When you pray... - Jesus Army Life, Day 175

'Our Father'.

We're taught to pray Our Father. Does that strike you as strange? No? Perhaps when you pray that you're aware of your kinship with Christians everywhere... Or perhaps not... I dare to say that the reality of these simple words is that they have have lost their original meaning and become absurdly sentimental. "Destroyed by years of repetitive indoctrination through school assemblies" is how my friend put it (...okay, he might not have used the word "indoctrination").

"Give us this day our daily bread..."

I can believe people pray this with others in mind, the starving perhaps, or even for every person in the world, but...

"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

This most necessary, most intimate of requests... the spotlight shines on all our selfishness. Do we really think about others when we say these lines? Perhaps the second half of the sentence is there to force us to think of them. As you speak these words do you plead for the souls of others you know? Jesus could well have taught us to use the words "me" and "my", but he didn't; this prayer is about "us". We will pray for those we love.

What I'm getting at is that if you don't live in close community with others, if the love you have for people is not so personal as to mean that you live for them, how can anyone pray this prayer with honesty? It strikes me that you can only really pray such a prayer with full effect if you are conscious of your brotherhood with other Christians. Conscious enough for it to hurt, for it to mean that you want to make a difference, rather than conscious of brethren in a vague way.

Living in community does not mean I'm better than others. There are millions who live lives that would put me to shame, but it has woken me up to the fact that if I'm going to love and follow Jesus then this prayer has to mean something: I'm not alone, there are others with me. Oh, how ridiculous to have your own house, your own possessions, your own plot of land, your own income and expenditure, your 'own' friendships, and to pray, "Our Father..."

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.