On Earth, as it is in Heaven
When we adopted James one of the first things I got to teach him was how to pray. Together, we made a family prayer book of sing-songy verse and biblical text. The other day when we were cleaning up James’ room we found that book. Learning how to pray was wonderful. It, like a lot of things, was something I took for granted, something I only realized how important it was after I became James’ mom. If you grow up in a house with prayer, like I did, you don’t remember learning how to pray, it’s just something you do. But James has a specific memory of learning that God is listening, it is a memory I hope he always holds on to.
We know that Jesus also taught us to pray. That lesson comes to us in the story of the Lord’s Prayer. He says in Matthew 6:6 ” But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”
To me, this sounds a lot like a bedtime prayer. Bedtime prayers are precious. And when I became a mother, they became even more so. Some of my favorite early memories with James are of us sitting on his bed at bedtime, with the golden retriever spread out across his denim quilt while we prayed together.
When James was a little older I taught him the Lord’s Prayer. I had fond memories of my own mom teaching me the Lord’s Prayer with a picture book. By then James was already too old for pictures books, but he and I like to run and walk together. So the summer before he was baptized, I taught James the Lord’s Prayer during our long walks. To an onlooker we were just two people walking down the street talking. But if anyone could hear us, they’d hear a mom and son deeply engaged in memorizing lines and figuring out the meaning of new words like trespass.
Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray. Our Father…”
We can argue too much about word choice. And James and my students know, I like to do exactly that. But, couldn’t the prayer of begun just as easily, “Our Mother…”? What comes to mind when you picture, “Our Mother, who art in Heaven”? Or, what if the prayer began simply “Our Parent?” Surely all the love and grace of Heaven is filled with the warmth of many kinds of parents’ love.
I like that in the prayer where Jesus teaches us to pray God is a parent. Yes, God is full of glory and power and might. But, for this evening, I am more interested in God the parent. What does the parent in the Lord’s prayer do? He, provides for us with food (our daily bread), forgives us when we make mistakes (trespasses), helps us to make wise choices (leads us out of temptation), and keeps us safe (delivers us from evil).
These are all the things I try to do for James and his sister. And all the things I know your parents try to do for you. Not all children are fortunate enough to have these things on earth. After becoming James’ mom, my ideas about what children need became more profound. No one loves you like your parents love you. And now, so often my prayer is that all children would know the love of a parent “on earth, as it is in Heaven”.
In the Lord’s Prayer, God, the parent, “art in Heaven”. Let’s think about that for a moment. As a parent, God knows us, and loves us, even if from a distance. As a multiracial, adopted family ourselves, we always appreciate thinking about family in different ways. There are so many kinds of families: families with a mom and a dad, step-families, adopted families, families with two moms or two dads, families with just one parent--all it takes is love.
I think of Jesus who grew up with both his adopted dad, Joseph, and with “our father, who art in Heaven.” Just as all of us are blessed enough to have both our families here on earth and also the grace of God the parent, “who art in Heaven”.
To close let’s pray a bedtime prayer together. I want you to picture yourself wearing your favorite pajamas (for James I know he’s imagining his fuzzy MU pants). Imagine you are under the covers saying goodnight to your mom or dad. Your stomach is full. You are safe and warm and loved. Now, let’s pray together:
Our Parent, who art in Heaven, thank you for the love of parents and children. Thank you for all kinds of families to love and pray with. We see your glory in big things but we see your grace in small things: in bedtime and fuzzy pajamas, in hugs from our parents and chocolate chip cookies. Help us to open our hearts wide enough to work for all children to know this love. On earth, as it is in Heaven, forever and ever, Amen.