“Praying The Lord’s Prayer,” from Tim Keller (God’s Peace, Petition to the Lord, Prayer Resources)

Tim Keller’s notable book on Prayer, experiencing awe and intimacy with God offers the following treasured notes on praying the Lord’s Prayer explaining that…

  1. None of our three master teachers of prayer, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, developed their instruction primarily based on their own experiences. In each case, what they believed and practiced regarding prayer grew mainly out of their understanding of the ultimate master class in prayer—the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13, in the heart of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
  2. The Lord’s Prayer may be the single set of words spoken more often than any other in the history of the world. Jesus Christ gave it to us as the key to unlock all the riches of prayer. Yet it is an untapped resource, partially because it is so very familiar.
  3.  Jesus is saying, as it were, “Wouldn’t you like to be able to come face-to-face with the Father and King of the universe every day, to pour out your heart to him, and to sense him listening to and loving you?” We say, of course, yes. Jesus responds, “It’s all in the Lord’s Prayer.”
  4. How do we overcome the deadly peril of familiarity? One of the best ways is to listen to these three great mentors, who plumbed the depths of the prayer through years of reflection and practice.

“Our Father Who Art in Heaven”

  • Calvin explains that to call God “Father” is to pray in Jesus’ name. “Who would break forth into such rashness as to claim for himself the honor of a son of God unless we had been adopted as children of grace in Christ?”
  • Luther also believed the address was a call to not plunge right into talking to God but to first recollect our situation and realize our standing in Christ before we proceed into prayer.
  • Calvin agrees that “by the great sweetness of this name [Father] he frees us from all distrust.”

“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

  • A seeming problem of logic, expressed by Luther. “What are we praying for when we ask that His name become holy?
  • Luther, who joins Augustine when he says it is a prayer that God “be glorified among all nations as you are glorified among us.”
  • To “hallow” God’s name is not merely to live righteous lives but to have a heart of grateful joy toward God—and even more, a wondrous sense of his beauty. We do not revere his name unless he “captivate[s] us with wonderment for him.”

“Thy Kingdom Come”

  • This is the cause of all our human problems, since we were created to serve him, and when we serve other things in God’s place, all spiritual, psychological, cultural, and even material problems ensue. Therefore, we need his kingdom to “come.” Calvin believed there were two ways God’s kingdom comes—through the Spirit, who “corrects our desires,” and through the Word of God, which “shapes our thoughts.”
  • This, then, is a “Lordship” petition: It is asking God to extend his royal power over every part of our lives—emotions, desires, thoughts, and commitments.
  • We are asking God to so fully rule us that we want to obey him with all our hearts and with joy.
  • To pray “thy kingdom come” is to “yearn for that future life” of justice and peace.

“Thy Will Be Done”

  • Unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say “Thy will be done.”
  • Only if we trust God as Father can we ask for grace to bear our troubles with patience and grace.
  • This is the one part of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, under circumstances far more crushing than any of us will ever face. He submitted to his Father’s will rather than following his own desires, and it saved us. That’s why we can trust him.
  • Calvin adds that to pray “thy will be done” is to submit not only our wills to God but even our feelings, so that we do not become despondent, bitter, and hardened by the things that befall us.
  • The beginning of prayer is all about God. We are not to let our own needs and issues dominate prayer; rather, we are to give pride of place to praising and honoring him, to yearning to see his greatness and to see it acknowledged everywhere, and to aspiring to full love and obedience.
  • First, because it heals the heart of its self-centeredness.

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

  • Augustine reminds us that “daily bread” is a metaphor for necessities rather than luxuries.
  • For Luther, then, to pray for our daily bread is to pray for a prosperous and just social order.

“Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors”

  • The fifth petition concerns our relationships, both with God and others.
  • In the presence of God everyone must duck his head and come into the joy of forgiveness only through the low door of humility.
  • If regular confession does not produce an increased confidence and joy in your life, then you do not understand the salvation by grace, the essence of the faith.
  • Jesus tightly links our relationship with God to our relationship with others.
  • Unresolved bitterness is a sign that we are not right with God.
  • It also means that if we are holding a grudge, we should see the hypocrisy of seeking forgiveness from God for sins of our own.

