Reflecting on The Lord's Prayer

The Black Keys sang on El Camino (2011),

I should have seen it glow, but everybody knows that a broken heart is blind.

Sure, it may play like a tribute to Jimmy Page, but for my money, that chorus is worth the price of entry on its own.

Augustine (more) famously wrote:

Late have I loved you,
Beauty so ancient and so new,
late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong,
I, misshapen.
You were with me but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being
were they not in you.

Confessions, X.27

For Augustine, there’s a dependency between misplaced love and not seeing the world as it really is. Because he loved too much the things of the world, he did not see till late that ‘those things…would have no being were they not in you.’

Or, in other words, ‘a broken heart is blind.’

As usual, this is something we tend to get the wrong way around. We think that, if we only saw clearly, we’d love rightly. This is the claim implicit in The Devil’s Advocate. Keanu Reeve’s young lawyer only questions the desires of his heart when he begins to see hideous visions. But sight is not the last great objective sense. We see what we expect or hope or fear to see.

I need glasses to see clearly. It’s easy to think that when I put them on, I’m getting the world as it really is (no one has ever had as high an opinion of their vision as a short-sighted man with his glasses on).

But, of course, I don’t just see the world through my glasses. I see it through my heart. When I see billboards, I see what I should look like, because I love acceptance. When I see wealth, I see what I need, because I love security. When I see success, I see threat, because I love praise. It’s so very true: a broken heart is blind.

And then along comes Jesus, and he teaches us the Lord’s Prayer, so that our broken hearts might be bound – so that we might really see.

Jesus teaches us that God is our Father and our Father is God, who alone rules in heaven. There is one Almighty, and he loves us! – oh, how I love him! And I see that powers of this world that I fear are no powers at all.

Jesus teaches us that my Father hears our simple earnest pleas. Because his door does not need to be battered down with my words, because it is not my labour that wins his mercy – oh, how I love him! And loving the one who listens to me, I see that my striving is a flailing into the wind, that God is someone I can rest in, and that anything that demands my sacrifice as the price of love is only an idol.

Jesus teaches us that our Father, who loves us, gives us our daily bread. And so I learn to love the simple things, and I see that I don’t need what I thought I needed. I see that generosity is possible; that there is more than enough to go around; that getting is often losing. I see that scarcity is not the problem.

Jesus teaches us that we are to forgive as we are forgiven. As I learn to love this state of grace in which I find myself, I discover that conflicts doesn’t have to be cyclical, and that I have the power to set others free.

Jesus teaches us that our Father loves good and hates evil. So I learn to love what he loves, and amazingly, I see that I really can change.

And maybe this is the really remarkable thing. As I pray the Lord’s Prayer, it doesn’t take the place of action. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t make me passive; it doesn’t justify or enable moral quietism – quite the opposite.

I was a broken-hearted man, and blind with it. But the Lord’s Prayer trains my heart to love as Jesus loves. Loving rightly, I begin to see. And now I see – that God rules, that his kingdom is coming, that I need nothing but what I receive from his hand, that forgiveness can overthrow evil, that the righteous life is possible – now I see, I can act.

Reflections on The Lord's Prayer