A little extra

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

A little bit that some scribe seems to have added at the end as it is not present in what are considered the best manuscripts. Does it belong here? Probably not, but maybe!

Probably not given the MSS evidence; but maybe – this scribe added a good little finale, and I think we can add bits here and there that work for us, and focus us. Prayer is a lifestyle; prayer is relational; prayer is multi-faceted – so add a bit here and there seems well good to me. The Psalms are a great resource, but I would be pretty selective in what of that I used to pray! Too much smash the enemy (people) and their children in there to fuel prayer. Maybe read to avoid!

All prayer / stances that flow from ‘Father’… ‘our’… should determine what we add. I guess we will all add something unique. I have a zoom group coming up ere long and I will ask people to think ‘what do you that is your stance that you want to pass on / pray on to those who are present’. We all have something unique and this will affect how we pray. Variety, diversity, uniqueness.

And there will be parts we do not add to our praying. We will avoid them cos our view of God. Others might include. Revelation and conviction is what fuels us.

So the little bit extra, that seems to me to have been written in is really OK, and on the more important picture gives us permission to add as well!!

Lead not… deliver us…

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
.

Historically this prayer made a lot of sense, it is the prayer for the disciples of Jesus in their context… yet though Scripture is not written to us it written for us. The time of trial was coming increasingly in their context and would reach a climax in the decades that were to follow their context, but for us?

Many Bibles translate the word as ‘temptation’ and that is probably included under this wider term of ‘trial’. (Likewise ‘the evil one’ is a broad term and can mean ‘evil one’ or ‘evil hour’ or even simply ‘evil’.) Trials come, life is not a straight line, but if we are proud of heart to think that whatever comes we will make it through – the Peter attitude of ‘even if all the others don’t make it you can count on me’ – we are likely to find that we are experiencing battles we really did not need to fight.

I love the practicality of Scripture. Don’t pray for difficulties… pray for peace… each day has enough trouble in it… And here comes a humble request in this prayer, indicating a positioning of ‘I am not so smart as to make it through regardless, so make the path for me one I can really handle’, and we know that if we pray in that way we will discover that ‘there is no temptation that we cannot bear’. (Imagine if Judas had prayed that prayer… no money bag given to him, no deal with the Jewish leaders for money…)

A profound prayer… a kind of summary of ‘all kinds of praying’. Some parts will appeal more than others. If we think about how we pray we will probably find that we resonate with some lines more than others. I am not great at intimacy, nor at the need to focus on today, and with an unhealthy element of arrogance am somewhat vulnerable to the cock crowing twice.

And if prayer is as much to do with life positioning as it has to do with what comes out of our mouths, there is a lot I need to give attention to. ‘With all kinds of prayers pray’. My way is OK and part of the ‘all kinds’… but I have to acknowledge it does not say ‘with one kind of prayer pray’. Ah well, just one more reminder that I have a way to go!

Forgive… as…

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.

And we need to add the underlining to this phrase with the verse that follows:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

‘Forgive me, Lord’. Who has not prayed that, and sometimes when we really should not have done so! But what about – do it just as I do it others? That is a bit challenging, and might explain why God is somewhat distant at times.

Debts, used in the prayer, and trespasses used in the underlining. A debt is what I owe; a trespass is crossing a line (I did a post recently on boundaries). What a great way to understand ‘sin’. I owe… I owe it to treat people as if they are part of humanity created in the image of God. It pushes me back to what I understand to be a central plank in Paul’s ethics – how we see no-one through old categorising criteria. And if I do not treat people in that way I am trespassing, I am stepping outside of my boundaries and resisting them living to the edge of their boundary.

Forgiveness – release the ship to her destiny. The problem of sin is that it imprisons us. So it seems if we are to fly and touchour destiny we need to release others, not demanding that they put right what they ‘owe’ us, not fighting them over where they have trespassed on to our territory.

Maybe so much of the prayer hangs on this part. After all it is the only part in Matthew that Jesus picks up and repeats.

Imagine not a world of perfection, but a world of release. Maybe this is why creation was never created perfect, maybe this is why the ‘bad’ tree was the one that would enable us to know what is perfect and what is not. Maybe the tree of life will help us simply live releasing, untying, saying to the ships we see ‘Untied, go sail’. I don’t think I can contribute much to perfecting the world, but maybe I have a contribution to liberating those I see within this imperfect, this ‘sinning’ world. A liberated world.