“Lead Us Not into Temptation”

  • Temptation in the sense of being tried and tested is not only inevitable but desirable. The Bible talks of suffering and difficulty as a furnace in which many impurities of soul are “burned off” and we come to greater self-knowledge, humility, durability, faith, and love. However, to “enter into temptation,” as Jesus termed it (Matt 26:41), is to entertain and consider the prospect of giving in to sin.

“Deliver Us from Evil”

  • Calvin combined this phrase with “lead us not into temptation” and called it the sixth and last petition. Augustine and Luther, however, viewed “deliver us from evil” as a separate, seventh petition.
  • This seventh petition is for protection from evil outside us, from malignant forces in the world, especially our enemies who wish to do us harm.

“For Thine Is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory Forever”

  • Augustine does not mention it because it was not in most earlier manuscripts of the Bible or in the Latin Vulgate. Luther does not treat it.
  • Calvin, while noting that “this is not extant in the Latin versions,” believes that “it is so appropriate to this place that it ought not to be omitted.”
  • After descending into our needs, troubles, and limitations, we return to the truth of God’s complete sufficiency.

Like Luther in A Simple Way to Pray, Calvin insists that the Lord’s Prayer does not bind us to its particular form of words but rather to its content and basic pattern.

The Lord’s Prayer is a summary of all other prayers, providing essential guidance on emphasis and topics, on purpose and even spirit.

Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community. By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived.

Tim Keller, Prayer, experiencing awe and intimacy with God

Links for further reading include:  (see “Prayer, Breathing God” page for more resources from L.Willows)

“The Power of Prayer”, from R.A. Torrey (united prayer, worship, God who Loves)

Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer by John Piper

Draw Near to God in Prayer: John Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of Prayer, by Dr. Joel R. Beeke

Draw Near to God Through Prayer; John Calvin’s “Rules of Prayer”

Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer by John Piper

Conforming to God’s Holiness from Ligonier Ministries of RC Sproul

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord? Sermon from C.H.Spurgeon, 1888 Metropolitan Tabernacle

Draw Near to God in Prayer: John Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of

Prayer, by Dr. Joel R. Beeke

“Drawn into Christ’s Song”, from L.Willows (Scripture, Christ, God’s Spirit)

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This morning I read scripture aloud. I have found that there is something special about taking the time to do this. I imagine that I am ‘there’ as I read, right inside of the words. I especially take my time reading aloud when Jesus is speaking. It lets the tone and fullness of the words flood into my heart as they are spoken.

Often we drift into a “thinking knowledge” of God’s Love and Grace, even memory of Scripture can become dry. It rehearses in our minds and the truth, the real  Spirit behind it fails to capture our hearts in the way that it is intended to. We are not transformed. We need to refresh.

Scripture is alive. It is a living experience, just as our relationship with Christ is alive and living in the present.

There was such delight this morning in reading. All that had become settled and flat in me lifted up and was refreshed. As I read I was so moved by the tenderness and mercy of Our Lord that His Grace flooded me. His Love for me became a palpable Living experience once again.

God’s Spirit moves it through us, like miraculous music that fine-tunes everything that was formerly “singing out but wandered off”, longing for harmony and lulls it back to Love, to God Himself. We are drawn into the chorus of Love. Our hearts are filled again with delight. We are drawn into the Song of Christ.

Isaiah 12.2 –“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Psalm 28.7 –“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I will thank Him with my song.”

Psalm 32.7 –“You are my hiding place. You protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 40:3 –“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”

Psalm 103 1-5 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name…”

Isaiah 42:10 –“Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who dwell there.”

Prayer to Worship Well

Father,

Yield my heart to the hearing of your call
help me to turn from the world that I see…
from all that is called “this”-
from matters called “that”
and open my eyes and ears to the majesty of You.

Let me bask for moments, holy
in the stillness of your peace so beautiful and blessed.
Return me to the womb of your Love.

