Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Jesus Prayer is a Missional Prayer

Our part in God's mission, says Leslie Newbigin in The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, is threefold: to announce the Kingdom of God, to share in the life of Jesus, and to do the work of the Spirit. Although I haven't read Newbigin's classic text (it's on my list), I do think this little triad seems a good way to think about discipleship.

In my last post on praying in the way that Jesus taught, I tried to emphasize that the Jesus prayer of Matthew 6 was essentially a prayer of discipleship. A disciple is a follower of Jesus and, as Dallas Willard says, a student of Jesus. The Jesus prayer is the way of Jesus in prayer, his way of thinking through his "prayer needs." The prayer of Jesus shows us what was most important to Jesus, and what was the context in which he embedded all his intercession. The context was this: May your kingdom come, Father. Now. All the way. Forever.

That's the vision behind "hallowed be your name." It's the vision behind "on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus is not talking about hints and foretastes here, or about a really great worship set at church. He is talking about the Great Day that will be the end of days as we know it, and the beginning of something we oh so inadequately call "glory." That this day should come, ever, should be the dream of every Christian, and it is the mission of God to bring it to pass.

But short of that, short of the fullness of time and heavenly trumpets, every eye seeing, every knee bowing, the prayer of Jesus is for the four fundamental needs that will allow us to take our part in this great mission of God as it unfolds through history. These are: provision (daily needs), an attitude of forgiveness, power to overcome temptation, and protection from the evil one. These four needs correspond to four conditions that threaten our ability to carry out our mission as disciples (that is, to take our place in the mission of God). These four conditions are: want, bitterness, weakness with regard to temptation, and fear with regard to the evil one. Want, bitterness, weakness, and fear.

Jesus is telling his disciples to pray against these conditions, which can undermine their own part in the unfolding plan of God. To take our place in the plan is to proclaim the arrival of his kingdom, share the life of Jesus with others, and keep in step with the Spirit. That is the mission of the Christian. And so our fundamental reason for praying is to be that kind of disciple, for the sake of the kingdom. It's the way Jesus prayed, and the way he taught his disciples to pray. He wants us to take our place, and do our part, in the unfolding mystery of the kingdom of God.

1 comment:

nAncY said...

thank you for taking the time to go through these things in this way. it is very helpful.