If you grew up reciting prayers, or even offering off-the-cuff prayers, holding hands, in the Protestant tradition, you may be so used to prayer that it doesn’t strike you how incredibly bold — forthright even — prayer is.
Then again, I don’t think it really hit me until after I had a three-year-old (now a four-year-old AND a three-year-old who mimics her brother’s every move!) to try to teach manners.
“I want mac-and-cheese.” “Give me your soda.” “I want my bedtime song now” (after half an hour of kicking and screaming). Or, of course, the classic FIT. It’s like babies (who can’t help it), but with rational words. Gimme, gimme, gimme.
So what do we say when we speak to our Father in Heaven?
Well, sure, we start off good — “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” Nice and polite.
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Very appropriate, very true. Humbling thoughts.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
My goodness, that could be a high-minded paraphrase of my kids at breakfast this morning. But what’s more–
“And forgive us our trespasses.”
WHAT! Not even a please? Not even a QUESTION?!
Sure, we temper it with a good caveat, “…as we forgive those who trespass against us,” but that’s all too easy to overlook, as we head off to the next demand…
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
Boy, we don’t ask much, do we? And all with such frankness, so little meekness, it seems. We don’t even ASK, we just demand.
I actually struggled with this, for a while, after my conversion. Sin (and redemption!) is a tricky and thorny thing for anyone to comprehend, I think, and for someone raised in a secular mindset it’s hard to find anything in your imagination between innocence and damnation. Either you’re good, or you’re bad, and everyone else’s job is to cast you out of society. If you’re good, it means you try and mean well, and don’t screw up so bad that you need to be put in jail. Anything that you do, if you’re “good,” is therefore to be overlooked.
So coming to terms with myself as a person who sins and can be — is — forgiven, well that’s been a trick. I’m still learning, and I think we all are.
So I go to the church, the Bible, the writings of Saints and communities of Christians to try to find out how I, a person with such a debt forgiven (and being forgiven daily), could appeal to the God Almighty? How can I bring my small wishes and earthly needs before my Savior? How can I ask him to give me anything?
Well, they told me, you just tell Him to.
You just ask.
It’s incredible, as incredible as salvation itself, but it’s true. That crazy story He was telling people about whenever you knock in the middle of the night, when any sane person would call you crazy and send you home, the Father will open the door … it’s so hard to imagine, but it’s just the way it is.
And not like a story, like aww, how sweet, let’s put it in a Hallmark card.
Like, Give us this day our daily bread, cuz you’re our Daddy and that’s your job.
That’s the position He put Himself in with us — he said, Call me Daddy, because I’m going take care of you like my little children, everything a parent is obligated to do,
even though I’m not obligated but choose to make you my own. Choose to make myself yours.
Call me Father, and ask me for things like your kids ask you:
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
Give us Your mercy!
Because I will.