Soften all the calls that are not your own
and draw me into your glorious Song.
I long for you alone.

Soak my heart in your mercy and grace.
Direct my path and strengthen my faith.
Thank you for calling me into your peace,
I praise you for singing such Love into my soul.

In Christ’s Name
Amen

© 2019 Linda Willows

“Christian Conflict Management” by Gustav Adolfsson

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photo of eucalyptus trees in Scotland

Christian Conflict Management
by Gustav Adolfsson

In order to build a Christian Conflict management model, we will take an existing conflict management model and re-interpret it using a Christian Worldview lens. So let’s look at a prevailing model of conflict styles by Thomas and Kilmann. This model identifies 5 common styles of responding to conflict. These styles are arranged into quadrants along two axes. The vertical axis denotes the degree of concern you may have for your own interests or goals, while the horizontal axis represents the degree of concern you may have for the goals and interests of others.
Traditional Conflict Styles Model

The five styles in this model can be summarised as follows:

Avoiding: Unassertive and uncooperative. You don’t pursue your own concerns or that of the other party and the conflict remains unresolved.
Accommodating: Unassertive and co-operative. The opposite of competing. You neglect your own concerns in favour of those of the other party.
Competing: Assertive and un-cooperative. You pursue your goals at the expense of those of the other party.
Collaborating: Assertive and co-operative. An attempt is made to find a solution where both parties’ goals are met.
Compromising: Intermediate in assertiveness and cooperation. No optimal solution is found, but both parties sacrifice their goals to some extent.
It immediately becomes apparent that this model does not have, at its centre, man’s relationship to God. It is all about the goals of the two parties in conflict, and God is has been neatly removed from the picture. The five conflict styles are given merely as a taxonomy, a morally neutral list. The model does not provide us with guidance as to which conflict styles ought to be preferred and when. The assumption is that some people favour one style above another, but that no one style is right or wrong in terms of morality.

The model concerns itself merely with balancing your own goals over and above that of others. The tacit implication is that a well-balanced response to conflict would place a high value both on your own goals as well as those of others (i.e. Collaborative). But what if the other’s goals are morally wrong? Or worse still, what if both your goals and the other’s are morally wrong? Should you resolve the conflict through collaboration, or are there better responses in this situation?

So what would happen if we put God back in the centre of this picture? What if we build a conflict response model not based on what you want against what others want, but on what God wants?

Let’s look at the two most important commandments given by God in the Bible; Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour as yourself (cf. Mark 12:28-34). From this statement, we can identify two primary kinds of conflict that can occur. Firstly and most importantly, conflict between man and God. This sort of conflict can be specialised into two sub-categories; the conflict that occurs between you and God, and the conflict that occurs between your neighbour and God.

The second type of conflict is that between you and your neighbour. The two kinds of conflict can be illustrated graphically as follows:

Christian Conflict Role Players Model

Conflict between man and God
What does it mean when there is conflict between man and God? It simply means that man is outside the will of God. Consequently man’s goals and concerns are not aligned with that of God. At the time of creation, this conflict did not and could not exist because man was in the perfect will of God, and man’s desires were aligned with the desires of God.

Since the fall, this situation has changed, and man is now pretty much in conflict with God 24/7. However, we still have our consciences that bear witness of God’s will and what we ought to do, and we are still image-bearers of God, capable of rational thought and moral judgement. For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our saviour, we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts to guide our thoughts and actions, and He also gives us the strength to listen and obey His guidance.

For all the reasons given above, one can imagine a scale that places our goals closer to the will of God or further away from His will. For example, if I am tempted to tell a lie, but tell the truth instead, I might safely conclude that my actions are in line with the will of God (Provided my motive was to honour Him and not some selfish, prideful or malicious motive). On the other hand, if I deliberately lie when I know I should have told the truth, I know my action is on the other end of the scale.

