This, then, is how you should pray

主祷文 – 赞美之泉

我们在天上的父
愿人都尊你的名为圣

愿你的国度降临
愿你的旨意行在地上
如同行在天上

我们日用的饮食
今日赐给我们

免我们所欠的债
如同我们免了人的债
哈利路亚

不叫我们遇见试探
救我们脱离凶恶

因为国度
权柄和荣耀全是你的
直到永远

我要一生一世寻求
在主殿中瞻仰荣美

因为国度
权柄和荣耀全是你的
直到永远

Daily reminders

The lyrics are almost taken word for word from the Lord’s prayer. It’s nice to be able to think through songs, and remember:

1) To acknowledge our personal relationship with God the Father. And acknowledge the holiness and greatness of God in heaven. I find the Chinese translation a little easier to understand than the traditional words of, “hallowed be thy name”.

2) To long for God’s will to be done.  “你的…” really emphasises the alignment of our will to God’s will, rather than an uncertainty about whether his kingdom will come, and whether his will will be done or not. For though God works through us, he will carry out his sovereign will, regardless of our faithfulness or faithlessness. In Malachi, despite God’s people’s disobedience, God says:

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations. – Malachi 1:11

3) To thank God for his daily provisions. I’ve often thought about whether the bread is literal or a spiritual bread of life that Jesus talks about in other parts of the gospel.  To be honest, maybe my motivation for asking the question was that I wanted to know what I could legitimately ask for from God. Perhaps, instead, the key point in these words is to give thanks to God and acknowledge that we rely on him. For both his grace and spiritual sustenance, as well as all that we have in daily life – not only bread (or rice), but also other foods, homes, cars, jobs, gifts, ability to work or study, and many such things.

4) To stop to repent, and recall God’s grace. Then, almost as a challenge to see whether we have really received this grace, to do likewise out of love and obedience to God, and forgive others. It’s always a very hard to pray to be forgiven as we forgive, when we don’t feel like forgiving.

5) To beware of our tendency to sin, and relying on God in guarding us against it. I always found this verse it confusing. Why do we need to pray for God not to “lead us into temptation” at all? And “deliver us from the evil one” sounded rather passive, and mystical.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. – James 1:13-14

Surely, it is our own desires, rather than God, that leads us to sin. But we pray, to acknowledge that we (actively) put on God’s armour and draw strength from him, to stand in faith, in this spiritual struggle against sin and distractions, until the end.

6) To focus on this eternal God, and his eternal kingdom, because we are prone to forget.

 

This, then, is how you should pray

We often start off praying as if God is like a wishing well, or a genie, maybe thinking too that God will listen more if we use the right terminology, right formula, or have more emotions and tears in our prayers. It’s unfortunate that is much Christian literature which aims to teach you how to “successfully” pray for healing, for blessings. It sounds like the people in Jesus’ time faced similar confusions, and that’s why Jesus said:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray… – Matthew 6:7-9

Not that we must recite the prayer (fortunately, for I was always slow in remembering word for word those memory verses in Sunday school). But that we replicate the essence of this prayer. To pray knowing, as Jesus knew, who we are praying to; and to follow his example of how we are to relate to this God. I think, if we treat prayer as simply asking and bargaining for goods, we miss out on many beautiful aspects of this relationship with God.

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