Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
A simple child’s prayer, but it packs a punch, and expresses the hope of every seeker of God. For someone who is not sure how to pray, it’s a great place to start. But there is an even better prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
1. Our Father who dwells in heaven,
2. Praised and lifted up be your name.
3. May your Kingdom come,
4. May your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.
5. Give us today our daily bread,
6. And forgive us as we forgive others.
7. Lead us not into temptation,
8. But deliver us from the influence of the Evil One.
9. For to you belongs the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, amen.
Analysis, line by line
1. Jesus taught his disciples to pray this prayer. He never referred to God as Yahweh, but always as Father. That is not to say that he repudiated the God of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Not at all.
He pointed to the Hebrew Bible as the source of prophecy about himself. But there are some really harsh things attributed to Yahweh by the biblical authors that may actually be the works and words of man. The Father referred to in the prayer is the one who ultimately forgives sins (only if we ask), so he is the Judge, but he is also the giver of what we need in life and the protector of our soul. He is the one who has power to break the bonds of evil in this world. And he loves us enough to want us to be his sons and daughters. His angels do not abduct our children from their cribs at night. He protects us all the way we want to protect our children.
Notice that in the prayer, Jesus does not refer to himself. His ultimate task is to point us to and restore us to the Father. He warned us when He was on earth, “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.” (Matt. 23:9, 10) Jesus is referring to spiritual, guru-like titles here, not family or local educational relationships.
In both the prayer and the Matthew passage above, Jesus reminds us that the Father dwells in a specific place. It’s not a blah fog or force. He is a person in a place, and if we’re really smart, it’s where we want to go when we die. There is a universe of blah out there for wayward souls to hang out in. I personally want to be where the Father is.
2. Heaven is full of worship. Many NDEers report that over there, there is music exalting God. On the new show on the Biology Channel, a Christian man died and was rushing through a forest and a meadow. The trees parted as he came through and all nature in the meadow seemed to whisper, “He’s going to see the King.” He did in fact come into the presence of Jesus Christ, and of course, Jesus told him he had to go back.
3. Jesus is not a Christ-force. He is a King and there is a Kingdom of God. For a thousand years or more the Israelites/Jews waited for a promised Messiah-King. The prophecies were numerous and specific. Jesus did come as promised, fulfilling so many predictions, and he will come again as promised. The Kingdom on Earth begins in an individual heart. It may grow to a community. We, as citizens, are really dumb sometimes, and we don’t make the best representatives, but God’s Kingdom is already at work on Earth and it will continue to emanate the good fruit of love and compassion until Christ returns in person.
4. The Triune God has a will, a plan, a desire for the good of mankind. In heaven the angels obey and honor the Father, and so do all who dwell there.
I used to say the Lord’s Prayer to myself on my way to work in San Francisco. One day on the RT train, I leaned my head against the window and began to recite the prayer in my head. The second I thought the words, “May your will be done on Earth…” I heard these words very distinctly, “Pray that the will of God will be done today and not the will of man.” It was so clear that I sat up and immediately began to pray. Silently, I interceeded for our governments, beginning with local and working my way up to federal. I prayed for Ronald Reagan, who was president at that time. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but that turned out to be the morning that Reagan was shot by some idiot trying to impress his idol, the actress Jodie Foster. It was clearly not God’s will that Ronald Reagan die that day in that way.
5. Our daily bread, of course, stands for all those things that we need. We don’t always get what we want or what we think we need. Jesus warned against piling up treasures here on earth. He reminded us of the beauty of the lilies and how the Father sees the sparrow fall and how we don’t need to be so anxious in life. God truly is a Provider for those who trust in him.
6. Forgiveness of others who have hurt us, even deeply, is not an option! Of all the works that Jesus enjoined us to do, forgiving others is right up there at the top of the list. No one will walk through heaven’s gates without forgiving and asking for forgiveness. It may seem like an impossible, unworkable command, but with God all things are possible. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do it.
7. I think the sense of this line is a request that God will not allow us to face temptations that we can’t stand up to. The Bible claims that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, but he was without sin. None of us will say the same when we see God. A life review will reveal every thought, every action, even trivial ones. At that time, we will see our lives as God saw them and understand how many errors we actually did make.
8. The prayer in English usually says, “But deliver us from evil.” Equally accurate would be “The Evil One.” I added the thought of influence, because sometimes the attack of evil upon us isn’t so much bodily harm but of being swayed toward wrong doing or even trapped by deception. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) (That certainly doesn’t bode well for our politicians!)
Evil spirits love to pretend that they are Jesus himself, or Mary, or some saint. They can quote Scripture. They can exude psychic, esoteric knowledge. Every deceptive practice utilized by any intelligence service anywhere on the planet is familiar to fallen entities. They are a lot like us, because they ARE us, or were us, stripped of all goodness or sensitivity of conscience.
Some evil spirits are actually fallen angels. UFOs and aliens are in some way connected with these primeval entities, and some folks who have fallen into their hands have actually escaped using the name of Jesus. Why the name doesn’t work for others would have to be another blog post. But if one in all sincerity calls on the Triune God, they can be delivered from any dark bondage. Our churches are full of ex-alcoholics, ex-drug addicts, ex-abductees, and those who got ensnared in the occult. The Father is able to deliver those who call on him.
9. The last line is a doxology added later by the Protestant church. It kind of wraps things up.
There is one more kind of prayer that people often use when feeling threatened, and that is to call on Michael the Archangel. Many of these people reject the God of the Bible and think that Jesus is just too sectarian. Michael is indeed a warrior angel who relishes vanquishing the powers of darkness. But pause and think, how do we even know about him? From the Bible. If there really is an Archangel Michael, I can assure you that he is a servant of the King.