Series: #4 Using the Lord’s Prayer to Pray — “Hallowed be thy Name”

The next segment of the Lord’s Prayer — “hallowed by they name” — is easy for me, in my selfishness, to pass by quickly. Yet, in placing this prayer here, Jesus is reminding us that life isn’t about us–it’s about God. If you look at the scope of the cosmos or even at the age of our planet (regardless of what age you subscribe to), you’ll see that our 70-ish years of existence here alongside 6 billion or so other living souls is not even a blink of an eye! Yet, the beauty of the gospel is that God invites us into the bigger story — the story about Him and His love. That’s why this is such a beautiful part of the prayer — it reminds us of what our lives need to be about in order for them to be life at all.


Series: #3 Using the Lord’s Prayer to Pray — “Who Art in Heaven”

The phrase “Who art in heaven” reminds us how far God is above us. It brings to mind this passage from Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts (55:8-9).

When we pray, we are approaching our Father, but we’re also approaching our Maker. We’re approaching someone who, as much as we like to think of Him as being like us, is actually unimaginably higher than us. His sense of everything–justice, love, mercy, forgiveness, life, death, creativity, art, history, literature–is all infinitely higher than ours.

And so, in this second segment of the Lord’s Prayer, we’re given a joyful humility.

Series: #2 Using the Lord’s Prayer to Pray — “Our Father”

The first two words of the Lord’s prayer remind me of two rich truths:

“Our” reminds me that I am not a Christian in a vacuum. I am part of a family of believers. This prompts me to remember others in my prayers.

“Father” reminds me of the gospel–that, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, I am able to refer to the Almighty God by the same name His Son uses. And it’s not just any name: that God is my Father changes everything about my life. I am an adopted son, and that means I no longer need to fear for my security or seek unreliable sources of affirmation. From God, I am constantly secure and constantly affirmed. My identity no longer rests in what I do, but in what Christ has done.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the riches of these two words in the Lord’s Prayer, but I hope these brief thoughts give some clarity on how rich this prayer is as a template.

Series: #1 Using the Lord’s Prayer

I grew up going to Catholic mass, so the Lord’s Prayer (or the “Our Father”; see the prayer in Matthew 6:5-15) was one of the first non-musical pieces of writing that I memorized growing up. Yet, for most of my life, this was nothing more than something we recited in unison during the mass with our hands joined. I liked the hand-joining, and I still do think it makes sense (the first word of the prayer is “Our”).

But the Lord’s Prayer has become a rich source of personal connection to God for me, largely due to Stephen Smallman’s book The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus. In the book, Smallman walks believers new and old through some of the basics of our faith–I commend the book to you for personal or group study.

Now, back to the Lord’s Prayer. I think when Jesus gave us this prayer, He gave us a template for guiding us during times of prayer, and it’s a template that, like the gospel, we don’t outgrow.

I believe that each segment of the Lord’s prayer is useful for guiding us in our times of prayer. In this series, I’d like to explore that idea.

Writers on Writing: George Orwell’s Six Rules

Again, I thank 101 Books for pointing posting this list of George Orwell’s “don’ts” for writers, which comes from Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Essentially: Avoid cliches. Avoid pretentiousness. Avoid wordiness. Avoid wimpiness. Avoid rule-worship.

These lessons are as applicable to the high schooler trying to impress me with big words to the burgeoning professional writer turning editors away with unpleasant prose to the showy blogger. I thank my dad for teaching me the gist of this when I was in high school. He read a letter that I wanted to share with the family, and he said, “Son, when you use all of those big words, it comes off as arrogant.” I remember being so mad at him for that, but, over the course of several years in college, realizing more and more that if I wanted to communicate with people, I was going to have to accept that he was 100% right. No one likes talking to (or reading the words of) a pretentious twit.

Writers on Writing: Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules

Jonathan Franzen is a big name in contemporary literature. I haven’t read any of his books yet–though I want to–but, as a teacher of reading and writing (and, of course, as a reader and writer myself) I found this blogger’s posting of Franzen’s 10 Rules for Writing insightful.*

This list came from The Guardian:

  1. The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.
  2. Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.
  3. Never use the word “then” as a conjunction– we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.
  4. Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
  5. When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.
  6. The most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto biographical story than “The Metamorphosis”.
  7. You see more sitting still than chasing after.
  8. It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.
  9. Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.
  10. You have to love before you can be relentless.

Essentially: Don’t try to impress your reader. Venture into unknown territory. Autobiography requires inventiveness (“The Metamorphsis” is a short, disturbing read; check it out to get the full whallop of what Franzen is saying here). Writers are observers first. The internet is the fiction writer’s worst enemy. Don’t try to impress your reader (really).

I enjoy Franzen’s quirky rules as well — “then” versus “and,” third-person versus first-, etc.

*Special thanks to 101 Books for making the post, and best of luck on your journey to finishing the list!

Series: How to Stay in our jobs with God — Treating our Work Relationships as Gifts

In this final installment of notes on John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life ideas for integrating faith and work, we’ll be looking at

#6. “We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by practical deeds of help and sharing the Gospel” (p. 151).

To begin this section of the book, Piper explains his rational for putting this item last: “…not because it is least important but because some who put it first never say anything else about the importance of secular work” (p. 151). Thankfully, Piper does not diminish the Christian calling to a secular workplace as solely a vehicle for personal evangelism. However, if Jesus wasn’t lying when he talked about what he had come to do, and if it’s true that he died as a substitute for any who will let him, then the importance of sharing this “good news” can’t be diminished, either. As Piper says, “speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job” (p. 151, emphasis mine).

God has given us our secular jobs for many reasons–to excel in them through creativity and industry, to create useful products, to promote human flourishing through the products we make or services we render, to provide for our needs, to provide for the needs of others, to enjoy with Him–and one of them is to be messengers of the good news. All the other ways to bring God to work combine together to make our context-conscious speaking of the Gospel attractive. And, if what Jesus Christ said is true, that knowing God is the the only life there is (John 17:3) and that he is the way to God (John 14:6) and that he didn’t come to give us advice on how to live (religion) but rather to give us life itself–well, then we don’t really love our jobs or the people we work with if we’re not willing to share that with them. And we can’t look at that last statement as a guilt trip, because guilt trips don’t motivate over the long term. It’s not a guilt trip, it’s a reality check.

May this series of reflections be used by the Holy Spirit to break down the idea that faith and work are separate things; may it reconnect us with the reality of what we set out to do when we get out of bed each morning to go to work.