This series looks at the Lord’s Prayer as a template for faith and not as a prayer to be recited verbatim. How does the vision continue to shape our faith?
Thinking of a vision that we could support turned into more of a challenge than we in leadership first thought. When we began talking about a vision statement, one of our church officers was quick to say, “our church has been here for 100 years. If we don’t know why we are here, then we should close the doors for good!”
It turns out, though, you can pick up a lot of ideas over time. It’s easy to get splintered off in service projects, fellowship events, worship styles and quickly become focused on what might benefit our preferences.
Several months later, after members of our church council arguing, parsing words, and debating what terms were uninspiring we came to a consensus to at least agree on an interim mission statement that we would use internally for program development.
It’s not just church leadership that struggles with focus. We live in a non-stop culture. Are we losing focus on what matters, even as we attempt to do good?
Maybe it’s not more time we need. Maybe we just need more focus.
I remember working on a project in the basement while the children played. My spouse came in, looked at my pad of paper, and gave a huff.
“I know, I know!” I responded quickly to avoid any confrontation, “I will have more time to spend with everyone next week.”
She put her hand on my tablet and, while looking at me dead in the eye, said, “it’s not more time we need. Just be here when you are here.”
Sometimes we need to focus on what’s around us.
Jesus’ disciples ask him a question that any rabbi could receive. Teach us how to pray. Jesus teaches them a prayer that often gets recited weekly within our congregation as The Lord’s Prayer. Ironically, the prayer Jesus teaches to be more of a template than a transcript of something to be recited verbatim. It’s not flowery or poetic. It’s just the barebones of how to pray.
And it starts off with a clear focus:
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Your name…
It’s personal and it is a reminder that a life of discipleship is a communal experience. The plural “our” is a reminder of our experience with God and a connection to a wider community.
There is also something personal about this prayer. Not an unspoken name or an abstract name, rather God receives the title of Father. Maybe Mother would give a different connotation for some, but I think Jesus isn’t focused on masculine or feminine titles, as much as he is referring to a holy parent. Someone approachable, caring, and, perhaps most importantly, someone to keep our focus.
One of the best-known pieces from Clarence Jordan was his translation of the Bible into Southern vernacular that he titled The Cotton-Patch Gospel. In his book The God Movement, he writes, “Jesus is saying that if your eyes are in focus on one object, then you can see clearly. But if your motives are not clear, if you’re trying to be loyal to many different things and to see everything at once, the image coming in on you is so confused that you can’t make heads or tails of life. The reason so many people are utterly confused this day is that their eyes are not in focus. They’re trying to watch too many different things and give their loyalties to too many different things.”
What is it that keeps you from seeing things in focus?