Lord’s Prayer as Social Justice Theology: Our Father (Part 2)

Over the next several weeks, I will be exploring the Lord’s Prayer as a model for forming a social justice theology. Throughout this series, I will be proposing that Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6 are not only meant to show believers how to pray but how we should reorient our lives and relationships with one another in light of what we are praying. To read more about the beginnings of this endeavor, read last week’s post

From the very beginning, the Lord’s Prayer starts out with a bold statement about who God is: Our Father. What does this mean? Our first clue lies in the word ‘our’ – meaning something or someone who belongs, is accessible, or is identified by a collective group of individuals. To put it simply, God is accessible to all of us, and likewise we to God. Picture a parent that has many children – that’s who God is and according to current estimates, His total number of living children approximate 7 billion people.

Why is this important? If we can understand that God isn’t just for us, but is holding it down for billions of other people across the globe, we will start to do life differently. All of a sudden, we stop seeing life in terms of ‘me’ but ‘we.’ That alone will transform our behavior and how we act towards one another. That alone will help us understand that we are all brothers and sisters, and like brothers and sisters, we must share and not hoard the resources that God gives us.

medium_11839033964 Let’s move on to the word ‘father’ which acknowledges who God is in relation to us. He is our father, and like a father, we can come to him boldly in our time of need and ask what we need from him and trust that he hears us. In fact, like many fathers, God already knows what we need before we come to him as affirmed in verse 8 of the text. But unlike earthly fathers, this is a relationship that we can trust because God won’t take advantage of our absolute dependence on Him. He won’t exploit us. He won’t mistreat us. He won’t wound us like some of our earthly fathers have.

Neither will He abandon us. “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” And He will be an ever present help in time of trouble. We can rest assured that whatever we go through and for that matter wherever we may go, God is right there. He is not removed from us. While He is our heavenly father, he also dwells with his people and suffers/ grieves right along with us. We can rest in this relationship. We can be confident in this relationship. We don’t have to jostle for position with God, and we surely don’t have to prove anything to God.

But this is something Cain, the son of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 3, didn’t understand. He was threatened by his brother Abel’s pleasing offering to God because it challenged his own insecurities and relationship with God i.e. if God is not pleased with me, there must be something wrong with me. So what did Cain do? He eliminated the competition and killed his own brother. Sound familiar? We do not need to operate this way with God – we can be secure in who we are before Him faults and blemishes in all. He is our father, and we are his sons and daughters.

The words “Our Father,” don’t just acknowledge our intimacy with God. They are also packed with expectation of our coming future in God’s Kingdom. Art Simon, founder of Bread for the World and author of Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer writes this:

Lord's Prayer Simon In joining the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we make a decision to leave the ways of this world and the manner in which we previously lived behind. We forsake the old nature that was consumed with covetousness, bitterness and all other forms of malice and adopt a new disposition of love for God, self and others. As the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 8, we no longer live by the flesh but by the Spirit – for all who are being led by the Spirit are the sons and daughters of God and fellow heirs with Christ in God’s kingdom.

As fellow heirs with Christ and children of God, the question that remains is how we will treat God’s other children. Will we treat them as if they don’t belong to God and don’t belong to the human race? Or will we welcome them in – providing food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and refuge for those whose very lives are in danger?

Cain had it very wrong! He was his brother’s keeper and as children of God, we have a collective responsibility to and for one another. We have a responsibility to the nearly 50,000 children fleeing from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, seeking safety and shelter as a result of violence in their home countries. We have a responsibility to our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, just as much as we have a responsibility to our siblings in Israel. We have a responsibility to the 200 plus girls still missing in Nigeria, to the Jada’s in our country and in our world who have been sexually exploited, and to the black men and women trapped inside of our justice system due to institutional racism.

We have a responsibility to them and they to us, because we all belong to God. He is our father and each and every one of us are God’s children. And he loves each and every 7 billion of us equally.

Come back next week for part III of this series! Be sure to subscribe at the top right of the blog or follow me on Twitter so that you don’t miss it

Photo Credits
Father and daughter:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmitryzhkov/11839033964/

And If My People

Glory of the Lord“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place” (2 Chron. 7.13-15, NASB).

I wonder what would happen if we took God at his Word and repented for the sin that has been committed in our land. What if we – from the church house, to the school house, to the court house – began to repent for the sin of racism and all of its related vices? What would happen? Would God forgive us? Would God heal our land? Would He heal the broken hearts and the wounded souls? Would He restore us not only to Himself but to one another so that we as a people are no longer at odds with one another and live in constant fear of each other?

If God is true, and I believe that He is, He will do it. If we as a people of faith step out on faith and simply trust Him in what He says, I believe that we would see a tremendous outpouring of His Spirit in the hearts and lives of so many people in this country. I believe that we would see an unprecedented shaking, a never seen before breaking of demonic activity that has held our land captive to the evils of racism since before our country’s founding.

