The universal prayer of Christians, regardless of denomination, is the prayer that Jesus himself composed and taught. I assume he prayed these words to his Father, with whom he had an intimate conversation every day.
There is much in this short prayer, which is found with minor variations in three of the four gospels. We are recognizing how special God is…hallowed is the word used, which means consecrated, or set apart as sacred. In this country we might consider our flag or the Gettysburg cemetery as hollowed. But the ultimate hallowed being is God, whom we worship as the center of our very lives.
The next phrase in the prayer I find most challenging. We are asking God to bring about God’s reign on earth: “Thy kingdom come.” This is asking that I totally surrender to live on God’s terms, always putting myself in a secondary place before God. Maybe you, like me, resist doing this because I want to be in control, I want to protect my “right” to self-determination.
This surrendering is most challenging because we are taught early to succeed, to find our own way, to work hard to get the reward, to accomplish something! We set goals and work to achieve them. This prayer tells us to question these All-American ideals, not because doing something constructive is bad, but because our work, our accomplishments, or making more money can very easily become our gods.
To follow Christ is to imitate Christ. He lived, not for himself or his agenda, but surrendered everything…his liberty, interests, ambitions, desires, talents, possessions, good name, status, relationships and ultimately his own life…to his Father’s will.
When I awake each morning do I anticipate what I will do today to make sure my life is secure, that I will maintain my good name, that I will achieve my goals, get my needs met, find pleasures that I want? Or do I awake and ask myself, “What do You want of me today?”
My task as God defines it on any given day may be to set aside my schedule or anticipated tasks and tend to someone…a child, an invalid, a poor woman on the street…who has an immediate need. Or I may be asked to compromise something I hold dear at work or with friends, or to forgive a person who has made me angry or resentful, whether an acquaintance, family member or even a public figure. In short, my scheduled plans and cherished ideas and grudges may have to be ditched to choose what God wants of me.
This flexibility requires surrender of self from the moment I get up in the morning so I can respond to the surprise moments of grace God presents to me. It means I fully trust God is directing every moment, present at every moment, delivering me and all of us from evil.
This is how the reign of God comes to our troubled, frightened, hope-starved world: one God-inspired, God-directed person at a time.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.