Conflict between you and your neighbour
The second type of conflict is slightly more interesting. One might imagine that if your actions are in line with God’s will, there would be no occasion for you to be in conflict with your neighbour. However, because your neighbour’s goals might be out of line with God’s will, this would result in conflict. We see this with Adam and Eve; Eve’s goals were out of line with God’s will, but Adam was still in the will of God. This resulted in conflict. Adam responded by accommodating Eve’s desires, which resulted in conflict between God and Man. This type of conflict is encountered often in the Psalms, where David was in line with God’s will, yet he was pursued by Saul.

On the other hand, both you and your neighbour may have goals out of line with God’s will. For example, you may both be competing for a position in a company for selfish reasons. Both of you are in conflict with God as well as each other.

Finally, both you and your neighbour may be in line with God’s will, yet be in conflict. This happens because we are in a fallen world and therefore often misunderstand what motive lies behind our neighbour’s actions. We often see this in marriages, where both parties could act with the best intentions in the world, within the will of God, yet conflict somehow still arises.

The Christian Conflict Model
From the preceding discussion, we see that the conflict styles model could be re-interpreted from a Christian perspective with God at the centre. The two axes for this model, rather than representing your own self-interest or the other person’s self-interest, would reflect the rightness (i.e. righteousness with God) of your goals and that of your neighbour’s.

Christian Conflict Model

Given these axes, let’s consider what the correct conflict response styles should be for each quadrant.

Q1. Both you and your neighbour’s goals are in line with God’s will
In this scenario, we have to follow the example of Christ, and sacrifice our own interest for that of our neighbour. Therefore the accommodating style should be our first response. However, as often happens, our neighbour would also wish to sacrifice his or her interest, especially if both parties are Christian. In this case an attempt should be made to employ a Collaborating style, where a solution is sought that meets the goals of both parties.

What would happen if you use the Avoiding style? In this case, you would be disobeying Christ’s command that if you have anything against your brother, you should first have it resolved before coming before the Lord (Matthew 5:23-24). This would impact on your spiritual life and adversely impact your relationship with God.

If you choose to employ the Competing style, you would be contravening the principles of charity. You would probably achieve your goals, but at the cost of your own spiritual progress, your relationship with God and with your neighbour.

A good example of this scenario from the Bible would be the conflict between Mary and Martha (cf. Luke 10:38-42). Even though both were within the will of God, conflict arose because Martha thought that Mary ought to have helped her with the chores. Jesus resolved the situation by assuring her that Mary had chosen the better part, and that she was within the perfect will of God.

Q2. Your interests are not in line with God’s will, but your neighbour’s are
In this scenario, we have to humbly admit our mistake and sacrifice our goals in favour of that of our neighbour (i.e. The Accommodating style). This should probably be accompanied with a plea for forgiveness from God and perhaps even an apology to our neighbour.

By pursuing conflict in this quadrant, you would be prolonging your own interests at the cost of your relationship with God. You might also cause your neighbour to stumble since you are unwilling to accommodate their righteous goals while favouring your own goals even though they are against God’s will.

Competing in this quadrant is probably the worst possible response, since that would imply you are forcefully and arrogantly pursuing your own goals whilst fully aware that they do not conform to the will of God.

A Collaborating style would imply that a solution could be found that would meet both your goals and your neighbour’s, even though yours are not in line with God’s will. This is probably the least damaging incorrect response, but it is highly unlikely that such an accommodation could be found without compromising your neighbour to some extent.

A good example of this scenario from scripture would be the conflict between David and Bathsheba’s husband (cf. 2 Samuel 11). Although the husband was completely ignorant of the conflict, David was fully aware of his wrong-doing. Unfortunately, he chose to pursue the conflict by choosing a Competing style of response, which caused the husband to be killed in war and damaged David’s relationship with God.

Q3. Neither your interests, nor your neighbour’s are in line with God’s will
In this scenario, we should try to avoid the conflict altogether, while we get right with God. Hopefully, both parties will repent and move the conflict into Q1. Or at the least, you will repent and the conflict will move into Q2. However, you might find that after repenting, your goals and concerns would probably have changed and the conflict between you and your neighbour may therefore no longer exist.