The question is if we are willing to HUMBLE ourselves to go after it? Are we willing to let go of unearned privilege, power and prestige, leaving them at the feet of Jesus in exchange for something far greater and much more enduring? Are we ready to ask forgiveness from those we have hurt and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us? If we are, great! Half of the battle has already been won! If we are not, I pray that God make us ready. God, make us thirsty for reconciliation! Though the risk is great, we end up risking so much more if we sit back and do nothing.

Prayers for My Black Son

ImageI can’t believe it’s already been three weeks since you came into this world and changed my life. You were ten days late, but right on time with a head full of curly black hair and big, beautiful brown eyes. I must admit, I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you.

Although you can barely hold your head up on your own, I am already praying about your future. I pray as a concerned mother who lives in a world full of injustice and lacking in grace. I pray knowing that unless God intervenes and things change, that tomorrow will not be much different than it is today.

I pray that you would be strong. I pray that you would never be intimidated by success, and never afraid of failure. I pray that you would never shrink back from doing what God has called you to do out of fear of what people may think of you, nor would you allow their words to dictate who you should become.

I pray that you will never have to prove your worth, because you are immensely worthy and valuable in spite of the stipulations that people will place on you. I pray that you would never have to humble yourself and clamor for a minimum wage job in which you are overqualified. I pray that you would never be overlooked or marginalized because of the color of your skin or the foreignness of your name.

I pray that your blackness would never make you the target of hate crimes, racial profiling or other manners of injustice. I pray that you would never know what it is to be followed by a cop, a store clerk, or some random man on the street who thinks you are suspicious simply because you exist. I pray that you would never be harassed, never have to defend your actions, and never have to cower in fear over what someone might do to you. And if the Lord shall tarry ten, twenty, or even forty years, I pray that your days would be long and full of happiness, peace, and joy that only God can give.

And my son, if things don’t change, and our justice system is still full of injustice, I pray that you would be the catalyst the world needs to get us going in the right direction. I pray that you would use your voice to speak prophetically to right the wrongs, repair the breaches and heal hearts that are broken as a result of racial injustice. I pray that you would use your hands to put a people, an American people, back together so that we may know true peace and reconciliation. I pray that your steadfast faith in God would encourage perpetrators to embrace repentance, and the oppressed to offer forgiveness, so that your own sons and daughters would live in a different world than we do today.

Disconnected…and it Don’t Feel So Good

When it comes to prayer and faith, there is a difference between being shocked and being amazed at the blessings of God. Being shocked at God reveals our doubt. It illustrates a disconnect between our prayers and ability to believe that whatever we ask for in prayer, God will hear us. And so like the early disciples in the book of Acts who prayed for Peter’s release but were shocked when he was, we too find ourselves shocked when God provides, heals, and delivers even though time and time again he has proven that he is capable of all of these things.

Now being amazed, that’s a different thing entirely. We can and we should be amazed at how God provides and the manner in which he delivers. I have no doubt that on Mt. Moriah, Abraham knew that God would provide; he just did not know how he would and was amazed when God showed up with a ram in place of his son.

The three Hebrew boys likewise knew that God could deliver them from the fiery furnace. They even said so and put their faith on the line, saying that even if He didn’t they would still refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzer. They just didn’t know how he would deliver and so  were amazed at how God rescued them from the flames unscorched.

We serve a God whose character is consistent with His Word. His Word says that He is…

– Jehovah Jireh: The LORD who sees in advance and makes provision
– Jehovah Rophe: The LORD who heals
– Jehovah Shalom:  The LORD who is our peace
– Jehovah Nissi: The LORD our banner
– Jehovah Tsidkenu: The LORD our righteousness

We need not be surprised, or shocked, when God acts in accordance with His character – this is who He is! He never changes, and we can take that to the bank. Perhaps this knowledge can increase our faith so that instead of doubting when we pray, we can know that He will not go against His Word.

The question now is: are we ready to be amazed by God.

What Taebo Can Do For Your Prayer Life

When it comes to working out, I am a wimp. Usually after fifteen minutes or so of cardio, I am ready to call it quits and justify me doing so with the few beads of sweat running down my face. But today as I was doing Taebo, I pressed in. I worked out good! I knew I had to if I am really serious about shedding a few pounds off my mid-section. And if I keep it up, by the grace of God I will, the results will soon bear witness to my efforts.

