Song Stories: Our Father

One of my favorite books is, “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J Morgan. It is a collection of hymns and stories about the authors of those songs and why they wrote them. I find it helpful to understand more of the “why” a song was written, so with that in mind, I wanted to do a series of posts on the songs included in our new CD, “Make a Joyful Noise!”.

“Our Father” is quite simply, the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6. Here, Jesus is teaching His disciples (and us) how to pray:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6: 5-14 ESV

In the denomination I grew up in, it was important to memorize certain prayers. This was one of them I memorized as a kid. I sort of took it for granted that everyone knew this prayer. Not necessarily so! Many kids and adults have heard it and are familiar with it but fewer can recite it from memory. The goal with this song was to help our congregation remember this simple but profound prayer.

There are essentially two ways that I use this prayer. I sometimes simply recite the prayer from memory “as is”. I often call this or other Scriptures to mind throughout the day. It helps to keep me focused on the things of God and what is truly important, rather than the things of Man. The thing to remember when memorizing and recalling prayers to mind is that it is important to focus on the meaning of the words and not mindlessly recite, as if this were some magical formula to get God to do what we want.

The other way to use this prayer is as a starting point for your own prayer. The basic outline works very well as spring board for creating our own prayers to God. If you read the prayer carefully, you will see the different sections, beginning with acknowledging God as our Father and that He is to be worshiped (hallowed be Thy Name). “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” reminds us that we should be seeking the Lord’s will in our lives and in the world. “Give us this day our daily bread” reminds us that God is the source for all our blessings and we pray to Him to provide what we need and to thank Him for it. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” is asking God to forgive us of our sins even as we forgive others who have sinned against us. That second bit is so important! All too often, I want God to forgive me, but I can be very unforgiving of others. That’s not the way God would have us do it. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” is a a prayer that our path would be straight, focused on the Lord and that we wouldn’t be led astray.

You’ll notice an extra line at the end that isn’t in the Biblical text (but it can be found in 1 Chronicles 29: 11-13). “For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever, Amen” is a type of doxology, praising and acknowledging God as God. Nevertheless, I think it sums up the prayer well- we begin and end by praising and worshiping God.

From a musical standpoint, this is the only song on the CD that I play harmonica. I became interested in harmonica a few years ago when Darrell Mansfield came to our church for Easter and led our worship service (video available here). Our worship team got to be his backing band. If you haven’t heard of Darrell, he is an amazing harmonica player and singer. It was an incredible privilege to get to play with him. My harmonica playing doesn’t even come close to what Darrell can do, but this is a simple “tip of the hat” to him nonetheless.

The synthesizer intro was something I came up with to introduce the CD. I actually used an iphone app made by Camel Audio to play the different parts! It begins with the sound of someone walking along. They begin to hear church bells and a choir off in the distance and stop to listen. They are drawn to the sound and move closer to investigate. As they get closer, the first two lines of “Amazing Grace” can be heard. The goal here was to draw the listener in to the music. This is somewhat reminiscent of being saved. God “draws us to Him” and gives us the choice to accept His gift of salvation through Jesus’ atoning death on the cross.