“We Are Asking God to be God”
Each week at our Sunday services, before the children are dismissed, we take time to recite the Lord’s Prayer together. As with anything that is done repeatedly over long periods of time, if we are inattentive it can come to seem mechanical and tedious. Rather than being a vehicle for shaping and inspring us as Christ’s followers, it can come to seem like little more than part of the furniture. Frederick Buechner reminds us why we ought not to allow this to happen:
“Thy will be done” is what we are saying. That is the climax of the first half of the prayer. We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want but what God wants. We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all its terrible splendor the devastating power that is now mostly under restraint. “Thy kingdom come… on earth” is what we are saying. And what if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcomed in and who would be thrown the Hell out? Which if any of our precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be as phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.
You need to be bold in another way to speak the second half. Give us. Forgive us. Don’t test us. Deliver us. If it takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God’s, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. We can have nothing without God. Without God we are nothing.
It is only the words “Our Father” that make the prayer bearable. If God is indeed something like a father, then as something like children we can risk approaching him anyway.