “You can fix it?”
 “I already did, see?”  She does, and jumps in joy.  “Now listen, little girl.  Remember when your brother broke your doll?”
She glowers, “Yeah.  He was mean.” 
“Were you mean when you broke my calculator?” 
“No.  I didn’t mean to.” 
“Uh, huh.  But you disobeyed me when you played with it, right?”
 She looks down, “Yeah.” 
“And he shouldn’t have played with your doll, right?” 
“Yeah!”  “What did you want to do to him?” 
“I hit him!” 
His face registers its disappointment. “Did you?” 
Her stare doesn’t waver. “He broke my doll!”
 “Do you want me to hit you for breaking my calculator?” 
She stares at him soulfully in his face.  “Are you going to do that, daddy?” 
“Do you want me to?” 
“Do you think your brother wants you to hit him for breaking your toy?” 
“I don’t know.”
“Remember this—your brother is like you.  If you want me to not hit, then you need to not hit, too.  I won’t hit you, so don’t hit your brother.” 
Reluctantly she says, “Okay….”

Lead us not into testing
            But deliver us from the evil.
Most of all, God’s people must remain faithful to their God.47 It is God’s promise in Ezekiel 36 that if God’s people received of God’s Spirit, they would have hearts that would be faithful.48
 But how could God’s people remain faithful, day by day, unless they are released from the daily testing of their faith?  The suffering we face causes us to doubt.  The difficulties we face make it hard to live according to God’s law.  Our own weaknesses make it difficult some mornings to get up and live in God.  How can we rest in God’s kingdom until the constant persecution, the constant attack, the consistent pounding against our faith is finished?  God’s people must finally be delivered from the evil attacking them each day—they are only human.  To fulfill the complete promise, not only must the power be there, but the obstacles to fulfillment must be removed.49

She comes running to her daddy, crying in his arms, “You told me to go next door, daddy!” 
He is surprised to find a shivering child with a damp face on his lap, “Yes.  You’re being babysat by Ellen tonight.” 
“But I can’t!” 
He sees her sorrow and holds her, soothing her.  “Why can’t you?” 
“There’s a boy on the sidewalk, and he says it’s his and I can’t walk on it and if I do then he’ll hit me and I don’t want to be hit because it will hurt!” 
“Oh really?”  He stands up, steel in his eye.  “Well, I’ll tell you what.  I’ll walk out the front door with you and go with you to Ellen’s” 
“But what if he’s still there?” 
“He might be there still.  But not for long.”

The promise of God can only be fulfilled through the power of God.  The power of God can only be found through intimacy with God.  “Don’t be afraid little sheep, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”50

37. Luke 11:10-13; Luke 12:22-32.
38. “Hallowed” is an often misunderstood term.  It is not a term of praise, nor does it strictly mean “holy”.  Rather, the request is demanding that God’s name be made holy, as if His name is not currently holy.  This is not about God’s nature—which is always holy—but about His reputation.  Thus, the request is that God’s reputation be straightened out.
39. As we saw in Ezekiel 36:20-23-- in the section "I Refuse to be a 90 lb. Weakling!"
40. Ezekiel 36:24.
41. With regards to Audio Adrenaline.
42. Ezekiel 36:29-30; Matthew 6:25-34.
43. See the first chapter on Psalm 146.
44. Matthew 7:9
45. Ezekiel 36:25
 46. Luke 17:3-4; Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 18:21-35.
47. Faithfulness and obedience is the condition of receiving God’s promises.  Not perfect obedience, but an obedient walk, a faithful approach to life.  This allows for mistakes that can be forgiven, but an obedient heart. John 3:36; Matthew 12:50; Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 18:15.
48. Ezekiel 36:26-27.
49. Matthew 18:6-7.
50. Luke 12:32.

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