As I was doing my thing, counting the minutes that were going by, truly proud of myself for bringing it, I realized that many of us often struggle with the same thing when it comes to prayer. At least I know I have! After a few minutes, when I am all out of hallelujahs and thank you Jesus’, I am done. I don’t press through, I don’t tarry, and as a result, I have very little to show for it. And when I actually do pray about something, say a need or a promise that God has put on my heart, I give up praying for that thing far too soon, believing that maybe perhaps God did not want to meet that need or that promise.

This too is beginning to change, and I thank God! Over the last month or so, I have been reading the Circle Maker with a woman’s group I am a part of at my church. In this short period of time, God has revolutionized my prayer life. For the first time in a long time, I am excited to pray, really pray. I am praying and believing God for things that I could have never dreamed of before, and get this, HE is answering them. Prayers about jobs, finances, destinies, ministry, and so many more things are being answered left and right and its amazing. And it has a lot to do with the fact that God allowed me to get a dose of perspective about praying through. I began to see that I needed to not just voice a prayer or concern to God, and leave it at that, but that I needed to start ‘circling’ those things in prayer. This means that I literally drew circles around my prayers and kept going over them, knowing fully well that God was not only able but willing to answer them.

Many of us believe that God is able, but if we are real with ourselves, we do not necessarily believe that He is willing. Deep down in our psyche, we have allowed ourselves to believe that God is not really for us, that He really does not want to bless us, that perhaps we are the exception to the rule when it comes to His promises. But let me say it, and say it clear – God is not only for you, but He has great things in store for you! Seriously, He loves you and is only waiting for you to trust and believe in the miracles that He can bring about in your life.

So spiritually, really prayerfully, speaking, I am getting in better shape. Now if I can get my physical being to follow suit.

If you, like me, have grown a little discouraged or slightly bored in your prayer life, I encourage you to read the Circle Maker as well. I am telling you that you wont regret it. 

A God Who Hears the Cries of the Afflicted

Over the last few days, I have been following the developing news story in Syria. For those who missed it, there was a horrible massacre in Syria last Friday, which took the lives of over 100 people – 49 which, I believe, were children. I listened to the testimony of a Syrian national who questioned why government forces would do such a thing. With passion, he asked why they felt the need to kill a nine-month old baby – was he carrying a gun or grenade that posed a threat to the larger society.

On my way home last night, I listened to the story of a man who was also killed recently. Bassel Shehadeh was a slain filmmaker, who when given the opportunity to study in America decided to give up his education and return to Syria to be a part of the revolution. He says:  ‘I couldn’t be away when the revolution is happening. I needed to come back. You can always study later.’

Since returning to Syria, Shehadeh spent time training other revolutionaries to shoot and edit their own footage of what was taking place. However, when the government started shelling a place an area where he was staying, he did not survive. At his burial which also included the burial of others who were killed during this horrific incident, the people chanted: ‘Heaven open your gates…your students are coming home.’

Hearing this story and the stories of others like it has really disturbed my soul. I am appalled over the fact that in the space of 15 months, this conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people – people who have died senseless deaths that could have been easily prevented. And as the people continue to die, the world watches. But how can we watch comfortably? How can we not be moved by the images we see and the stories we hear and be content with doing nothing?

In my time alone with God tonight, I prayed for my Syrian brothers and sisters. As I did, God brought me to this scripture passage in Psalms 22.24:

This passage brought me some comfort. Emphasis on some. I know that God hears the cries of this people, the mothers, the fathers, the children, day and night. I know that He is not resting comfortably as the people that He created are perishing. Because, you see, the thing about God is that when He hears, He acts. He moves time and will change history just so that He can change the lives of His precious ones.

However, I believe that God wants us to hear their cries too! I believe that He wants us to be affected, I know that He wants our hearts to break over the state of these people who have been betrayed and cast aside by their own government. I believe He wants us to hear so that we can do something, take action and make things happen.

In light of the horrible ordeal this weekend, the world and its political leaders are considering a variety of action steps moving forward. One thing that they have not considered is prayer, and the power that prayer has in charting the course of human history. Although its not on their radar, its on mine! God has laid this burden in my heart to serious pray and intercede for this situation at hand. Will you join me?

Over the next 30 days, I commit to spending time every day praying for God to intervene in Syria. I invite you to pray with me and spread the word so that others can pray along too! You can do that easily by sharing this post via Facebook, Twitter, Email and the old fashion word-of-mouth.

Ask of God, Then Give Him the Glory

Today I listened to this Palm Sunday message from Willow Creek Community Church. I am telling you, my spirit was completely blessed as speaker Shane Farmer talked about asking God what you need from Him in prayer. He did not name any qualifiers, such as ‘make sure you do this and this before you pray’ nor did he suggest specific methods that we must follow in order to ensure that we get our prayers answered. All he said was to ask of God confidently what we are in need of and then be careful to give him all the glory, so that his name might be magnified in the earth!

Listen to the message >