Daily bread

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.

Not so easy to translate, with the unusual word ἐπιούσιος – a word unknown in Greek literature. Could be ‘daily’ as in most Bibles, could be ‘tomorrow’. If it is the bread of tomorrow then it is asking God to help us live with the anticipation of the final bread at the Messianic banquet. To live with a future orientation and that to affect our present experience. If it is the daiy bread it is that we will have everything we need in terms of provision, and if so it is not a prayer for luxury but for what we truly need to be who we should be.

Maybe we can put the two together. As we anticipate that this is not all there is but there is an age to come, when we will sit down and eat (figurative, but how important meals were) and we will have everything we need. That banquet will be the fullness of the life that comes from the one who is the bread from heaven, and I suggest from the fruit of each life submitted to Jesus. Then tying the ‘daily’ understanding in – give me everything today that I need to live in a way that will both provide food for others and position me to benefit both now and then from all you are doing in the lives of others. Provision, positioning; now and the future; with the provision enabling me to be positioned to receive and give, what will be fully manifest then, in some measure to one and all now.

Intimacy and inclusivity; who God in heaven is; bold prayers offered in humility; then we drop down to provision and position. There is a flow because from here we are moving internally… forgive us.

Come… be done…

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.

Strong words… the ‘come’ and the ‘be done’ are at the beginning of the phrases and act as commands. This is why pulling a few Scriptures together might be a starting point but we need a little more than that. The intimacy, the halowing come first. But then…

On earth as in heaven. If we had no more Scriptures than this to inform us that the wil of God is not being done on earth, and it clearly does not come through God imposing it, and it does not come without our contribution, we have all of that in these phrases.

We get to know something of the will of God through understanding a little concerning the name(s) of God, the ultimate name being the name ‘Jesus’. I confess I have little idea how to pray for the Ukraine. I have prayed, because (I think) I have faith that there will be no release of chemical nor nuclear weapons; I know the will of God as in heaven is no killings, no war, but that is beyond me to pray that. If prayer is lifestye then there are those who are ‘praying’ to some god that war will continue, that land will be stolen, boundaries changed. Yes, at a lifestyle level, there are conflicting prayers, with a difference we pray to the God in heaven, at best others are ‘praying’ to the heavenly realms.

Eschatology. Every prayer, every seed sown now is being sowed into the future, and we need to sow where we want the world to go… My bottom line understanding of the delay of the parousia is that we are providing the material for that, hence every prayer at the macro level for the end of war has to sow into that age when the final sword will be reshaped into a farming instrument. Over-realized eschatology will say everything now… Eschatology will say ‘your kingdom come… on earth as in heaven’ knowing that there has been seeds sown into the future and will not be surprised when the future spills over into the here and now. Eschatology will not push everything into the future, even if it does not demand everything now.

Your kingdom… not my interpretation of your kingdom. Bold decarations from humble hearts.

Your name

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.

We have just had ‘in heaven’ and it seems the real intercessory prayer follows with on earth as in heaven. In between comes this phrase ‘hallowed be your name’, so the positioning of it seems key to move from the intimacy to the more declarative part; it both connects back and forward.

Hallowed – maybe if we used a non-word translation ‘holy-fide’; a recognition of the setting apart of the name of God. The name declaring who this God is, not where we can control God, know God in the sense of understanding everything, for the revelation to Moses was ‘I will be who I will be’. Unchanging in the eternal sense but adaptable, surprising, something new.

The name of God is to focus on who s/he is. The Yahweh names; the El / Elohim names; the name of Jesus… The God in heaven, that same God who is among us, who is this God? Too big to hold all of God, but perhaps a good way is to sanctify the name that is needed for now? How else are we going to pray – other than in nice theory and maybe simply quoting a verse to bolster our ‘faith’ – on earth as in heaven?

Faith, trust. Really kicks in when circumstances say differently. Really kicks in when we pray and nothing changes! That’s the time when we lose sight of the ‘name’. I don’t like some of the biblical books – Job being one of them. ‘You give and take away’; ‘even though he slay me…’ Don’t think for one minute that Jesus would agree that there is a revelation of God in those texts, and neither do I, but… quite a revelation of how to respond in the face of difficulty. Even if it appears to me that God could have, I will still trust, I will still honour, halllow the name of God.