It should be clear that Accommodating, Collaborating and Competing are all completely unsuitable in this scenario. They all imply that some attempt will be made to knowingly pursue goals that are not in line with God’s will.

A good scriptural example for this form of conflict is the scene where Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven in Mark 9:33-36. Jesus set them straight by declaring that those who wish to be the greatest should be the least.

Q4. Your interests are in line with God’s will, but not your neighbour’s
In this scenario, we have to exercise Christian courage and stand our ground (i.e. Competing style). Since our neighbour’s goals are not in line with God’s will, we should point it out and be assertive in order to avoid being dragged into something that will cause conflict between ourselves and God.

A collaborating style would have a similar, but inverse, impact as discussed in Q2; you may find a solution that meets both your goals, but this would be highly unlikely and would probably compromise your relationship with God to some extent.

To adopt an Accommodating style would be highly unsuitable, since that would imply that we are to some extent condoning our neighbour’s goals despite the fact that they are not in line with God’s will. The same argument would hold for employing an Avoiding style.

A good example of this style in practice is the conflict between Peter and Paul (cf. Galatians 2:11-13), when Peter withdrew from the Gentiles because of his fear of the circumcision group, he was clearly out of line with God’s will. If Paul had merely avoided the issue or accommodated Peter’s goals, we would have had a very different Christianity today!

Before launching your conflict style…
Pray. Bring your situation prayerfully to God and seek His will. Also remember that it is part of being wise to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11 “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense“). So even if your neighbour has offended you and you believe it was unjust, try to understand the purposes behind the offense and then see if you can overlook it. Forgiveness is a big part of being a Christian, and we are often called to forgive rather than pursue conflict. Remember Matthew 5:9; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God“.

And finally, remember that revenge belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). The Lord doesn’t want you to get even, nor does he want you to avenge injustice. Wait on the Lord. Often, He will handle the conflict without you having to do anything.

When you are uncertain as to whom is in line with God’s will and who is not, the correct response style, regardless of the situation, would be to Pray. Prayerfully ask God to clarify the situation for you and to show you how you should respond.

Prayer is the one response that acknowledges the centrality of God in our lives and should be our first response, regardless of the contextual circumstances. The complete Christian Conflict response model should therefore be drawn as follows:

Christian Conflict Model With Prayer

The Prayer response also addresses a conflict scenario that has not been discussed yet. This is the scenario where there is no conflict between you and your neighbour, but conflict exists between you and God. Since our original model was taken from a model probably resting on theories viewed from a naturalistic world-view, it only covered conflict situations between human role-players.

Our Christian model, however, should account for the conflict that can exist solely between a created being and the creator. Since God is just and righteous, any conflict that exists between us and God can only have one correct response, and that is the Prayer response, followed by repentance.

A very good biblical example of this sort of conflict can be found in the book of Job. Job suffered at the hands of God, and came into bitter conflict with God. Yet when God answered him, he was willing to repent and ask for forgiveness and his relationship with God was restored.

Conclusion
After reading this article, you might compare the models and decide that they are very similar. So what have we achieved by using the lens of the Christian Worldview? Have we simply gone on a long journey, only to return again to the very point from which we have departed?

Not at all. Firstly, we have added rich meaning to the conflict response styles. The question is no longer simply whether I value my own goals or those of others. Rather, the question now is whether my goals are intrinsically or objectively more valid than those of my neighbour. To what extent do they align with God’s will?

This resolves the ambiguity of whether I should value your goals even though I disagree with them, and yet I still value you as a person. From a Christian perspective, it is important that you always value yourself and your neighbour; “love your neighbour as yourself”, but that does not mean that we automatically value their goals or interests, especially if we perceive that these may be out of alignment with God’s will.

Finally, the new model proposed here sheds light on the subtle interplay between my relationship with God and my relationship with my neighbour. It informs our decisions relating to conflict and what our responses ought to be in our day-to-day lives as Christians.

— Copyright 2011 GustavAdolfsson —Delight in The Lord