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“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 (NIV)

The Bible teaches that God loves us and wants us to be happy. This truth is found throughout scripture. The verse above, from Psalm 133 is just one example. David proclaims a pleasant life can be had when God’s people live in unity. The definition of “pleasant” is giving a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment.” Happy satisfaction. Something we all dearly want. God’s people need to live together in unity to enjoy that happy satisfaction. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.

My wife and I minister at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a community with staff members from different countries and cultures, age groups and denominations. Possibilities for misunderstanding, offense and dissension abound. Sometimes we are frustrated with our brothers and sisters and wonder why they “don’t get it”! “Why don’t they do it like I do it?” How can God’s people possibly live in unity in this kind of community, or any community where humans come together with different backgrounds, levels of education, agendas, priorities and worldviews?

I think the Lord’s Prayer goes a long way toward instructing believers about how to live in unity. I see eight principles that can help a Christian community maintain unity and enjoy pleasant lives.

Our Father

The first two words of the Lord’s Prayer are key to God’s people living in harmony. “Our Father” signifies two import things. Number one, it’s not just “my” Father, but “our” Father. It’s not all about me and my relationship with God, but about the entire community of faith relating to God and each other in an edifying manner. Second, we do not address our prayer to “God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth” or to “Our Higher Power”, but to the Father. “Father” points to a close, loving relationship. The Father is the head of the Christian family. Father knows best! And while he is “a Higher Power” and “God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”, he is also “Daddy”. Our Daddy, who loves his children and wants them to be happy, just like most daddies.

Holy Be Your Name, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

The next three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are connected to the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven”. I always found it odd to pray that God’s name would be “hallowed” or “holy” because it is already “holy”. It was only until I realized that the prayer is asking that God’s name be holy on earth “as it is in heaven” that I came to the true significance of those words. I imagine the holiness of God in heaven, which is a mix of his righteousness, love, goodness, beauty, truth and power, and I pray, the community of God prays, that these attributes would be manifest in the world. In our community. When the people of God see these attributes in their Holy Father, and attempt to live them out, they enjoy pleasant unity.

Your Kingdom Come, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

We imagine what God’s kingdom in heaven must be like, full of peace, happiness and love, and ask God to manifest this Happy Kingdom of love and joy among us, as we focus on the Good King, who also happens to be our Daddy.

Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven

We only experience pleasant unity when God’s will is done in our lives, our churches and our Christian communities. God’s will is summed up in two commandments: love God with your entire being and love your neighbor as yourself. Living a life of love, agape love, is the rich soil that grows happy unity.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

This phrase is important for two reasons. The first reason is the two words “today” and “daily”. Evidently Jesus wanted his followers to pray this prayer everyday. To meditate, consider, ponder deeply and focus intently on the words in this prayer everyday. The second reason is that we too often take our “daily bread” for granted. We pray for world peace or economic security or a loved ones salvation, the Big stuff, but neglect to pray for our daily bread because we feel we provide that for ourselves. We believe we are capable on our own of getting our daily bread. In reality it is a gift from our Father of lights, because he graciously gives us the capacity to either make our daily bread, or more often, earn the money we need to buy our daily bread. We also need daily spiritual bread, God’s Word, to not only survive in this world, but to thrive as a Christian People, living in unity. We should take neither our physical bread or spiritual bread for granted if we want to live pleasantly together.

As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us

Christians sin. Christians make grave errors. Christians offend one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book about living in Christian community called Life Together. Early on in this delightfully helpful little book, he writes about how many times Christian communities brake down because people come into the community with a “wish dream”. When a Christian comes into a faith community, he often thinks he is entering a utopia where everyone is perfect and each person loves one another perfectly. Bonhoeffer says that “God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams.”

Unfortunately all Christians offend, disappoint, and hurt other Believers, usually unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. Two things can result from the sinful behavior of Jesus’ Followers. One is that “hurt people hurt people”. Hurt people retaliate and get revenge on those who have offended them. Of course that destroys any hope of God’s people living in pleasant unity. A better response to being hurt, is to forgive those that hurt us. Just as Jesus forgave those who hurt him, like the Roman soldiers, the religious leaders, and you and me. So we are to forgive those who sin against us, as God, for Christ’s sake, forgave us. This leads to a flourishing Christian community living in unity.

Save Us From The Time Of Trial

Some denominations say “lead us not into temptation.” Other denominations don’t use that phrase because it sometimes causes confusion as people get the idea that God will lead us into temptation if we don’t pray otherwise. Lead us not into temptation” simply means don’t allow hardships or bad things to happen to us that might tempt us to doubt your goodness. In other words, “save us from the time of trial” means that God will put his hedge of protection around his people that they may be confident that he loves them and and wants them to be happy.

In the Christian community, when somebody does something awful to upset another person, or at times the whole community, some people might leave the group thinking, “I thought they were a Christian. If that is how Christians act, then I don’t want any part of them.” When we pray, “save us from the time of trial”, one of the things we are praying for is that that situation would not occur.

