Sunday, November 21, 2010

Praying the Kingdom for Your Workplace: the Jesus Prayer as Missional Prayer

The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, often called the Lord's Prayer, can be found at Matthew 6:7-13 and in a briefer form at Luke 11:2-4. If you've ever been a member of a liturgical church, you probably recited this prayer every Sunday. On the other hand, in typical non-liturgical Evangelical churches of today it is no more emphasized than any other passage of the NT, and the recitation of its words as prayer is somewhat mistrusted as mere rote repetition.

But the bottom line is, when some disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus said, "Like this," and recited this prayer.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
As it stands, the prayer seems a bit lofty and even generic. But it's my opinion that we do well when we get specific, making the prayer uniquely our own. What does "your kingdom come" mean, after all, in my own particular context? What "daily bread" am I or my family or my co-workers, or whomever I'm praying for, in need of? "Forgive us our debts"? What do I owe and to whom? And have I forgiven the debts of other toward me? Perhaps I hadn't been thinking in these terms when I expected an apology from my boss or my friend. You see, I contend that when we begin to take this prayer of Jesus personally, addressing God in the manner and spirit that Jesus suggested, it can change the way we see the world and our place in it, and thus the way we talk to God.

First, understand that this prayer is a missional prayer, in which you the praying disciple take an active part in the missio dei by asking that the Lord's will would be done in the context of your life, your corner of creation. "May your will be done in my workplace as it is in heaven. In my relationship with my son as it is in heaven. In my voting, in my neighborhood, in my driving . . . as it is in heaven." You fill in the blanks.

Now note: when you pray the prayer in this personalized way, the prayer becomes--you can't help but notice--not only a beseeching of God, but also, by His grace, a call upon your life. For example, if I am praying for the kingdom to come in my workplace, the conviction soon dawns upon me that, by the grace of God, I may well be the vessel by which he answers that prayer for my co-workers. I cannot run from this like Jonah, or my prayer is a mere charade.

You can see this same dynamic when you begin to pray the other parts of the prayer with specificity.
"Give us, here at [insert name of workplace], our daily bread. That is, what we need for sustenance this day within this context. What we need to do jobs well and to serve others in love (for that's your kingdom coming)."
Or think about the debts you owe one another in the workplace. The things you expect from one another and begrudge when they are not paid.
Forgive us our debts, here at [insert name of workplace], even as we forgive the debts we owe one another.
If you pray for your workplace in this way, you may be the only one doing so. It may be that some are praying for a debt to be paid ("They owe me. God, make them pay up!") But you, when you pray according to Jesus' instructions, are praying the will of God for creation. What does the Kingdom of God look like? Well, for one thing, every debt has been paid, an no one owes a thing to anyone else except thankfulness to the one who paid it all. That's why praying for an atmosphere of forgiveness in the workplace is praying down the kingdom of God, and praying the very heart of God's purpose for creation (including his purpose for your workplace). It is a radical prayer, a potent prayer, and again, you can't help but notice, it sets up a call on the very heart of the one praying. The forgiving of debt in the workplace might have to begin in your own heart!

And what about temptation? There are temptations associated with your workplace environment that may be quite unique. In a small workplace like my own, and one where none of the other employees really have a kingdom of God mindset, you may be the only one who sees and understands how certain temptations are effecting your workplace environment (beginning with your own). In truth, you are standing in the gap when you pray this prayer for your workplace.

All of this is a kind of test of the sanctified imagination. Perhaps you've never thought much about "daily bread." Use your imagination. Think specifically of what you need, and what co-workers need, not only to get them through the day but to get them a step or two closer to the promised land. If you think about this, and about specific encounters and conversations you've had at work lately, you'll begin to think of daily bread with great insight and precision and pray accordingly. The same goes for forgiveness, and temptation. Your understanding is enlightened as you pray this prayer with your eyes open in your workplace.

Finally, it should be kept in mind that God's ultimate purpose is that his kingdom should come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That should control the way you think of the other parts of the prayer, which indeed are nothing more than sub-headings of "your kingdom come." I would invite you to think of the component parts of this prayer as they apply to the idea of God's kingdom coming in your own workplace, family, relationships, or whatever, and to make this the pattern of your prayers. As praying believers, you are a focal point of God's kingdom expression, and your prayers for the kingdom are in turn a call upon your life. They are central to your mission as believer. The aroma of Christ is all over this work. Go to it.

1 comment:

Nate said...

"Well, for one thing, every debt has been paid, an no one owes a thing to anyone else except thankfulness to the one who paid it all."

Yeah, wouldn't my prayer life be different if that was something that made sense to me...