BY PAUL DUNK
For those of you unfamiliar with the Richter scale, our friends over at Wikipedia define it as a 1930s invention that "is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude."
In other words, it's precise enough to record a range of seismic activity from zero, to coffee-spilling, to metropolitan devastation.
Here in Southern Ontario, we're unfamiliar with seismic activity. In certain parts of the world, people are quite familiar with it. At the time of this writing, earthquaketrack.com reported 30 earthquakes in the last 23 days in California ranging from a 1.0 - 2.8 on the richter scale. If I read their charts right, that means that nobody spilled their Starbucks because coffee spilling doesn't occur until a 4.0 hits.
Imagine for a moment you are having coffee with a friend in Santa Monica and a 4.0 hits. Your coffee vibrates and spills all over the table and the whole house shakes for 40 seconds. There are two available reactions here. One is one of wonder and the other is one of complacency. If you're the Canadian, you're probably feeling a sense of awe. If you're the native to Santa Monica, you just say "huh" or maybe you don't get out of bed for anything less than a 5.2.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they were given the Lord's prayer. The Lord's prayer is intense in the original language. It's in the imperative mood in Greek, which sounds a lot like we are commanding God to do things because the dependancy level is so high. Of course Jesus isn't inviting us to command God, but entreat Him - passionately.
The Lord's prayer registers at a 9.0 on the prayer scale. It's the 'alpha' prayer. After all, God the Son gives it to us.
There is a tremor of grace line after line in the Lord's Prayer - yet we can grow so accustomed to saying the words that we lose our sense of wonder and awe of the implications behind those words. Praying the Lord's prayer Sunday in and Sunday out can be like sitting through a tremor because after you've experienced 100, it's easier to tune them out.
Jesus lived with a sense of security, stability and peace from God the Father that we can't really fathom. The spiritual strength Jesus received in prayer was enough to carry Him to the cross. When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, the "Lord's prayer" was His way of inviting them to experience intimacy as God's children. He wasn't giving them words to recite like a formula in an empty template.
The Lord's Prayer is a gift of grace that invites us into spiritual rest. God's grace goes from being something that we know is objectively true in our heads and becomes experientially true in our hearts.
Consider the closeness offered to us in prayer as pictured by 17th century theologian, Thomas Goodwin:
Once there was a father and son walking along when suddenly the father swooped up the little boy in his arms, hugged him, kissed him, told him he loved him then put him back down. Was the little boy more a son when he was in the father's arms than when he was down on the street? Objectively and legally, there was no difference - but subjectively and experientially there was all the difference in the world. In the fathers arms, the son was experiencing sonship.
We begin our prayers, "Our Father" because God met the requirements of His law, with the grace of His gospel. That means that He is not a judge presiding over you, but a loving Father inclined toward you.
We are adopted children of grace.
Jesus gives us praise in prayer as being primary. The more we see God as a loving and perfect Father in all His majesty, the more dependant we become, readily going to Him for everything.
The 1st line in the Lord's prayer is a tremor of grace. Bring your worry, anxiety, fear, pain, anger, frustration and your tears to God. He is your Father.
We leave our worry, anxiety, fear, pain, anger, frustration and tears with Him - through worship.
Why worship? Why "hallow" God's name? Is God an insecure cosmic deity who needs to hear His creation tell Him how great He His? Isn't He already Holy? Why does He need us to say it?
On this subject of "hallowing" God's name, CS Lewis writes in Reflections on the Psalms,
“We despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness. It’s almost as if God were saying, “what I want most is to be told that I am good and great.” However, if God is the object of great admiration, the one behind all beauty and magnificence, then to praise Him is to enter reality, whereas to not praise Him is to become more profoundly crippled than the bedridden."
On reflecting on worship in another one of his works, The Problem of Pain, Lewis gives us this consideration ...
“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.”
Crying out in worship to our Father in heaven is a great, grace tremor. Coming to God 1st as our Father reorients our heart, recalibrates our mind and reorders our will from a place of self sufficiency to childlike dependancy.
In Romans 8:14-15 the apostle Paul wrote about our childlike posture in prayer. Paul describes our posture that way because Christ, through His life-shaking tremor of forgiving grace, has forgiven all our sins and given us the right to cry, "Abba! Father!"
Now that word, "abba" is not really a word per se. It's only used 3 times in the New Testament. We translate the Greek 'daddy' and that's OK, but this Aramaic word is likened to child babble. Paul's intentional use o this word creates a great picture of prayer when all hell is breaking loose in our lives ...
Though, like infants, we are too little to always know what we need, we know exactly who they need - so we cry "Abba!"
In prayer, our restless souls return to a place of rest knowing that our lives are in our Father's hands.
May we never grow so accustomed to the tremors of God's grace that they don't register with us anymore. May the Spirit of God continually draw our attention to the wonder and awe of the gospel so that the good news never becomes old news.
Paul is a graduate of Knox Theological Seminary and the founding pastor of KW Redeemer in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. He is an MCO race school graduate, but presently his main hobby is drinking espresso because it's cheaper than fixing cars. Paul and Susan live in Waterloo with their three children.