Monday, June 18, 2012

The Family Prayer

We spent the weekend at the (six-yearly) global gathering of The Order of Mission.  If the New Wine National Leaders Conference a couple of weeks back was an opportunity to get together with our closest friends, a gathering of TOM members is when we get together with our spiritual family.  I am deeply thankful for both friends and family; though it is a bitter-sweet thing that both are so dispersed, and when we get together there is never enough time to spend with everyone.  But it was a joy to be with brothers and sisters we have known for many years, and to meet other brothers and sisters for the first time.

Among other things, our Senior Guardian Mike Breen helped us look together at the Lord’s Prayer, through two familiar lenses, as a tool for attending to our personal and communal lives.  Here are my notes/reflections on Mike’s structure/connections.

Lens 1: The two strands that run through Scripture: Covenant and Kingdom: relationship and responsibility, being and doing, identity and activity, coming to Jesus and being sent out by him.

Lens 2: Jesus sums up how to live life well in this way: love God (UP, passionate spirituality), love one another within your household (IN, radical community), and love those beyond your household (OUT, missionary zeal).

The pattern Jesus gave for prayer addresses these three dimensions of life (the flow is from UP to IN to OUT), each expressed in both Covenant and Kingdom terms (again, there is a flow: we need both covenant and kingdom, but responsibility flows from relationship, doing from being, activity from identity – not the other way around).

UP: Covenant: Father
God is our loving Father, who longs for intimate relationship with us as his children.  He is not distant, absent, aloof, or abusive.  We are children, not slaves.

UP: Kingdom: King
God is also King of the Universe.  Never less than Daddy, but more than just Daddy: “our Dad has a very important job” and we need to recognise his kingship over our lives.

IN: Covenant: Provision
Jesus reveals to us that God our Father wants to give us good gifts, that he is generous, that all he has (and he owns everything) he shares with us; we do not earn access to his provision.

IN: Kingdom: Debt
We tend to think of forgiveness as coming to our father, but Jesus describes it as needing to deal with the king, to whom we are in debt.  The question is whether we are under the king’s judgement, or whether our debt has been cancelled.  Jesus is clear that unless we show mercy and cancel the debts of our debtors, a just king cannot cancel our greater debt to him.

OUT: Covenant: Protection
One of the roles of fatherhood is to offer protection – sometimes by physical presence, and controlled aggression (having learnt mastery over our physicality); sometimes by establishing boundaries within which freedom can be enjoyed.  As a personal example, on holiday recently I spent time climbing over rocks with my children, sometimes leading ahead of them to follow my example, sometimes telling them where it was not safe for them to venture.  In this way, my children grow in confidence (especially the less adventurous) and wisdom (especially the more adventurous).

OUT: Kingdom: Deliverance
One of the roles of kingship is to deliver your people when they are in danger of being taken captive, or have been taken captive – as will be the case from time to time, given that another role of kingship is to deploy ambassadors who will represent him in the world and soldiers who will stand firm against his enemy.

As people (especially as people shaped by western society?), we tend to be creatures of division and over-reaction and demarcate our lives in ‘either/or’ polarities, but living life well generally requires of us that we see life in terms of ‘both/and’ continuums, not polarities.  Polarised categories tend to be our way of trying to create and maintain control over our lives; continuums – living with tension and paradox – bring us to the place of acknowledging our need for God, and allow the conditions needed for his creative new life to emerge.

Passionate spirituality is nurtured in the paradox of experiencing God as both Father and King; refusing to settle for impersonal legalism on the one hand, and cheap grace on the other.

Radical community is nurtured in the creative tension of experiencing the Father’s provision and the King’s cancellation of our debts; as we learn to be generous, and practice our responsibility to cancel debts.

Missionary zeal is nurtured in the continuum of experiencing the Father’s protection and the King’s deliverance; giving us confidence to go out into the world, and the backing we need to be ambassadors of heaven and soldiers in the spiritual battles we are engaged in.

If passionate spirituality, radical community, or missionary zeal is lacking in our lives, we have in the Lord’s Prayer a Jesus-given framework for conversation with God, a means of identifying together what we need to address...

As you create space to listen, what does the Spirit want to say to your spirit today?


  1. Thanks Andrew, helpful and insightful as always

    1. Hi Phil. Sorry you guys couldn't make it at the weekend. We love seeing everyone at Gatherings, but always miss others who can't get there. But I am glad there are other ways to connect.
      Love to you and all your family.