The Christian Essentials series “passes down tradition that matters” (p. xi). The volumes in this series quote Martin Luther who wrote, “I never move on from the childish doctrine of the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.” The Christian Essentials series looks at the basic biblical teachings and practices of the gospel that the church was founded on, that being the Ten Commandments, baptism, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Prayer, and corporate worship (p. xi).
These are the foundation of our faith. Yet they easily become routine, spoken and performed from rote memory and actions. What are we doing? Why are we doing this again? This series leads us through the basics and teaches us the meaning of what we are doing and why, or to whom, we perform them for. In this volume, Wesley Hill, associate professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry, leads you through the Lord’s Prayer to understand what prayer is.
We Pray to God “in Secret”
We pray to God in secret. How is that important? Rather than making long, pompous, ostentatious prayers before others to be seen, trying to twist God’s arm to give us what we want, we can instead pray in secret to him, because he is our Father, “and He is already disposed favorably toward you” (p. 2).
What is prayer? Hill writes, “Know that you’re already bathed in the Father’s love, and ask simply for what you need, in the assurance that the One to whom you’re speaking is already cupping his ear in your direction. That’s what prayer should be” (p. 3). There’s no haggling. No convincing. No pacifying. No cajoling.
We Can Call God “Father”
Hill, who wrote a book on the Trinity back in 2015, teaches us about how we now share in the divine triune relationship in Christ. He quotes former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who wrote, “We have the nerve to call God what Jesus called him, because of the Spirit we share with Jesus as a result of being baptized, ‘immersed’ in the life of Jesus” (p. 3).
Hill doesn’t only tell you what he thinks. He draws on writings from the church fathers, the Protestant Reformers, and recent Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant theologians and preachers “to draw out the significance of Jesus’ words for Christian prayer today” (p. 4).
What really struck me was when Hill wrote that the Lord’s Prayer is about Jesus himself (p. 4). Every line Jesus prays gives us a window into his prayer life. Jesus does what he prays for. He address God as Father. He sanctifies his name. He submits to God’s will. He gives of himself as daily bread for the world. He offers forgiveness through his death on the cross. He teaches his disciples about prayer through his words and his actions.
Out of the entire Old Testament, God is referred to as Father only 15 times. By the time you finish John’s Gospel, Jesus has called God “Father” over 170 times (p. 11). Something new is happening. Not only that, but Jesus calls God “our Father,” including us with Jesus in this intimate relationship as we look “up to Him as our older brother (Heb 2:10-18)” (p. 13).
“Your Will be Done”
“To pray ‘Your will be done’ is to adopt an appropriate distress over the world as it exists now and to hold on to the conviction that God will even now begin to change the world” (p. 42). We live in a world full of “cancer, AIDS, sex slavery, rapacious greed, and toxic waste,” and it is easy to think it is “just the way things are” when we hear about it on the news and on crime shows every night (p. 42). Petitionary prayer invites us to imagine the world as God wants it to be and will make it to be. We pray with the psalmist, “Let your glory be over all the earth” (Ps 57:5), and when we look at Jesus’ life, we see that God not only works in moments of joy but also “in suffering, in darkness, in torment” (p. 44). Jesus suffered on the cross ultimately for our salvation.
Hill’s trinitarian emphasis as well as how Jesus lives out the Lord’s Prayer are two high points of the book. Hill draws out the life of the Lord’s Prayer through biblical theology and showing how Jesus’ ministry, one which lives out the Lord’s Prayer, fits within the story of the Bible. This won’t be the first book I reach for when I teach through the Lord’s Prayer, but Hill is succinct and to-the-point, making this book great for devotional reading. There are some social justice issues that some may find surprising (see pp. 15-17, 26-27), but no matter your position, Hill brings us deep into the Christian tradition on the Lord’s Prayer, and you will come out better for going through it with him.
- Series: Christian Essentials
- Author: Wesley Hill
- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Lexham Press (November 6, 2019)
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Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.