Not all prayer is answered as we anticipate, but all prayer that has a trust in God is sown into the now of the ‘not-yet’ to contribute to the harvest of the ‘then in fullness’.

This is why a focus not simply on the intimacy of God: ‘Father’; the inclusivity of God: ‘our’; but on the name of God, who this God will be is so important. If we are going to pray ‘on earth as in heaven’ we need to hallow the name. God will be who God will be.

Our Father

Prayer… not so good at that one, but at least we are instructed to pray ‘with all kinds of prayer’. Mine is not very meditative, so for sure lacking at that level, but just squeezes in under the ‘all kinds’ of definition. And maybe if we are to ‘pray without ceasing’ it is as much to do with heart attitude as it does with words and practices. I hope so!

Been thinking a bit about ‘the Lord’s prayer’ and as we have it in two different versions it is probably a bit of a guide rather than a formula to follow. Here it is in Matthew’s gospel:

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.

And the verse added after the prayer relates back to it and is key for our progress, with an interesting change from ‘debt’ to ‘trespass’.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

So heart attitude… First word ‘Father’, second word ‘our’. Maybe the word order is incidental as per many languages, but probably quite helpful. First word is beyond ourselves and our world; first word is not to an unknown deity. The promise of Jesus was not to bring us to God, but that he was the way to the ‘Father’. I appreciate that word can be a tough word for some, and within it certainly is contained the whole concept of ‘mother’. Intimacy is suggested, for the relationship is the one that we can see Jesus had. We cannot insist on the correct word, but push for the intimate relationship, and sadly the word can even prevent that intimacy if we project on to God any negative experience we have had.

However, by starting with that word we are being invited to move beyond projectionism from our experience so that eventually any negative experience will be covered by the intimacy of ‘true parenthood’. Love covers a multitude of sins… and that has to cover sins that we have experienced as well as all our (my?) bad behaviour.

The prayer is short when we count the words, but pretty long when we walk the journey. Many days we will get the first few letters of the prayer out. ‘Fath……’ First word is a life-long journey to a place of deep rest and security, particularly when we face situations where (in our opinion) God could have done something. The fact he didn’t maybe indicates something wrong with our theology. We want to believe in an all-powerful God, Jesus introduces us to a relational being.

Second word ‘our’. Those first two words are familial words, belonging words, corporate words. If the first word puts me in touch with intimacy the second word puts me in a horizontal context. Amazing how connected those two words and concepts are. Private religion nor separatedness seem to be what it is about. Familial context, belonging, me not more important than you… and truthfully the more I know of intimacy the more I will see you, and see you and me connected.

How wide does the ‘our’ go? Maybe like the meals of Jesus, with a ‘sitting down with his own’, that close identity with those who have imbibed of the Spirit, and the thousands in the desert who were not even clear about what the food was all about. We probably should lose our desire to draw the in / out lines and seek to live in a way that we have many overlapping circles of ‘our’ as possible. The more ‘ours’ there are the more likely there will be those who also come to the place where they can utter the first word.

Some days we might be praying the second word. Intimacy can lead to a very loud ‘our’. I don’t think religion leads us there. If people exclude themselves from the ‘our’ that is their choice; if we include people in the ‘our’ that is our choice.

‘In heaven’… no reductionism there. God among us, ‘one of us’, yet not one of us. Not a God made in our image. However far I have progressed – and if only you knew you would be impressed beyond belief!! – there is more.

Father, our – among us, intimacy. In heaven – not simply among us, not simply one of us. And an invitation not to stay where we are but to grow.

This first line seems to be a healthy starting point and maybe a line that we might never get much beyond, certainly a line that will be repeated many times over.

Freedom from the big bad devil

Someone who impacted me a lot was the late John Barr (d. Jan, 2001). He was a great public figure but what impressed me much more was the time he had for people at a private level, marked by who showed up at his funeral. In this post I unapologetically draw from his perception of ministering healing and freedom to people. He said:

  • There are wounds to be healed
  • There are bondages to be broken
  • There are demons to be cast out
  • There are sins to be forgiven.

