Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of David Timms' new book, Living the Lord's Prayer, (Bethany House, 2008).
The Lord's Prayer is much more than just a model of how best to pray. It's a statement of how to get to know God's heart. And when you live out those words, God will transform you completely.
Here's how you can live the Lord's Prayer:
Our: Realize that the journey to a deeper walk with God can only be fully lived in the company of God's people. Faith is not an individual pursuit; it's meant to be pursued within the context of community. Whenever you abandon the body of Christ, you're abandoning yourself. You can't grow in grace by withdrawing from others. Commit to long-term relationships with people. When you face a difficulty in any of your relationships, don't simply run or battle it out with the other person. Instead, resolve the issue and reconcile. Focus on people over productivity and on relationships over results. Instead of looking at people in terms of what they can do for you, seek to simply get to know them and love them. Don't place people in categories and distinguish between them. Ask God to help you view all people as He sees them -- equally valuable because they're all made in His image -- and to treat everyone with respect and kindness. Remember that you can truly love God if you don't love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't let anything divide the unity God wants you to have. Remain committed to each other, living in grace and forgiveness, just as God remains committed to you.
Father: Experience true love and security from your ultimate Father: God. Remember the Gospel's promise of freedom. Don't slip into a lifestyle of worrying about duties, obligations, rules, regulations, expectations, and demands when God wants you live freely. Instead of trying to live faithfully just because you'd feel guilty if you didn't, let your love for God and your gratitude for His grace motivate you to live faithfully. Rather than letting fear guide your decisions, make decisions with the confidence that God will love you no matter what and will always be there to help you.
In the heavens: Developing a cosmic perspective of God will nurture your faith and give you the hope you'll need to get through challenging circumstances. Recognize that the spiritual realm you can't see is just as much of a reality as the material world you can see. Just beyond what's visible lies a supernatural dimension that often intersects with the natural world in which you live. God transcends your human limitations, and He is present in all dimensions. God is as close to you as your next breath, yet as far-reaching as the most distant areas of the universe. Ask God to help you become fully aware of His constant presence with you, and of the work He is doing in the world around you. Change your lifestyle so you're not regularly distracted from noticing God at work. Learn how to be still, focus, wait, and listen.
Hallowed be your name: Seek to honor God by the way you live. Do more than just say words of adoration about Him. Surrender every part of your life to Him and do your best to obey what He calls you to do. Ask God to help you become aware of your own sinfulness. Acknowledge your failures, confess your sins, and repent. Then pursue holiness. Aim for higher standards -- God's standards. Let the knowledge of your sin show you how much you need God's grace and motivate you to draw closer to Him. Acknowledge that it's God's holiness that enables you to be fulfilled. His holiness empowers you to see the shortsightedness of secularism, the poverty of profanity, and the futility of immorality. As you hallow God's name, He confronts everything destructive and poisonous within you. Never allow yourself to become complacent; keep pursuing more holiness every day of your life.
Your kingdom come: Participate in God's kingdom rather than retreating into your own. Invite God not to partner with your life, but to come and rule your life. Let go of your own agenda and pursue God's plans for you, trusting that the One who created you knows what's best for you. Surrender your values to embrace God's values, submit your will to His, and cede your ambition in favor of God's purposes. Ask God to humble you so you can know Him better. Realize that you can't build your private empire and God's eternal kingdom at the same time. So hold loosely to your own achievements and allegiances. Remember that you don't work for yourself or by yourself; you serve God as He works through you.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: Seek to do God's will rather than your own will when you make decisions every day. Ask God to transform your willfulness into willingness. Remember that God wants what's best for you. Tell Him that you want what He wants, and receive what He gives. Don't worry about trying to discover the details of the future God has planned for you. Entrust all the details to God and simply make a habit of following where God leads you every day. Discard your fantasies of perfect people and situations, and, instead, direct your energy to loving the people you actually know and working out the real situations you encounter. Affirm your desire for God's purposes instead of just your own fantasies. Don't be so preoccupied with your plans for the future that you don't notice God with you in each present moment. As you live in His presence, you live in His will. As you have the courage to pray for God's will to be done, your prayer will help you develop a purity of heart that will transform you into the person God wants you to become. If you're willing to undergo anything to know God more, your passion will lead to wonderful work that God will do in you, through you, and with you.