Deliver Us From The Evil One

Number one on Satan’s To Do list is to destroy unity that the people of God cherish. He has a well equipped tool box that he brings out regularly to disrupt and ruin any harmony that exists. His favorite tool is gossip, but he also likes to use pride, envy, and slander, among others. First Peter tells us that the devil is a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Fortunately, he is no match for Jesus, the Lion of Judah, who is ever diligent to deliver us from the attacks of the Evil One, allowing the people of God to live in pleasant unity.

At times, Christian unity, living in harmony with one another, can be difficult, but we can rejoice in the faithfulness of our heavenly Father, who, as we see in the Lord’s prayer, strives to help us build heaven on earth with his daily good gifts, forgiveness, saving grace and power that overcomes threats from the Devil. Let us be faithful to regularly pray this prayer, meditate on the words that Jesus taught us to pray, and put them into practice as the Lord gives us opportunity. Then we can be sure to enjoy happy satisfaction living in Christian community.

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I think people generally take bread for granted.  It’s a staple of many peoples diets.  It’s common.  It’s cheap.  It’s conveinent. I have taken it for granted for most of my life.  Growing up we had toast with breakfast, sandwich for lunch and a piece of bread with butter for dinner. Lots of bread – little thought about it.

I stopped taking it for granted a few years ago when I began taking the Lord’s Prayer seriously and started praying it everyday.  The Lord’s Prayer has big spiritual ideas like the holiness of God, the Kingdom, the will of God, forgiveness of sin, deliverance from the Evil One, power and glory.  And right smack in the middle of it is BREAD!

Give us today our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).  Imagine that.  Jesus wants us to ask the Father for bread everyday.  Not take it for granted.  Not assume that we will always have it.  Ask God today for our daily bread.  So what’s the big deal about bread?  I think God wants us to remember, to remind ourselves, everyday, that we depend on God for everything in our life, everyday.  From our  salvation and sanctification, to our daily bread and daily breath.  If God doesn’t give it, we don’t get it.

So the next time we spread jelly on our toast, or bite into a Big Mac, let’s take a moment to thank our gracious, generous heavenly Father for the bread.  God loves us and wants us to be happy, so He gave us bread!

English: Lord's Prayer A tablet behind the alt...

English: Lord’s Prayer A tablet behind the altar in St Mary the Virgin showing the Lord’s Prayer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord’s prayer is a happy prayer.  When I pray it and meditate on it I am filled with joy because it is filled with good things. God wants us to ask him for good things. Most of the Lord’s prayer is about asking God for stuff.  There was a time in my life where I stopped asking God for stuff.  I stopped praying for people.  I figured that God is sovereign and all powerful and all knowing  and full of love a and that he would handle all situations and circumstances perfectly.  I thought it ridiculous to think that God was up there on his celestial throne waiting for me to send up a prayer before he would act.  “You know, I was planning on healing George of his cancer, but Santiago never prayed for him, so poor old George died.”  I didn’t think God needed my prayer before he did the right thing.

And I was right.  He doesn’t need my prayer.  I need my prayer.  I finally realized that by taking a good look at the Lord’s prayer. Most of the Lord’s prayer is petition.  Not adoration or thanksgiving, but petitions, requests.  I need to ask God for stuff, for things, for help, to remind myself daily that I am totally dependent on God for everything!  For all my physical needs and spiritual needs.  In the Lord’s prayer I am reminded over and over that God is good and loving and wants me to be happy.

The Lord’s prayer starts off with “Our Father” and a bit later “thy kingdom come”.  The first piece of happiness we find is that our Father is the king.  As a youth I went to Bible camp every year in the mountains of Colorado.  One year the guest speaker was from Tennessee.  He had never seen the Rocky mountains.  One day, on a hike he stopped and exclaimed, “My daddy made those mountains!”  Sometimes I want to stop and exclaim with joy, “My daddy is the king!”  The Lord’s prayer is part of the sermon on the mount where Jesus has been mentioning the kingdom.  He began His ministry proclaiming the kingdom of the heavens or the kingdom of God.  In the Lord’s prayer we happily discover that our daddy is the king.

In context of  “thy kingdom come”  Jesus gives us the first thing that we should ask for.  The most important happy thing that we should ask for.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  When you think of heaven, do you think of sadness, misery, and pain?  Of course not.  We all think of a joyous existence where we delight in the presence of God and his will being done perfectly.  God’s plan from the garden of Eden in Genesis to New Jerusalem in Revelation, is for people to experience unbelievable happiness because they are are doing his will.  In this petition God not only invites us to enter into his joy, but as individuals and as the body of Christ, to bring this joy to a hurting world and thus grow the kingdom of the heavens.

