The Lord's Prayer
BY the time you read this newsletter, the general election would be over. Now is the period for the newly-elected government to set its house in order, and we can expect some political jostling in the forming of the Cabinet and of new state governments.
Of keen interest to political observers, and I'm sure to Christians as well, will be whether our elected representatives and their coalitions will be able to keep their promises under their party's manifesto.
Be that as it may, the church will also need to engage in "post-election" mode. During the GE, many Christians were involved by being polling and counting agents and election observers, but all that has come to rest. The question remains, what will be the posture of the church after elections? Perhaps, St Luke's record of the conversation between Jesus with his parents offers us a hint. When Jesus was questioned as to his whereabouts, he replied with a startling answer, "I must be in my Father's house". What does being in "my Father's house" imply? It would naturally mean being about my Father's business.
Here, New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright suggests that the Lord's Prayer may be used as a paradigm for Christian engagement in prayer. Hence, the prayer also sheds light on what it is to be about our Father's business. Taking the cue from Wright, how does the Lord's Prayer serve as a model and guide for the church in the post-election era?
Our Father in heaven...
The word "father" is 'abba', which expresses the idea of an intimate and loving relationship. God, the creator and king of the universe, is also our Father and requires us to acknowledge that the intimate relationship we now enjoy is due to the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. As we relate to God in the context of this intimate and loving relationship, we also recognize that God has the right to true and filial obedience from us as his children.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done...
Having this intimate relationship requires that we work towards having God's rule established and come to its ultimate consummation on this earth. This expression is a plea that God's will be unveiled so that all on earth may see Him as the holy, almighty king He truly is. The church, therefore, needs to align herself in heart and mind to God's agenda. The church must seek to do that which He desires done on earth - the transformation of creation with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Give us this day our daily bread...
Bread in the Gospel of Matthew is a Jewish idiom for food. In making this petition, we acknowledge that it is God's intention as our Father to provide for our every need. It recognizes God's ability to provide in all circumstances. By praying this, we express our total dependence on Him. Thus we are assured that we will always have enough in the task of bringing the Gospel to the forefront of Malaysian life.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive others...
In teaching us to seek forgiveness from the Father, we are reminded that the God we serve is a Thrice holy God. In contrast, we are sinful creatures and unworthy vessels before God. On our own, we have no merits to be counted as worthy. We therefore need to be cleansed and touched by the Holy God before we can be used as His instruments. Only then, do we have the integrity and confidence to be engaged by God in the work of transforming the nation through the local church.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us...
In the task of missions, we are called to be vigilant and alert. We should be reminded that our struggles are not merely against flesh and blood but against evil spiritual forces who seek to thwart the designs and purposes of God. We therefore need to depend on God's grace to persevere against the trials that come our way in our work and not fall into temptation.
The Lord's Prayer is indeed instructive and may serve as a paradigm for Christian engagement and prayer for our nation, especially in this season. May we as God's people, whether as pastors and leaders or as members of the congregation, continue to ensure our relationship with the Lord is ever strong. May we strive to accomplish His will on this earth in total dependence on Him, always mindful that we are sinners who constantly need God's forgiveness and His grace and mercy to prevent us from succumbing to the trials, temptations and challenges confronting us in our call to bring the gospel to every part of the nation and in the transformation of Malaysia.