Lockdown Prayer - Order Restored
"This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread..." (Mt 6:9–11)
Order in Our Spaces
Have you done any re-ordering of spaces in the home this lockdown? We have - our kitchen cupboards in particular. We've re-ordered the draws for our pots and pans, and all the cooking tools we use, and the plastic containers, and a whole lot of other things. And what a difference it makes to the space! I can find what I'm looking for more easily. I can access the items I want to cook with more easily and efficiently. Re-ordering our kitchen cupboards have simply made being in the kitchen space enjoyable and fun!
Order in the heart
This week in our series on the Lord's prayer, quoted above, we're diving into "...Give us today our daily bread...". This is the part of Jesus teaching where prayer gets focussed on our real needs. Our "daily bread" needs - everything from provision over our lives, to the needs for relationship, relief from distress, opportunities for work and purpose - all these and so much more. What I particularly want to focus on is the fact that Jesus teaches us that prayer doesn't start with our needs.
"Give us this day our daily bread" comes after "our Father", and giving honour to His name, and praying for His Kingdom to come, and each of these elements of prayer are hugely significant. Jesus is teaching us about God's design for the right ordering of the needs and desires of our hearts.
Now let's be honest. Our prayers lives (or at least mine) don't always reflect this ordering. I find myself at times, usually due to the sheer pressing anxiety or desperation with respect to a need, racing straight to "give us this day our daily bread." But this is, according to Jesus, to out the cart before the horse.
N T Wright, in his extended meditation on this prayer teaching by Jesus, says that we are putting greed before grace when we race to "give us this day our daily bread." I'll let him take the floor and elaborate:
"When that happens, greed defeats its own object. If we don’t spend time adoring our Father in heaven, seeking the honour of his name, and praying for his kingdom, all our own desires and hopes will simply present themselves to us in a muddled and jumbled fashion, coming bubbling up to the surface in what C. S. Lewis, contemptuous of the later writings of James Joyce, called ‘steam of consciousness’."
Muddled and jumbled
How often I have found myself in this kind of inner state pictured above, in prayer. But do you know what? The Lord, in His mercy, has let me rant and rave and plead and cry out, in all my muddle and jumble. Listened intently and carefully until the storm in me subsides. And then spoken promise, and peace, not simply by getting to my list of wants and needs. But by putting my needs into perspective. Putting them in the context of His much bigger story - the story of the loving Father of us all, who is Holy, bringing His Kingdom to Earth in and through His Son and His church. Fulfilling His good will, which includes taking good and generous care of my "daily bread" needs, in the much grander context of His great salvation work in the world.
It was St Augustine who thought, quite insightfully, that "the essence of sin is disordered love." (read reflections on this here). Simply put - God is, as Jesus teaches, to be our supreme and first love, and then we are to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). If we get the order wrong, which I have done as many times as the next man, we experience the distress, frustration, and even destructive outcomes that can result.
What's the takeaway?
Perhaps the Lord wants to reorder some things in yours and my hearts today? Bring the order that He has designed to exist in our hearts, through practicing prayer in the way He has given us here in His teaching.
And like bringing order to our spaces and homes brings the peace of everything in its right place, and being able to exist in such ordered spaces with greater joy, freedom, and fulfilment, so the Lord's teaching on prayer helps us put "give us this day our daily bread" in its rightful place. In the context of who He is as our loving Heavenly Father, Holy and awesome, bringing about His Kingdom plan and will in the world, even through us. Such that we can enjoy the "daily bread" provisions He brings in their rightful place - and experience greater joy, freedom and fulfilment in general.
I don't know about you, but I need this kind of peace and fulfilment. The peace and fulfilment of an ordered soul. And the Lord has given us the clearest way to this - by practicing ordering our desires, our loves, according to His design. As we do this, we will find the peace not only of following Jesus teaching, but the peace of knowing our desires are aligned with His good purpose and design. Which means we will receive our "daily bread" in His faithfulness and loving favour.
Pursuing ordered loves, God's way, with you this week!
Written by Ps. Rob