The words "our Father" in the Lord's PrayerSee Matt. 6:9-13;—an experienced Christian Scientist once pointed out to me—imply that God, as loving, caring provider, is available to our humanhood as well as to our spiritual selfhood. This was not meant to indicate that God, Mind, produces matter—He could not—rather that God is approachable even from the standpoint of a human being.
Most Christians believe that God governs and controls the spiritual realm. Sometimes, however, harmony seems a long way from their present experience of limited, physical universe and vulnerable, material body. Yet Mrs. Eddy writes, "Immortal Mind, governing all, must be acknowledged as supreme in the physical realm, so-called, as well as in the spiritual."Science and Health, p. 427; As we accept this insight, as we acknowledge that God, divine Mind, is supreme even in our so-called human living (so-called, because God, Spirit, really is All), we can confidently pray the words "our Father" and know that His care is operative in both our human sense of existence and the reality.
Does this mean that we would wish to perpetuate a material, false sense of ourselves indefinitely, apparently safe in the assurance that we could always petition for divine help? Certainly not, for Christ Jesus, who gave us the Lord's Prayer, also said, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."Matt. 10:39;
Put in the language of today, this statement tells us that as we lose the false, material sense of ourselves we will find the spiritual sense. Surely this must be our fervent desire and honest intent, until the spiritual sense of man and the universe is all there is in our experience, and there is nothing left to be healed or helped.
This is the ideal, but even as we go about our daily rounds, quickly or gradually conquering sensuality and the beliefs in a mind apart from God, there is still present help. We can pray, as is shown in the Lord's Prayer, to "our Father," and we can know that our prayer is heard. As we acquire a larger realization of God's present, all-encompassing, infinite love, we begin to understand that God is not only Father but Mother, the one all-harmonious creator. We see how, in the first lines of the prayer, Jesus established God's oneness and allness and ever-presence.
Notice it is only after the allness of God has been fully acknowledged that the part of the prayer covering human needs begins. "Thy will be done," we read, "in earth, as it is in heaven." Here is affirmation of the goodness of God made practical in daily life, and then follows humble petition for what might be needed—spiritual nourishment and forgiveness, for instance. These words do not refer to a spiritual form of existence inconceivable to the human mind, but to our human life, now.
This is what makes Jesus' prayer practical, and being practical, it includes an honest admission that the material sense of oneself is never perfect and needs redemption. The words indicate an eagerness for regeneration, so that we can be saved from a false, material sense of ourselves. Anybody who prays the Lord's Prayer with sincerity and humility couldn't help becoming a little less selfish or greedy or critical of others. Anybody who really means it when he prays that prayer would just naturally be a little more humble, a little more gentle and spiritually-minded.
With this kind of practical praying it soon becomes apparent that something is required of us if we wish to be forgiven the short-comings we know only too well. We have to forgive our debtors. The prayer reads, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." How can we do this except by seeing the unreality of sin? And if we really do see the unreality of sin, how could we then possibly sin? We couldn't, of course, and that's another thing that makes the Lord's Prayer so practical!
Then comes the petition not to be led into temptation. What is the basic temptation? Isn't it the belief that we have a selfhood apart from God capable of being tempted—the belief that we have a mind, an awareness, and a sense of identity somewhere outside God's allness? If we succumb to this temptation, we find ourselves harboring doubts as to the allness of God and tending to believe in the somethingness of evil. The Lord's Prayer asks that we be delivered from temptation and shows us how to be so delivered through a deeper understanding of God. Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of that line in the Christian Science textbook reads, "And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth us from sin, disease, and death."Science and Health, p. 17.
When human needs have been clearly understood and humble petition has been made with full recognition that something is required on the part of the petitioner, this magnificent prayer comes full circle to the acknowledgment of God's allness, in which there is no inharmony. The prayer leads us right out of a personal sense of self to the incorporeal, spiritual sense and the reflection of God, individualized. With this true sense we can look up, rejoicing, and say, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever."
Our human life, our sense of body, our sense of companionship, home, career—every legitimate concern in thought—will echo "Amen."
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