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The Lord’s Prayer and Stewardship

During Holy Week I enjoyed a little book called “Living Prayer” by Anthony Bloom, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church until his death in 2003.  His chapter on the Lord’s Prayer traces a path of ascent, beginning with the final words “Deliver us from evil” and culminating with “Our Father.” Bloom argues persuasively that, along this ascent, the Lord’s Prayer traces the ancient Israelites’ way of deliverance from Egyptian slavery on a climb to intimate and secure relationship with God.

To ask God for deliverance from evil is a good start, but the next phrase, the request that God would “lead us not into temptation,” is meant to communicate a deeper desire: that God would not only not allow us to be led into temptation, but even more, would lead us away from it!

These two phrases from the Lord’s Prayer can help us learn something about growing as good stewards.  It’s commendable for us to desire to be delivered from selfishness and the gratification of ego and appetites; it’s quite another to resist the temptation to fall back into those old, captivating habits.  It’s likely obvious to anybody who logs onto a stewardship blog, like this one, that all we possess belongs to God, that the first portion is to be returned gratefully to God, and that the balance is given by God for our enjoyment.  Yet, so easily we justify keeping a chunk of that first portion for ourselves.  Having the intent to give it to God is to ask for deliverance; actually giving it, rather than keeping it, is a move in the right direction: away from temptation.

Bloom goes on to say that when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” it’s not about the bread: it’s about what we crave.  The children of Israel, freed from slavery in Egypt, complained against Moses despite no longer being captives.  “If only we had died in Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread” (Ex 16:3).  So, God provided fresh, versatile manna daily, and a regular supply of meat in the form of quail.  Then what did the people do?  They still grumbled!  “Now there is nothing at all but this manna” (Num. 11:5-6).  The point is that daily bread in the form of temporal food (or money, or spare time, or whatever) will not stop our craving.  We need something deeper.  Perhaps it was this insight that led American artist, Jenny Holzer, to erect this statement on the electronic signboard at Caesar’s Palace in Los Vegas:  “Protect me from what I want.”  Sometimes what we want misses the target of what we truly crave and genuinely satisfies our need.

These three phrases from the Lord’s Prayer provide a few beginning steps toward laying a foundation for a life of stewardship.  First, the desire to turn away from selfishness.  Second, to be guided by God away from old, enslaving habits.  Third, to understand that our craving will be satisfied only as we move toward deeper, more intimate and secure relationship with God.

Kevin Dixon

About Kevin Dixon

Kevin Dixon is Dean at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Huron. He has a passion for stewardship. For many years, while living in Vancouver, he chaired the Stewardship and Gift Development Committee for the Diocese of New Westminster. Now he is engaged in stewardship education in Huron, and having a lot of fun doing it. Kevin is also active through the Cristosal Foundation in human rights and community development work in El Salvador.

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One Response to The Lord’s Prayer and Stewardship

  1. Glen Mitchell

    Kevin, thank you for this post. Writing from the Regional Consultants Training Workshop in Toronto this morning, we used the following prayer (led by Archdeacon David Edwards from Diocese of Fredericton) that I thought complemented your contribution this week.

     

    PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

     

    Leader  Let us pray for the breaking in of God’s kingdom in our world today.

     

    Lord God, because Jesus has taught us to trust you in all things,

    we hold to his word and share his plea:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where nations budget for war

    while Christ says, ‘Put up your sword’:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where countries waste food and covet fashion,

    while Christ says, ‘I was hungry… I was thirsty…’,

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where powerful governments

    claim their policies are heaven blessed,

    while scripture states that God helps the powerless:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where Christians seek the kingdom

    in the shape of their own church,

    as if Christ had come to build and not to break barriers:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where women who speak up for their dignity

    are treated with scorn or contempt:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where men try hard to be tough,

    because they’re afraid to be tender:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where we, obsessed with being adult,

    forget to become like children:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where our prayers falter,

    our faith weakens,

    our light grows dim:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Where Jesus Christ calls us:

    All           Your kingdom come, your will be done.

     

    Leader  Lord God,

    you have declared that your kingdom is among us.

    Open our ears to hear it,

    our hands to serve it,

    our hearts to hold it.

    This we pray in Jesus’ name.

    All           Amen.

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