Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Lord's Prayer and Allegiance -- A word for our times

As I watch the political drama unfolding in our land, I do so with a mixture of emotions. While I believe strongly in the importance of being involved in public life, especially when matters of social justice are involved. However, as a Christian, I must affirm the premise that my ultimate loyalties belong God and not to nation. For those of us who recite the Lord's Prayer each week, we're reminded of that loyalty. Several years ago I preached a series of sermons on the Lord's Prayer, which became the foundation of a book titled Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord's Prayer, which explores the relevance of the prayer for our times. I believe that a close study of the prayer (hopefully guided by my book) can be of help as we navigate the political waters. Whether Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Green, or simply Independent, our ultimate allegiance is to God.  Below are a few paragraphs extracted from the book's preface, which gives a flavor of the message of the prayer (and my interpretation of it).


Prayer is a foundational practice of the Christian faith, one that connects human beings to the one who holds our ultimate allegiance. Prayer allows us to respond to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who has invited us into a covenant relationship that transforms lives and worlds. As we do so, we join with Peter, who declared to the religious leaders of his day: “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29). When we acknowledge our allegiance to God, we will find the source of our identity and the freedom to live lives that reflect that identity. 
There is, for Christians, no clearer expression of this allegiance than the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. It is a prayer that has been passed down from one generation to the next. For some it has provided a model prayer, and for others it is a prayer to recited, weekly and even daily. The Didache advised believers to recite it at least three times each day. Of course, it’s possible that a prayer that gets recited this regularly can lose its value and meaning. It can, that is, become just words repeated as if by rote. And yet, the very durability over time of this particular prayer, brief as it is, suggests that these words transcend time and cultures, inviting each new generation to consider to whom they owe their allegiance, and in whom they find their purpose in life. Indeed, this prayer continues to be, for so many, the foundation upon which a relationship with the living God is built. 
Therefore, as beautiful and inspiring as its words might be, the Lord’s Prayer remains at its very essence a subversive prayer. It is a pledge of our allegiance to God, one that challenges our world views and our loyalties. It does so by connecting us with the one who empowers and guides us through life.
A study guide is available for group study.

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