Praying the Lord's Prayer During Advent
The Lord's Prayer is a prayer for all seasons. But it comes to us with particular pastoral urgency during Advent and Christmas.
Advent is the season built around the petition your kingdom come. It is the season for lifting our sights beyond daily anxieties and troubling news headlines to anticipate the fullness of God's coming kingdom. It is the season for Mary's Magnificat and Isaiah's prophecies of cruciform beauty and shalom.
Though not as prominent in worship today, Advent is also built around the petition save us from the time of trial. It is the season for anticipating the “day of the Lord,” the day of the refiner's fire, in which “ the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Mal. 3:1). Faced with the prospect of this day, the children of God cling not to their own strength, but place their confidence fully in the One who comes to save.
In fact, each petition of the Lord's Prayer takes on urgency and beauty when interpreted in light of the advent of our Lord. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who teaches us to pray “our Father.” In Jesus' appearing, we sense that hallowing God's name and doing God's will are matters of concrete obedience. In Jesus, we see not only one who provides daily bread for the crowds, but is our Bread of Life. In Jesus, we find the author of our forgiveness, the one who makes possible our forgiveness of others. Truly, this Christ is the King of Glory.
All of this is possible because of the mystery of the incarnation. The Word becomes flesh. Earth glimpses heavenly beauty. In the words of Richard Crashaw : “Heaven in earth, and God in man.” As with the incarnation, the Lord's Prayer places us, as it were, before a great vertical axis between heaven and earth. We pray that God's will be done “on earth as in heaven.” We pray that the God of heaven will send us daily bread. We begin by hallowing God's name and end by extolling God's power and glory.
It is this heavenward look that gives us particular pause in North America today. Writers Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright suggest that unnecessary confusion about heaven is the source of our most significant spiritual anxieties. We often live, work, and worship as if heaven were light years away, even though scripture teaches us that Jesus permeated the heaven and earth boundary in his advent and that God's Spirit and our prayers and songs permeate this boundary all the time. As far as spiritual diseases are concerned, the season of Advent and the Lord's Prayer may be among the most strategic inoculations we could discover.
May God's Spirit strengthen us all this Advent season, so that—in the words of Thomas Troeger's
anthem—“when we offer Jesus' prayer, our hearts may fill with grace.”