Give us this day our daily bread: Learning how to depend on God's unlimited power rather than your own limited efforts will draw you closer to Him. Recognize that the spiritual and the physical are inseparably connected, so everything you do in the physical realm relates to the spiritual realm. Whenever you have a physical need, it relates to a spiritual need in some way. No matter what problems you're facing -- from a broken relationship to financial troubles -- you'll find better solutions if you pray than if you if you try to tackle them on your own. Every kind of activity you do can be a spiritual act of service to the Lord -- not just studying your Bible or going to church, but helping a neighbor with yard work or visiting someone in the hospital. Whenever you misuse your physical body (such as through sexual immorality), you experience spiritual consequences. You can always count on God to provide what you need, both physically and spiritually. But you need to develop a habit of depending on Him every day, rather than trying to make things happen for yourself on your own. Give up your attempts to live a self-sufficient and comfortable life, and thank God that He provides all you need -- even the next breath you take. Simplify your demands and expectations, focusing on your true needs rather than extravagant desires. When you present your requests to God, ask for what you need, and be willing to share with others to become part of the answer to their prayers for what they need.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors: Nurture a culture of grace in your life by following God's call to forgive the people who hurt you. Choose to forgive, despite your feelings, and trust that God will help you to do so. Remember that forgiving doesn't mean condoning something wrong or forgetting it. It simply means releasing it. In the process, you'll experience freedom from bitterness that can poison your soul. Forgiveness will restore your soul and allow you to move on. Remember how much God has forgiven you, and let your gratitude motivate you to obey His command to forgive others. Keep in mind that grace is the opposite of what you deserve: You deserve punishment, but God has given you blessing; You deserve judgment, but God has adopted you; You deserve alienation, but God has welcomed you. Since you've accepted God's grace yourself, you need to extend that same grace to others. But don't take advantage of God's grace, but confessing your sin in a casual manner or repenting in a flippant way. Take your sin seriously, and express gratitude to God often for His forgiveness. Give God your love and respect, and freely offer to others that grace that He gives you.
Lead us not into testing, but deliver us from evil: Grow in faith and obedience to grow closer to God. Be alert to the possibility that God will test you in various ways, and keep in mind that if He does, the tests will be designed to help you and not to harm you. Constantly seek to deepen your faith. Recognize and identify the different types of evil that exist in your life. Then confront them to break their hold over your life. Ask God to deliver you from whatever sin is oppressing you: anger, lust, greed, jealousy, bitterness, lies, etc. Remember that God alone empowers you to overcome sin, and that deliverance arises from you choosing to obey Him. Trust God to use your failures to help you grow. The only failure that ultimately matters is the failure to have faith. If you do have faith, though, with God's help you can overcome any other failure.
Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory: Abandon your pursuit of control and fame for yourself and focus your efforts on glorifying the God who created you. Pursuing your own kingdom on earth inevitably produces conflict and discontent. But pursuing God's purposes for your life will lead to true fulfillment. Remember that all of history is about God, not just you. Ultimately, only God's power and glory matter. While pursuing your own agenda may temporarily lead to fame and influence, without God, it will all be in vain. Serving God, though, will lead to great and lasting significance. Even the smallest act of service for God is hugely important.
Amen: Live from a position of saying "Yes" to God each day. Look beyond your circumstances to God, and choose to live by faith in every situation, trusting God for the ultimate outcome. Find the hope you need in God's promises, and live with the expectation of Him keeping all of them.
Adapted from Living the Lord's Prayer, copyright 2008 by David Timms. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bethanyhouse.com. David Timms teaches and chairs the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. David has been a church planter, pastor, and trainer of pastors for twenty-five years. His e-zine, In Hope, shares his reflections on Christian leadership and spiritual formation. He and his wife, Kim, have three sons and live in Fullerton, California.