The Disappointing Nature of the Lord’s Prayer

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 7, 2008

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.


Every morning, I pray the Lord’s Prayer. Some folks think it is an encouraging prayer–an invitation for God’s reign to come and wash away the broken imperfection of our own lives.

Yesterday, as I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, I was struck by how disappointing it is.

You see, I’m a schemer. I love strategizing about the future. I’m impatient. And in the midst of my “important” plans and schemes, this prayer calls for daily bread. Instead of praying for my future plans and aspiration, it forces me to pray for the here-and-now. But I’m not content in the here-and-now. I want tomorrow’s bread. I want the-day-after-tomorrow’s bread too.

And what’s with the part about “we also have forgiven our debtors?” In my soul, I’m often convinced that a lot of people owe me. I work hard. I sacrifice. I’m entitled.

Already in this prayer, I’ve had to bend my will to God’s. But the two things that drive many church leaders are being confronted head on: 1) the scheming desire for future success and 2) the demandingness that people you serve will love you.

The Lord’s Prayer disappoints. It subverts my desires. But as I pray it, day after day, my perspective is changing. I long for the day that I can authentically say “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” and mean it with my whole heart. On that day, it won’t be about the kingdom I’m trying to build, the power I’m trying to gather, or the glory I’m trying to seek. And on that day, my life will be a reflection of God’s kingdom.


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3 Responses to “The Disappointing Nature of the Lord’s Prayer”

  1. michael tawd on February 7th, 2008 7:17 pm

    hey mark, i completely agree. the prayer is definitly a battle hym for the inner revolution. my community helped organize an advent celebration and i ended up rewriting the lord’s prayer. i think you might find it interesting. this particular interpretation tends to play up your take on it. . .

    Yahweh, you are our Father and you are over all things.
    May your name be holy and sacred.
    May we see your kingdom among us,
    may we have the courage to do your will; on earth, as in Heaven.
    Grace us with what sustains us.
    And forgive us our wrongdoing,
    As we have forgiven those who have wronged us, please, bring peace between all members of humanity.
    And keep temptation far from us, delivering us from the evil one.

    For you are the Kingdom
    You are the Power
    You are the Glory
    Forever and ever Amen.

  2. harry wykman on February 7th, 2008 8:51 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Your post reminded me of a phrase of James Alison’s. He talks about mass as “un-Nuremberg” worship. It is the kind of worship which trains our desires to be disappointed by how gentle and quiet is the worship of our G-D, how nothing like a rally or a concert which excites us (potentially to violence).

    Pax Christi Tibi,


  3. daniel.t on February 7th, 2008 10:30 pm

    Thanks Mark. I’ve honestly been pursuing and avoiding this for a while. This prayer and so many words of Jesus reveal the internal longings of my heart for my own will to be done; my own kingdom to come. No wonder when I am invited to consume and horde and dominate in this world, I jump at the chance. This prayer invites us to participate in our own death. reminds me of something about losing your life to find it…hmm…


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