In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ focus turns to prayer (Matthew 6:5-13). Through this Model Prayer, Jesus demonstrates the attitude and priorities we have when rightly approaching the Father. Its interesting to note that Jesus prays to, “Our Father….” Have you ever noticed that the first person singular is absent from the Model Prayer? We do not pray, “My Father…..give me this day my daily bread….forgive me my debts…..lead me not into temptation.”
In this Jesus reminds us that our approach to God, our obedience to God, even our relationship with God is never solely about “me”. It is not to be isolated from the notion of “we.” When I sin, my sin has an effect on others and adds to the weight of sin in the world. When I grow as a believer, we grow as believers. My spiritual progress is not restricted to my benefit. When I grow, the church grows. (See 1 Corinthians 12.) I cannot faithfully seek God’s provision for my life apart from a desire for our provision.
We live in a wonderful nation that has been blessed by God in so many ways. We ought always express our gratitude for God’s providential provision we enjoy. Yet we need to be aware of the American cultural mythology that elevates rugged individualism to the point that we think we can live isolated from everyone else. A Christian worldview cannot allow cultural individualism to lead us away from Biblical truth. The notion that “I” can be just fine with God regardless of where my brothers and sisters in Christ stand does not hold up well in Scripture.
When Jesus says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” He follows the Biblical pattern of corporate identity in confession of sin. Consider the prayers of three of the “giants” of godly faithfulness in the Old Testament. “…For I am lost: for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…(Isaiah 6:5). “….confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you……We acted very corruptly against you.…(Nehemiah 1:6-7). “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets.…(Daniel 9:5-6).
Isaiah, Nehemiah, Daniel. These men were faithfully walking with God when so many of God’s people had wandered away from Him. Yet their attitude in prayer reflected a strong corporate identity. We must always keep in mind that throughout Scripture we see God saving persons to make a people for himself. Take a moment to reflect on this. God saves persons to make a people for Himself.
As Christians, life begins on a personal level of confession, repentance, and forgiveness for sin. However, if we follow the teaching of our Savior and the example of the giants of the faith, we quickly move to a deep identification within the body of Christ. The path of sin is about me. Life in Christ is about us. I cannot pray rightly for me unless I pray for us. I cannot confess my sin while ignoring our sin. I cannot pray effectively for my family unless I pray fervently for God’s family. I cannot seek a full and proper relationship with Christ apart from the Body’s relationship with Him. I cannot fully grow in Christ unless we grow in Christ. I cannot pray, “My Father….,” and follow the instruction of Jesus in prayer. I must always pray, “Our Father…..” Excuse me, we must always pray “Our Father…..”
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