What We Demand
Whether we want it to or not, our weekly rituals in worship can become rote - we sing the Doxology, we read similar prayers of confession, and perhaps one of the most ubiquitous, we recite the Lord's Prayer over and over again. Often times, too, the Prayer is recited towards the end of a service, so our minds understandably begin to move from the worship space to the narthex and out the door for our next activities.
Recently, the Lectionary text Gospel reading was from Luke 11, including another form of the Lord's Prayer that's slightly different than the one we tend to recite from Matthew. I decided to translate the passage directly from the Greek as part of my preparation for that Sunday as a way to open up something that seems so familar.
What struck me more than anything else was the use of the "Imperative" in the text. For those of you who may have pushed Grammar lessons out of your mind, the imperative is a command - things that we request from others. Throughout the prayer, we are encouraged to request from God to δίδου - Give!, or ἄφες - forgive! us. Jesus is not instructing us to blithely hope for something to come that may or may not, but instead instructs us to have a deep and abiding expectation of being given what we need, including forgiveness.
Just as interesting are the words we translate as "give us this day our daily bread." Many of these words are in what's called the Accusative, which help us to describe the limits of the verb, in this case "give". Jesus is making it clear that God will give (and again, we expect it and request it!) but daily, only daily.
In a world of 401(k)s and five year strategic planning, the idea of only daily supply is uncomfortable. Yet if we truly believe what Jesus speaks here, then what each of us has is an expectation of a God who is forever caring for each of us in the present moment. Just like the Israelites wandering in the desert, we are given our manna, but portioned out one day at a time.
Every week, then, hidden in plain sight in the Lord's Prayer, is a continued promise of fulfillment, God saying "yes, my child, I will satisfy your needs - no more and no less than what you need, each and every day. Just simply ask."
Do you believe that? Some days I know I struggle to think that I am taken care of, and if I'm honest I wish I had a little bit more of a backup than just one day. Often, I think it's because I struggle to believe that I'll wake up tomorrow and there will be the same "enough" as today.
That's the struggle of faith. In the end, Jesus teaches us about faith in the Lord's Prayer, and what we demand from the Lord's Prayer is faith, just enough to make it through the day.
I encourage you as we start heading into the new-old busyness that fall lends us to really live into that daily faith. In the end, it is what we survive on.