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Who Art in Heaven

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Image by ImageMD via Creative Commons.

After praying, “Our Father,” the words “Who art in heaven” slip out almost unaware as I say “hallowed be Thy Name.” I’m sipping on coffee, gazing at a room full of strangers. Each person in the room is facing something different.

A woman is apparently texting on her phone behind me because her husbands keep saying, “Who do you keep texting!” Each time he raises his voice slightly. After the third exclamation, she practically shouts back, “I’m checking on our daughter.” Silence. Then I notice both of them talking sweetly to a grandchild who sits between them.

People struggle.

Bound in relationships that intertwine love and anger. Searching for jobs. Trying to work up the strength to face the stress of an unpleasant work environment yet another day. Awaiting news from the latest round of medical testing. Finances, health, relationships, and beneath all the surface troubles a deeper anguish that lacks description.

So I sit drinking coffee quietly praying “Who art in heaven” in the midst of people who need a God that is here, present, answering their griefs and not off in heaven. Tom Waits moans,

God’s away, God’s away
God’s away on business

Praying “Who art in heaven” has an inherent tension. Our Father, our Creator is present in some way, but He’s also absent. We don’t always see Him. We often feel alone and thrust back upon ourselves to survive. We wonder why is He in heaven when people are suffering?

If I pause over “Who art in heaven,” I see the Grand Inquisitor thrusting his ticket to heaven back in my face, rejecting the God who is silent to his accusations. Dostoevksy doesn’t answer the charge, but he does not ignore it either. He confesses human doubt alongside human faith. Alyosha, the true believer, remains present to his brother’s story of unbelief. He continues to love unceasingly.

Remembering Dostoevsky’s story of faith and unbelief, I hold the confessions of those who doubt, those who struggle, those who grief, alongside my confession of faith. Even as I utter “Who art in heaven,” I cry out silently for those who feel abandoned in absence. I know that absence. I’ve lived in it and practically died in it. But I have also known the piercing light of our Father’s love in the midst of my brokeness.

Even as I mumble “Who art in heaven,” I am addressing the Lord who created this world, who relates to this world, who loves this world. He loved this world that rejected Him so much that He sent His Son into the suffering of this world to redeem it and us. He is well aware of suffering and struggle and pain. He understands depths that I cannot grasp.

And yet, He overcame and in the mystery of His grace, He promises that all the evil will be vanquished in the end. As I meditate on the story of the cross, on Christ who bears the evil of the world, who suffers, who dies and who is Risen even now, I have hope that evil does not have the last word. “Who are in heaven” becomes a promise that there is a hope hidden in some ways behind the veil of this life. But this hope is an assurance that death shall die.

The voices that question and struggle and search for God in darkness are not abandoned. Even as I pray “Who art in heaven,” I realize that by His Spirit, Jesus is already present in their cries and that He is inviting me to pray alongside Him.

He is inviting me to love and to enter a love that is not afraid of suffering or success. He is inviting me to embrace the world around me. He is inviting me to see and to hear and to love the people in this coffee shop, on the highway, in the store and even on the phone.

“Who art in heaven” is promise that there is a place where evil cannot enter. Love does and will conquer. Trusting in His faithfulness, I pray to Him and in Him and through Him, I love those around me even in this moment.

Categories: prayer
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