The all occasion, perfect prayer

We prayed the Lord’s Prayer every school day, in my elementary public school classrooms. I still hear the voices of my classmates, heads bowed, hands folded. Holly Parker, always the class rebel, likely peeked and passed notes to Larry McKay. (Okay, I peeked at least once.)

“Teach us to pray,” the disciples requested of the carpenter rabbi they followed. Scripture tells us that Jesus responded with the prayer that has become the model for billions of praying Christians ever since. You have likely prayed it. “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”

I prayed it this morning on my commute to work. Election coming our way fast and furious. People distressed and fomenting. COVID and war and worry on every hand. It feels that ordinary morning prayers aren’t strong enough.  As though I should offer something stronger than:

“Lord, thanks for waking us up today, even though we like our beds and would rather just forget about all the stuff happening out there. The mess our world is in. The mess our country is in. The mess our health is in. Forgive us for adding our own trash to the pile. All that makes a body want to give up, Jesus. We’re so weary. But we’re not giving up. We’re getting up. Now. Going out there, into the fray. Help us to reflect you well. To be kind. To offer words that encourage and don’t deliberately enflame. True words. Simple words. Remind us that there are still plenty of reasons to smile. That there is more to life than what seems so frightful and urgent in this moment. Remind us that when it’s hard to hold on to you, you keep holding on to us. Please watch over our country, our neighbours and our beloveds. Where needed, help them to straighten up and fly right. And Father, much as we need your tender care, there are so many others who need it more. Surround them with your peace and give them hope and shelter. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Most days, a heartfelt conversation with God feels right. And God, who wants exactly that, listens. But this morning, as I drove, I felt I needed to turn off the radio to pray. Words felt stalled, though, until the prayer that is always right, always heard and always perfect. The prayer that God’s Son himself taught that small band of ragtag followers who changed the world with his message.

If these perplexing days have you too, fumbling for words in prayer, please pray it with me:

“Our Father in Heaven, Your name be honoured as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 5: 9-13

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