In the 1980 movie “Little Lord Fauntleroy” a fatherless young boy, Ceddie, living in the tenements of Brooklyn in the 1880’s, learns that his grandfather, an English aristocrat, is searching for him. Following the death of his uncle, Ceddie has become the heir to the grandfather’s estate, and he is therefore a Lord. His grandfather has a reputation for being “difficult,” but because of his offer to satisfy any of Ceddie’s wishes, Ceddie is convinced otherwise. Much to the surprise of his grandfather, Ceddie bestows gifts on his friends, a grocer and a bootblack. After his arrival in England, he begins to help others in his Grandfather’s name: crutches for a crippled boy and extended time for an ill farmer to pay his rent. His Grandfather grants these requests mainly because of Ceddie’s belief in his goodness and the close relationship developing between them.
While Ceddie’s grandfather is a strong contrast to our heavenly Father, God, Ceddie exemplifies Jesus when he instructed us to live as the children of God. In the Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, it is a surprise to see Jesus teaching us to pray in bold and radical ways. Rather than teaching his disciples to make polite requests of God, the Father, Jesus teaches them to refer to God in a way that got him into trouble with the religious establishment. When Jesus referred to God as his Father, the religious people declared that Jesus had made himself equal to God. Jesus did not deny their conclusion. Therefore, when Jesus teaches us to pray to God our Father, he teaches us that we share the same relationship with God the Father that he did. Ceddie’s relationship with his Grandfather was based on love and affection. Therefore, he could boldly make declarations about what his Grandfather would do, based on his relationship. We can do the same, because of our relationship with God. Just as Jesus made bold assertions, so can any Christian.
Not only did Jesus teach his disciples the radical concept of being children of God; he went further and taught them to issue commands/decrees in the Father’s name and to the Father himself. Grammatically, the assumed “requests” made in the Lord’s Prayer are not requests at all, but commands with the same strength as, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Even more surprising, Jesus’ teaching of the command form as used in the Lord’s Prayer was never to be issued to anyone of superior rank or social standing. Yet Jesus taught them to utilize these forms when speaking to God. Jesus taught his disciples to do things that the Greek’s would be surprised to hear and probably found uncomfortable to put into practice. The obvious question rises as to whether Jesus is teaching his disciples to be disrespectful to God. Rather than teaching his disciples to be disrespectful, as some might assume, Jesus is revealing a relationship of closeness and intimacy. It is a relationship that any follower of Jesus enjoys with God, the Father. In any close relationship, there is an invitation to be bold and formality is offensive.
Therefore, when Jesus teaches his disciples to declare God’s name to be holy, His Kingdom to come, His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, to give us our daily bread, to forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors, to lead us not into temptation, but to deliver us from evil, Jesus is not teaching us to make polite requests, but to recognize our relationship with God and respond with authority and boldness because we are children of God, made in His image. Therefore our decrees, like his, carry power and authority.
The book “Outrageous Prayer” explores the meaning and some of the implications of what Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer. The book’s purpose is to transform our view of prayer and lives in relationship to God our Father. For those who are interested in purchasing a copy. It is available through amazon.com. Paperback is $12.27 and Kindle is $7.99.