“Lord, Teach Us to Pray” Part III

How Do We Address God?

Our asking, seeking, and knocking, our longings, desires, and yearnings are prayer’s energy. The Lord’s Prayer is prayer’s structure.

MOD.30_IMG_0890That there are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer suggests strongly that Jesus taught this prayer repeatedly, in different contexts, and with slightly different words. So, though the words in each version are important, we probably find deeper guidance in the themes.

Jesus’ name for God was “Father.” His manner of addressing God as “Father” was bold beyond any who preceded him. He dared to teach us to pray to our God as immediately present, fully understanding, compassionate without limits, and demanding everything.

This integration of unlimited compassion and total demand is the sweetness of Jesus’ teaching.

We all need to feel fully
seen and known,
forgiven and accepted as we are,
and when known still wanted.
That is compassion.
And it includes rest for the weary.

And we all need to feel re-inspired again again.
Re-inspired to give everything
and become all that is in us to become.
That is demand.

Please take a moment to ponder this. Isn’t this what springs from the deepest longings and yearnings of the heart? To feel fully seen, still wanted, and invited? To make the cut? And for that invitation to demand everything?

This was Jesus’ word to Peter when he felt disqualified: “Lord, depart from me for I am a sinner.” Jesus’ response is everything: “Do not be afraid. Follow me. From now on you will fish for humanity.” Immediately he left everything and followed him. (See Mt. 4:18-21; Mk. 1:16-19; Lk. 5:8-11). With stunning brevity this tells us who God is.

So, whatever name for God gives you this feeling state, voice it.

And know this. This compassion and this demand are the one true freedom. That’s the gift of “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” For this Name, whatever you give it, welcomes you and celebrates you as you are. That you are. This Name calls forth the very best of you, and, like the morning light, remakes you whole. In you the kingdom comes. Amen.

MOD.50_IMG_0929Please engage Luke 11:1-13. See our translation in the first post on “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.” You may also want to engage Luke 5:1-11. (“Engage” = tell God your response and listen for God’s response to you). [If you are new to our blog, a description of our method of “engaging,” which is a method for reading and praying with the Bible, other literature, and life itself, can be found here.].

Grace and Peace,


More to come …

About jclark

The Rev. Jim Clark is the Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. Barnabas on the Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona.


  1. Susie Parker says:

    Such clarity of the Lord’s Prayer, as I’ve never experienced! I love our liturgy, but sometimes it becomes so rote we don’t delve deeper. What a gift to say this wonderful prayer and experience it differently, yet always knowing our Father is fully present, compassionate and accepting, yet demanding. Thank you once again!

  2. Gretchen Gottschalk says:

    Fr. Jim,
    I so look forward to your posts. Although I am up in the mountains, I feel a real closeness to St. Barnabas, and to God as I read these weekly posts. Thank you.

  3. Elizabeth Garas says:

    (As I meditated upon The Lord’s Prayer, the words “Our Father” and “Hallowed” drew my attention).

    One German scholar has argued that in almost every prayer that Jesus utters in the New Testament, He addresses God as Father. As is mentioned in this post, this was a radical departure from Jewish custom and tradition. The Jews would use the term “Father” indirectly by addressing God as the Father of the people, but never by way of a direct personal address in prayer. So yes, Jesus’ use of the term “Father’ in personal prayer is an extraordinary use.

    I thought about how I do not have the natural right to call God “Father”. That right is bestowed upon us only through God’s gracious work of adoption. This is an extraordinary privilege—-that those who are in Christ now have the right to address God in such a personal, intimate, filial term as Father. Therefore I ought never to take for granted this unspeakable privilege bestowed upon me by God’s Grace.

    Then I note in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus instructed us that now when we pray, we are to refer to God as “Our Father”. I am humbled as I contemplate addressing God in this way. The “our-ness” of this relationship is grounded in the unique ministry of Jesus by which, through adoption, He is my elder brother and He graciously gives me (us) those privileges that by nature belong only to Him. Now, by adopting me (us), He says that I (we) may regard God, not only as His Father but as Our Father.

    Following the opening address in the structure of the prayer (“Our Father, Who art in Heaven”), Jesus instructs His disciples to offer certain petitions in prayer. The first and chief of those petitions is that we pray that the name of God will be “hallowed”. To me, this is an admonition to make sure that the way in which I speak of God is a way that communicates respect, awe, adoration, and reverence.

    Thank you for challenging me to look deeper into the instruction of our Lord in giving the model prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer”.

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