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17th February 2021

Today we have the second of a two-part reflection on the Lord’s Prayer. The first part was published on 27th January.

The disciples as God’s children are instructed to address their prayer to their Heavenly Father, and the word used here is not a formal title but the form of address used within a family with all that says about affection and dependence, so the whole context of what follows is posed within the confidence of an intimate family circle.

What is not included in the language of the prayer is important: absent is the language of ‘me’ , ‘mine’ and ‘I’ – instead we have ‘us’, ‘ ours’ and ‘we’, so the focus is not on self but on community, on what we share with others.

At the heart of the prayer are the two key words: ‘give’ and ‘forgive’, each of which in their several ways addresses our material and our spiritual needs. The request for giving daily bread acknowledges that our Heavenly Father is the source of all things needed for our everyday welfare, but again we pray such a prayer not for ourselves alone but for all, and in that respect our own actions can be part of the answer to that prayer for others.

The forgiveness of sin is the heart of the gospel which Matthew emphasises after he has spelt out Jesus’ model prayer, by indicating that the receipt of forgiveness brings with it the obligation to forgive those who have injured us. Central to the disciples’ learning to pray is to be able to say ‘We forgive’.

But there is here also the message that we are not only sinners but also ‘the sinned against’, whether by other individuals or by the unjust systems and conflicts that plague a fallen world. By God’s grace both sinners and ‘the sinned-against’ find a place within God’s kingdom.

John Briggs