The Greatest Prayer – Part 2 – November 26, 2017, Christ the King Sunday
November 26, 2017
Last week we started to look at, what I’ve called, “The Greatest Prayer.” Again, this prayer has been spoken, or said, by countless Christians, every day, for well over two thousand years!
I also said at the end last week, and I want you to hear it again, that this is a model for prayer. Before giving this to his disciples, Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this.” I asked you to try that. I asked you to pray using this as a guide or a model, putting its Praise and Petitions into your own thoughts and words. I hope you did that. And I hope that made this prayer come alive a little bit more for you.
So, last week we talked about this prayer starting with Worship, (or Praise) and leading into Petition. (Or Asking God for things.) We saw how beginning with the focus on God, and asking for his will, shapes what we ask for ourselves.
This week, I want us to see how that Petition leads to Glory. When Jesus originally said this, it was about the Glory of God – he who we would call God the “Father.” That’s because for about 30 years, this whole “Trinity” thing was a little confusing. Because there was a definite separation between Jesus and the Father during that time. Now we think of those two as part of the “Three in One” – our “Triune God.”
Well, I know it’s not “Trinity Sunday.” So I’ll leave it at that. But, I want us to see today that we’re looking at that same “Glory.” And there is no separation like that. This week, we’re looking at that same Glory as we celebrate the Glory of Christ the King.
So for a moment, let’s think about those “Petitions” we talked about last week. And let’s remember how they were “shaped” by our initial focus on God and his kingdom. We said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” “Thy kingdom come.” And that led us to, “Thy will be done.” “Give us what we need to live.” “Help us to know of our reliance on you.” “Forgive us for the things that stand between us.” “But help us to know of our reliance on your forgiveness and Grace.” “And help us to be forgiving and gracious people.” And lastly, “Help us to avoid temptation.” “And shield us from evil.”
Those are “Petitions” that are all about our relationship with God! That’s what Jesus is trying to teach us here. That’s what prayer should be. That’s why the Praise leads us to Petitions. Prayer shouldn’t be solely a way of asking for things – as though God were some kind of “EBay in the sky!” If that’s all prayer is for us, then we shouldn’t wonder when it feels empty, somehow, and when it feels like maybe nobody’s listening.
The Lord’s prayer keeps us focused on that relationship with God – with “Our Father, who art in heaven.” We’re asking for more than just Petitions.” We’re saying, “Help us to be the kind of people you want us to be! Help us to be people who are concerned for your kingdom, people who are reliant on your Grace, people who are gracious ourselves, People who rely on your guidance and protection from sin and evil.”
I hope we see the Lord’s Prayer that way. I hope we let it teach us those things. And when we do see it that way, I hope we can see how it naturally leads us to the Glory. “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”
This last part is what has been called the “Doxology” of the Prayer. “Doxology comes from two Greek words, “Doxa” and “Logia.” The word literally means, “Glory saying” or “The saying of Gloria.” Where have we heard the word “Doxology” before? Right! At the Offering! “Glory be to the Father, Son, and to the Holy Ghost… world without end, Amen.” We give God Glory at that time in the service – as well as when we sing “The Lesser Doxology,” which we also know as (?) “The Gloria Patri.”
So where do we find this “Doxology” in the Lord’s Prayer? Is it in your Bible? Before you say “No,” look closer. It might not appear at the end of the prayer. But look in the footnotes. You know, they’re the notes at the bottom of the page that you never read when you were in school! They can tell you a lot about the Bible.
Well, the biggest thing they often tell you is that certain things in the scriptures were not always found in all the ancient manuscripts. Remember, Johannes Gutenberg didn’t give us a way to mass produce pages of text until the 15th century. Until then, all books were (?) hand copied! All the letters of Paul, everything in our Bible, everything in the Hebrew scriptures, were all copied by hand!
So, as the scribes hand copied every bible, every text, every book of every kind, they sometimes added or subtracted things. And we simply don’t always know why. Sometimes we strive to figure out which was the earliest manuscript of whatever it is we’re looking at. But even that is not always a flawless indication of accuracy.
Read John 8:1-11 sometime. That’s probably the biggest example of this. That’s the story of the woman caught in adultery. That’s where we find Jesus saying to those who would stone her, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” That whole story is not in the earliest manuscripts of John’s Gospel. So it might just bw in the footnote!
So here we have this doxology of the Lord’s Prayer. And it wasn’t in some of the manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel. So you might not see it – although you pray it every week! And if you’ve ever been in a Catholic church, you may have found yourself saying that last part by yourself!
However, having said all that, ancient manuscripts notwithstanding, this is a great end of this prayer. It could well be a prayer in and of itself. “Our Heavenly Father, yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.” You could just say that! Try it sometime! If you want to work on your relationship with God, and don’t have a lot of time to pray, just pray that. “Heavenly Father, yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”
In all that. I want to draw your attention to one little word. The operative word in this Doxology is the word “For.” “For thine is the Glory…” So it’s “Let your will be done.” “Give us what we need to live.” “Help us to be forgiving like you are.” “Keep us from temptation and evil.” “Do all of those things, God, “for,” or “because” yours is the Glory.” The prayer leads to the Glory of God.
But more than that, it’s about our relationship with God. God’s Glory comes through his people. This is the source of the statement of Saint Irenaeus from the second century, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” This is the Old Testament message that “The nations will know about God, when they see him caring for his people.”
Paul, and the other New Testament writers, tried to tell their newly founded churches that same thing. The Church was founded on that! It is “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” And(!) when we are being God’s people it gives God glory! And it shows God’s glory to the world. These words of “The Lord’s Prayer” are not found all that far in Matthew’s Gospel from Jesus’ statement that “You are the light of the world.” (Right across on the opposite page in my Bible!) The Praise, the Petition, and the Glory are part of what it means to be God’s people!
So try using this prayer as a model, as I said last week. “Pray like this.” Put these things in your own words and thoughts, But also remember that we pray like this “because the kingdom and Power and Glory are God’s forever.” Remember, we pray like this because we are being God’s people. This prayer teaches us that God our Father is holy, he cares for us, and it gives him glory!
Eternal God, we are glad you are our Heavenly Father! Help us indeed to rely on you more and more, and to seek your kingdom and your will. Help us to know you walk with us each day, that your Grace surrounds us, and that your love protects us. For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen.