The world of Christian publishing is rife with material about “purpose.” Everyone wants to read about their life and someone else’s opinion of what it should be about. Much of this is based on a misreading of Jeremiah 29:11, which was never a word of the Lord to every individual for all time, but a promise to the exiled Jewish community that the God of the covenant would not abandon them. So I don’t know that we have much reason to believe that God has a “plan” for each an every one of us; I find little reason Scripturally to believe that God has designed us genetically to be butchers or marketers or writers or actresses or what have you. The most we can say (and this is enough) about God’s purpose for each of us is that we were designed for fellowship and union with God.
For many Christians, the Lord’s Prayer is a regular and powerful part of their spiritual journey. It is for me and for many of my friends and colleagues. The prayer that Jesus gave us is not only a pattern for prayer but a rich prayer in its own right. Even aspects of the prayer than are often overlooked provide an amazing fount of insight into life with God.
As Warren Smith, who teaches historical theology at Duke Divinity School, suggests, when we pray “hallowed be Thy name,” we are remembering the holiness of God and thus the true purpose for our life:
So the confession “hallowed by thy name” grounds our lives in the knowledge of who God is and what God has done for us. This daily confession focuses our mind upon the end or purpose of our journey – that is, fellowship with God – and the quality of our life – that is, holiness – necessary to attain that God. But when we confess that God is holy we also confess that we cannot become holy on our own. We cannot be holy apart from the Holy Spirit. Our thinking and speaking and acting become holy when we cultivate holy habits by living in the company of the Spirit. By inviting us to share his name, by calling us to be saints, God has set a high bar for his children. But he has given us the Holy Spirit as our companion who helps us gradually replace unholy habits of thought, speech, and action with holy thoughts, holy conversation, and holy actions as we grow into the likeness of our heavenly Father, becoming the spitting image of God. (The Lord’s Prayer: Confessing the New Covenant, 46)
This is a small example of how a deceptively simple line such as “hallowed be thy name” works on us over time. The Lord’s Prayer is full of such wisdom and beauty – a treasure too often ignored, and too little appreciated.
You want purpose? Pray and work, die to self daily so that you might become “the spitting image of God.” There’s plenty of room to grow there for several lifetimes. And thanks be to God, he never stops his gracious, other-regarding, self-giving through the Spirit so that we might become who he made us to be:
“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
-2 Cor. 3:18 (NRSV)
What role does the Lord’s Prayer have in your spiritual life? How does your faith community make use of it? I’d love to hear about your experience below.