I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps I should add that I’ve been praying it, too, as Jesus taught us, in case you were wondering.

But there’s a whole lot more going on here than I have traditionally thought. I’ll admit to giving in to repeating these words on certain occasions without thinking much about what this prayer is all about. And to be transparent, I must admit that there’s probably a lot of stuff going on in this prayer that I still don’t know much about.

So, I’ll start with what is happening in my prayer life right now as I consider this prayer. It begins, as one would expect, with the first sentence, which almost every citizen in the United States knows: “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy be Your name.”

What I think about when I pray this prayer these days is that Jesus taught us to pray to “our Father.” He was talking to His disciples who didn’t yet know God as their father. Yet, He apparently wanted to make clear to them and to us that it wasn’t just “my Father” that He wanted us to address. As much as I relish the thought that He is my Father, it helps me to know that Jesus wanted us to include all believers in our thought/prayer process as we approached Him in prayer. I believe He wanted to do this because we human-being Christians have a tendency to think in exclusive ways. By that I mean that we tend to become critical about almost everybody who…is not like us. If we had our preference, we would want to change everyone to be like us. That would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? Everyone would agree with me and do things as I do. However, as I look at nature and at humankind, it becomes blatantly obvious that our Father likes diversity. Now, I don’t mean diversity as it is often used in the culture today of the United States—that I must be accepting of all kinds of sinful behavior. I mean diversity in terms of differences in personality, looks, talent, intellect, giftedness, outlook and, well, everything.

Jesus also taught His disciples this: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35 ESV).

This is another scripture to think about with some depth, because Jesus told us to love our brothers and sisters as He loved His disciples. That included dying for them. When I recently watched the film, The Fellowship of the Ring, I was moved again by Samwise Gamgee’s love for Frodo—a love so true that he was willing to die for him. I lamented my own lack of such love and the lack of that kind of love in the Church. We are a very loosely connected group of folks, aren’t we? We say we’re family, but the only way to really understand family is to live together, and according to statistics on Christian marriage in this country, we don’t do that very well. Living together as a family requires tons of forgiveness, grace and love—the steadfast, loyal kind, not the romantic, dreamy kind. (I’m not an expert on this topic, but, trust me—I know a little bit. There are eleven of us in this household.) So I kinda doubt that we’re really “family” in the church, when we aren’t very good at being family in…our family. (The relatively recent addition of small groups to our church programs has helped us become more connected, thankfully.)

But that’s a topic for another time. The point I’d like to make here is that love for fellow Christians is how Jesus said that people would know that we are His disciples. I’m not sure we have done that very well in the contemporary church. I’m not sure we have done that very well, generally speaking, in the history of the Church, although I’m sure there are exceptions within that long history. We should ask ourselves, therefore, if people know we are His disciples by our behavior in this regard. He is our Father.

Well, this little article is getting long. I said that I wanted to discuss the first sentence of the Lord’s Prayer, and I didn’t get past the first two words. Perhaps that’s the way our consideration of the words of God Himself in the flesh should be.

More later. I think the next article will be about the next four words…