As Jesus further instructs about things to ask for, he seemingly moves from the most important thing to the most mundane.  “Give us today our daily bread.”  I would 4126611734_993d897939venture to guess that most of us rarely if ever ask God to supply our bread for the day.  One reason we don’t ask for that is because in our innermost being we think we are self sufficient.  We think we can handle that one on our own.  The reality is that we can’t.  I was reading Moses’ speech to the Israelites this morning in Deuteronomy chapter eight.  Moses told the people that it is God who gives you the ability to produce wealth.  Who gave you the ability to earn that paycheck that enabled you to buy your bread  (which is symbolic of our daily needs)?  Where did you get the physical and mental ability to work, make money and buy food?  God gave it you and me and all of us.  So when we pray for daily bread, we are praying for God to maintain and grow our physical and mental abilities.

Here at the home for needy children in Mexico, that petition takes on a different flavor.  We depend on the generous gifts of faithful supporters and friends for our daily bread, or daily tortillas, as the case may be.  While we always give thanks before each meal, we rarely ask God corporately  to supply our food.  It is a different story in the accounting office.  Those who look at our daily financial records,  daily ask God to supply our needs.  God answered those prayers in a special way a couple of weeks ago.  We went to a store where we regularly buy food, and they donated a lot of  juice and crackers to us.  After that we went to the fruit and vegetable market and a complete stranger saw our van saying that we were from Christ For The World, Home For Needy Children.  He came over and gave us four boxes of fruit.  The next day a big truck from a governmental social service agency showed up unexpectedly and unloaded the largest food donation we have ever received.  Huge bags of rice, beans and lentils. Cases and cases of milk and tuna. Our pantry, which had looked like old, Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, was now stocked with enough food to last us six months.  Everyone rejoiced and was glad for God’s incredible provision.  Indeed, everyone who has food to eat and water to drink should happily rejoice in God’s faithful and miraculous provisions.

Now Jesus moves from our most basic physical needs, to our most basic spiritual need.  Forgiveness of sin.  “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that sin against us.”  The angel told Joseph to name Mary’s baby “Jesus” because he would save his people from their sins.  Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10 that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.   Paul told the Romans in chapter four that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to  life for our justification.  In Galatians one, Paul told his readers that Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.  The author of Hebrews says that Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.  John proclaims to his  audience that Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins (1 John 3:5).  The one teaching on the mountain about forgiveness, was the one who died on a cross so that such forgiveness of sin could be possible.

So what’s the big  deal with  sin?  Nothing much, except that it causes a lot of pain, suffering, separation from a right relationship with God, turmoil in relationships with others, anxiety, guilt, depression and dysfunction, just to name a few things.  We are saved from all that when we do two things.  One ask God to forgive us of our sins, and two, we need to forgive others who  sin  against us – people who have hurt us, physically, mentally or emotionally.  1 John 1:9, and Jesus’ parable of  the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21, shed a lot of light on the concept and reality of forgiveness.  With our sins forgiven, our relationship with the Giver of Joy is made whole, and our souls are filled with a whole lot of happiness.

The final two things Jesus tells us to  ask for, is that God, our Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  When I think of God  leading  us into temptation, I  am reminded of the movie DodgeBall, where Dwight Goodman, the muscle bound owner of GloboGym, was waving a chocolate donut in front of his face, saying to himself, “Go ahead.  Eat it.  You know you want it.”  He goes to take a bite of the donut, and about the time the  chocolate delight touches his lips, he presses a button that sends an electric jolt into his body.  God is not in heaven, dangling an enticing temptation before us, waiting for us to succumb, and then gleefully sending a lightning bolt our way as punishment.  It is more accurate for us to pray that God would save us from the time of trial, because in times of trial we are tempted to sin by getting angry, or frustrated or worried or worse.  Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy that “this request is not just for evasion of pain and of things we don’t like, though it frankly is that.  It expresses the understanding that we can’t stand up under very much pressure, and that it is not a  good thing for us to suffer.  It is a vote of ‘no confidence’ in our own abilities.  As the (Lord’s Prayer) begins with with the glorification of God, it ends with acknowledgement of the feebleness of human beings.”  I will be the first to admit I am feeble and I will be the first to thank God and rejoice and be happy that He regularly saves me from the time of trial.

“Deliver us from the Evil One.”  The Evil One is Satan.  The Bible says Satan is like adevil roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Scriptures say that the Devil comes around with one purpose in mind – to kill, steal and destroy.  Basically, he doesn’t like  Christians very much.  To him, the only good Christian is a dead, dying or suffering Christian.  Happy Christians really tick him off.  Jesus knows this, so he tells us to pray for protection from the Evil One;  to recognize the reality of Satan and his hate for us; to recognize our weakness, that we are like dust compared to the Devil; and to recognize that the Devil is dust, compared to God.  When we pray to God to deliver us from the Evil One, we are acknowledging that “greater is He that is in us, then  he that is  in the world (1 John 4:4).  That, for me, is a happy thought!  Amen!

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” ‘Just the way we want it’ is not a bad paraphrase for ‘amen.’  What is needed at the end of this great prayer (Lord’s Prayer) is a ringing affirmation of the goodness of God and God’s world.  If your nerves can take it, you might (occasionally?) try “Whoopee!”  I imagine God himself will not mind.”  Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy.  This book has helped me more with having a happy, healthy prayer life than any other I have ever read.

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Next blog – Joy and Terror in the Kingdom of Og

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