Any breakdown such as above can be counteracted when another lens is used, but I have found those distinctions to be helpful. The last three posts have been on the big bad devil so maybe start with ‘demons to be cast out’. What is a demon? Multiple choice answers to the question:

  • Evil spirits, originally fallen angels, servants of the big bad devil. (Probably only fully formulated in the Second Century by the Christian theologican, Tatian.)
  • The ‘spirits’ of the offspring between humans and angels (the ‘strange’ text of Genesis 6 and also of Enoch (not written by the aforementioned!)).
  • Not ontological, yet present as personal realities… ‘created’ through the circumstances, choices or events. (The work of Water Wink in the bigger picture on principalities and powers, where he posits spiritual powers being the interiority of a corporation.)
  • All of the above / none of the above / some of the above / not got a clue.

(The last option was the opt out option – always good to have one of those! The varied possible answers I increasingly favour as it seems Scripture does not give a simple answer to many of the questions we ask… and I do see Jesus as teaching but not tying a whole bunch of stuff up. There are probably answers in the book, but maybe the answer to our question might not be what we need.)

I am very happy to cast out demons, and very happy for someone sharper than I to say ‘that is not what really happened’. Well possible… though if a freedom comes and there is some parallel with what Jesus did then I am happy to be wrong. Could the person have found freedom through some sort of counselling / inner work? Probably. But probably not in every situation.

The huge danger of ‘demon casting out of’ is that every situation is a demon, and of course demons can be seen through the eyes of one’s theology – and the damage caused with certain ‘conversion therapy’ practices is anything but aligned to the practice of Jesus.

(And on the multiple choice question I actually, when push comes to shove, land on option #3, in spite of many experiences of ‘demons’ manifesting. I land there tentatively as the interaction of the spiritual realm and the material realm is somewhat complex. I even had in one situation certain occult priests manifest materially inside a locked building – they really should not have been there with the poison they were carrying to put in our food… that was naughty!)

Those undefined ‘demons’ always look for a landing place. Persistent behaviour, hence the instruction to ‘not give the devil a foothold’. Behaviour such as unforgiveness, anger, addictions. As per Jesus’ instruction the need to sort out the door of ‘entry’ is a necessary part of coming to freedom.

A whole complex area, with the verb used maybe indicating a spectrum of coming under the influence of demonic powers. Hence in some situations ‘deliverance’ maybe can come through something other than some form of exorcism, in other situations the freedom accelerated through the deliverance, and probably other situations where freedom will only come through the demon being cast out.

‘My method / teaching is correct’ does not normally cut it. Paul did not say ‘the greatest of these is [my] truth’. Back to how we relate to people… love.

In this vague post let me also touch on ‘sins to be forgiven’. Two thoughts that I am pretty close to thinking is definitely the truth(?)!! Sin is better defined along the lines of failing to act as a human, in other words failing to image God, falling short of the glory of God. Yes involves guilt and also shame, but not the fear of being dangled over hell fire. The judgements of God are over humanity and our corporate falling short – hence ‘all have sinned’ cannot be reduced to you + me + this person + that person… it is we all, as a whole, whether Jew or Gentile have sinned. I am not minimising personal ‘sin’ but I am solidy putting corporate sin on the page – sady witnessed to for all to see / increasingly experience with the crisis our planet and life-styes have produced.

There is though also the personal aspect of sin, and in the context of this post they are to be forgiven. Second thought, we need to see forgiveness as freedom, the same forgiveness word being used of untying a ship to go on her voyage. It is more than a release from guilt (or shame if that is the dominant culture), but the word of forgiveness is to untie and say go – maybe like the woman caught in adultery, the non-condemnatory response of Jesus was freedom for her, but there was also a ‘go’ word in the forgiveness.

Kick out demons, proclaim forgiveness on the foundation of repentance. Yes, but how? My way, your way, the highway, whatever way. The way seems secondary, the means is love and the result is freedom. Oh, and the best of us (even me) are finding freedom bit by bit, it is a process, and in the process we might categorise what needs addressing differently, but I am grateful to Mr. Barr whose four phrases have helped me on my journey.

The big bad devil: deception

The third in the triad: accusation, temptation and deception. This one is perhaps the most subtle one. Vey subtle when one of the doors in is the door of truth.

