The Prayer for All Believers
In Luke 11:1-4 is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. It is a prayer of the believers – all believers in God whether they are sitting in worship together or located in remote spots praying alone. The prayer recognizes that God is creator of all; everyone has a right to and deserves to have their daily needs met; and every person has sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations.
This prayer taught by Jesus has a communal aspect, for even if we are praying it alone, we are praying for many others. For when we pray, we are affirming that every person in the world is made in God’s image, that everyone is a beloved child of God and thus a person of worth. We are reminded in this prayer that each of us is important to God. No one is excluded from God’s presence or love.
There are several petitions included in the prayer. The first is “give us today our daily bread” which acknowledges that God is the source of all – that we are dependent on God for all of our daily needs – food, shelter, health, clothing, etc. Jesus is telling us that it is alright to pray about our needs, but to remember that is our praying we are also asking God to grant the basic needs to all God’s children. We are interceding for all and joining God in a new vision of justice for the world. As we pray we are committing ourselves to work with God to assist in “making all things new.”
Petition two is: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” Sin is not a popular word and is often not used in this prayer. Instead we may use debts, or trespasses and those words mean little or nothing to most of us. Sin indicates that something is not right, that we have not done all that we should or have done something wrong, that our actions or thoughts are against God and outside the teachings of Jesus. But in the prayer of Jesus, we demand forgiveness.
Our sins may be individual or corporate. Individual sins are often easier to deal with for we may feel repentant at the moment, but later repeat the same thing over and over. Corporate sins are those done by groups or nations such as racism, sexism, economic oppression and control of power. When we pray we are asking not only for forgiveness for our country/group, but also asking for assistance in the elimination of such sins within society.
But Jesus also instructed us to forgive others. It is hard work for it involves giving up the need for revenge and seeking good for those who have hurt us. This is not easy either individually or as a community but is required to have a right relationship with God and our neighbor.
The last petitions request safety in the midst of trials, temptations, and evil. The phrase reads “Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.” These petitions are based on a faith in a God that cares for, intercedes for and provides for people. Hope is expressed because we are assured of God’s presence even in the midst of trouble. We know God will provide us with guidance throughout our journey.
When praying this prayer, we are interceding for the world. We are asking God to bring in the reign of God. We are engaging God in the struggles, fears and frustrations that we see and experience. The prayer is not only in words, but also becomes our way of living. As we pray we recommit ourselves to the work of kingdom-building.
Spend some time with this prayer. Pray it often using different versions. Listen to God speaking to you as you pray.
Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.