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Monday, July 14, 2008

The Lord's Prayer - Its Spiritual Lessons

By Aaron Rosenthal

The Lord's prayer is not only a beautiful prayer. In its thirteen lines are an incredible depth of spiritual knowledge. In this prayer Jesus is telling us how to approach and be close to God and is explaining many details about the nature of heaven and earth.

Our Father who art in heaven,

God is referred to as "our Father". Calling God 'Father' signifies that we have a close and intimate relationship with God - that we are in fact part of God's family. As children of God, we can expect to be looked after, cared for, and guided. The Father wants the best for us: that we fully enjoy all that he can offer us. Now why do we say 'our father' and not 'my Father?. It is an intimate relationship but not an exclusive one. Even when we individually pray to God, we are to pray to God not just as a personal God but as a universal God. God is not only my 'Father', but is 'The Father'. All of humanity has one father which reminds us of our brotherhood with all of mankind.

hallowed be thy name.

Let your name be made holy. But what can this mean? God is holy. No action of ours can make God more holy then he already is. The point here is that we are not praying for God to change or become greater for he is already the ultimate goodness and power. What we are praying for is for us to bring honor and glory to his name. As an artist is glorified by the beauty of their art, we can hallow the name of our creator by imbibing his beauty and truth and expressing it through the way we live our lives.

There is also a tradition from Judaism that the names of God hold great power to elevate, to heal, and to make wise. To honor God's name is to take his name with the correct love and respect as his very name can elevate us.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

By telling us to pray for his will to be done on earth Jesus is acknowledging that God's will is not presently done on the earth. Some argue that all that occurs on the earth is God's will. This gives weight to probably the strongest arguement against Gods existence: the existence of suffering. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then how can suffering exist on the earth?

God holds himself back from making the earth a perfectly heavenly realm in order to give us personal freedom. With freedom comes the possibility to do evil to one another, but also the opportunity to rise higher and become a closer reflection of God's greatness: a fully free being that of their own will embraces the goodness and beauty of God's light.

The earth is the realm of improvement and heaven is the goal that we strive for. When we pray for God's kingdom to be on earth, we are praying that we should have the beauty, clarity, and strength to make the earth a heavenly realm through our actions.

Give us this day our daily bread

Here we ask not for any future need or for erasing something from the past. We are to stay in the present and surrender to God. Each day we ask only for what we need on that day and we need not give a list. God knows before we ask what we need. Please, God, give me this day what I need - to nourish and sustain me and bring me closer to your glory.

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Forgiveness is a difficult one, at least for me. It is a subtle quality and can be viewed in many different ways. I am sure what it does not mean is that we deny real wrong doing or that we in any way lose our discrimination in seeing evil for what it is.

Not forgiving is holding hatred for another inside of us. The reason that this is dangerous is that this hatred can then poison us from the inside and corrupt the way we see others, ourself, and the world.

Another interesting aspect of this sentence is that the forgiveness of God for our mistakes is linked with our forgiveness of others. There are two ways of looking at this. One is that the sentence implies a condition: God will forgive us in the same degree as we forgive others. For us to feel the cleansing balm of his forgiveness, we must forgive others. Another is that the forgiveness of God naturally leads to our being able to forgive others. As we allow ourselves to feel the forgiveness of our sins we gain the strength to forgive others.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

This line at first appears slightly paradoxical; of course, God would not lead us into temptation and always wants to take us away from evil. What we are to recognize here is that in order to stay away from wrong paths and evil actions, we must rely on God's power. It is only his power which will save us. We have full freedom and must accept and pray for God's help in order to receive his grace.

The order in this line is also instructive. Temptation is the first danger in stepping away from the straight path. A temptation can only be felt in an aspect of ourselves that is not completely cleansed. So we are praying for that purification that will allow us to not even feel temptations. Then there is the deliverance from evil - the evil that we are already immersed in and, perhaps because of this do not even realize the extent of the darkness. We pray for God to take us out of this darkness.

For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever Amen.

The Kingdom refers to the land and all that is on it. God is the entire physical reality and he is the Lord or master of this reality. This is God as our heavenly Father. The power is the energy, God's divine love which permeates the universe. This is God as our holy Mother. Finally he is the Glory which is the ideal of his creation, the son, Jesus Christ. He is the creation that brings glory to his parents. As the son in one sense is kin to us. He is the one who can stand amongst us and lead us to the higher reality. God is father, mother, and son and yet God is one. This is the eternal truth.

Amen again echoes the Triurnal God. Amen is a Hebrew acronym. Aleph for El (God), Mem for Melech (King) and Nun for Nirmad (faithful). Which translates as God our faithful King. The name "El" is recognized by the Jewish mystics to represent the Power of God, the Mother; "Melech", the King is the father; and "Nirmad", faithful, refers to the son - who is the epitome of faith in god and also is a manifestation of God's faithfulness to us by giving to us his son.

Aaron Rosenthal is the owner of "Imagine and Learn" an online store dedicated to educational games. He is also a math and physics teacher and a homeschooling father of four.

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