I discover that I have been deceived does not come at the moment that I might be deceived, rather it comes much later. I drive in my car, I am driving from A to B and I think I know the road fairly well. Location ‘C’ is not on the way… My radio is playing away, I enjoy the ride; I jump off at a service station, get back in and carry on my way… Two hours later I should be getting close now to ‘B’, so I check the next signpost to see if it will give me a distance marker. Shock, horror it states ‘C: 10 kilometers’. I am not deceived when I see the signpost – that is my moment of reality to let me know that some time back I took a wrong turn. The sign told me I was already deceived.

OUCH.

Back in 2005 I was in a particular country and somehow I saw the future about the political realm. ‘The candidate who enters your presidency in ’08 will not be the person you are hoping for, praying for, prophesying will be successful… but you need to embrace him (yes I used masculine language)… if you do not embrace him you will get a double blow in ’12’.

Lo and behold the ‘non-popular person to the Christian (charismatic) population’ got elected in ’08 and ’12. (Followed I consider by the ‘one God would really choose if we were God’ in 16… either then seen as we are back on track, or raising the question of where did we go wrong?)

Asking the question of where did we go wrong takes bravery because, as per my driving illustration above, we will probably find we are just a few kilometers from location ‘C’. Yes we were heading for ‘B’, but getting back to that path will take so long, and hey ‘C’ might just be a great place to get to.

When we discover we are deceived we need to go back to the wrong turn. Takes time, and the recent part of the journey seems such a waste. As far as the journey goes it was a waste; as far as God at work in us there is no such thing as wasted time. Go back is the best piece of advice.

And the ’08, ’12 scenario? I added at the end of what I brought that ‘this will happen to show that you are already deceived’. That is sobering. In the situation there is a truth, a door that was gone through, that the church is there with a responsibility to transform society… a door that is not a problem, but maybe the excitement of that understanding or undealt with issues of control, desire for power just messed it all up.

The devil deceives. Not normally with ‘jump off this cliff now…’ No. The door of appeal is something that is ‘of God’ and then our excesses, undealt with inner issues, naivety or whatever just takes us beyond where we should tread. It is said that all ‘error contains half-truths’.

Scepticism is healthy. If I hear, for example (big picture), of unreserved approval for a certain leader who has said some pretty damaging things about women, has a ‘gift’ to insult everyone who is different to themselves, I think the minimum response should be ‘I am not so sure’. (Such a disguised paragraph with no names added.)

We got to go deeper than naivety, enthusiasm.

Big picture, but at the smaller picture of my life, I want to get through the door that God opens, go through it with faith, and take along with me a measure of scepticism, and certainly healthy questioning. I might end up being deceived, if so I back up and just get on course again on my journey to ‘B’.

The big bad devil: temptation

Do not give in to temptation! But it looks so appealing.

The big ones – sex, money, power. Oh yes indeed – I have been behind the scenes in too many situations not to know the reality of those; the backroom where things are out of order, and the front stage where ‘God is present’ and the ‘anointing is breaking yokes’.

And there sits a dilemma. Useful, let’s be spiritual, being used by God, ‘proof’ that God approves and yet something later gets so uncovered and we end up disillusioned. Damaging to faith, and so it should be, damaging to that kind of faith that has a contorted view of God. The bells and whistles are not the proof.

Maybe more intense – and tying a little into yesterday also on accusation – it is easy to see where the big ones mentioned (sex, money and power) are present and yet also God is present… BUT it is very hard to see where there is continual discouragement and also the tangible presence of God. The big ones don’t really clobber us (though they obviously can) but the little and continual discouragements do.

Why temptation(s)? Well obviously to bring us down and into bondage. That is one perspective. However… let’s see the positive side for the pattern of Jesus being anointed by the Spirit immediately led to a series of temptations. The temptations were not a sign of failure, quite the opposite. Intense seasons – following the pattern of Jesus – are markers for a positive shift.

Temptations are really helpful for they expose where God is coming to bring about healing. In all our lives there are areas that simply are not temptations. Maybe ‘bitterness’ when wronged is simply not a temptation for you, but for someone else it really is. This is where temptation is so helpful. I am tempted (using the example above) to be bitter and unforgiving, awesome – shows me where there is a weakness. So following the path of honesty I do not have to ‘do better’ but face the reality of what is inside and allow the Spirit of God into that space, for temptation appeals into the area of wounding, relational absence, wrong persepctives.

The temptations are real. We fall to the temptation. The devil as tempter is real. But even the fall is not too big an issue. The uncovering of where we fall is key; God loves to cover what we uncover.

Perspectives