Your Last Lord’s Prayer

In this fast-paced world, we seem to be in a rush and often impatient. Striving for efficiency and effectiveness, we obsess over achieving maximum results in a minimum time frame. Agility appears to be one of the most valuable traits for our survival. The faster, the better, it seems. Life is short, and we must keep running as quickly as possible to experience the most within our limited lifespan. That way, we won’t regret the moment we leave this world. But is that the correct approach? Is that what God wants for us?

Life may be short, but the world has countless things to experience. How many books can we read in our lifetime? Some people suggest techniques like speed reading to enable us to read more within our limited time. Some even boast about how many books they’ve read, as if that could indicate intelligence, success, or wisdom.

Smartness and intelligence often seem synonymous with processing speed and quantity. A higher IQ implies that you can find hidden patterns in symbols quickly and in large volumes. In this sense, the goal of achieving the highest IQ appears to be comparable to the performance of Artificial Intelligence. While the speed and quantity that AI can process are indeed astonishing, is that the goal for our smartness, intelligence, and wisdom?

We can run and become increasingly faster with advanced physical training. High respect is due to those Olympic athletes who challenge the potential and limitations of the human body. However, they don’t compete with automobiles. We use cars instead of running to move from one place to another more quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

In this regard, we are incredibly grateful for the advancement of modern technology, from industrial machinery to the latest computing, including AI and beyond. Likely, without our obsession with becoming faster and achieving more, we might not have progressed to the extent we have. It’s no wonder agility is one of the most favored values and competencies acknowledged in this world of advanced capitalism. Faster and more! Success is the goal of our lives in this world. God wants us to be successful for as long as we live here. Our talents must be maximized and stretched to their limits. 

Perhaps that’s true, but I don’t believe this is the entire story of our lives. We might overlook some things due to our obsession with speed and agility.

For example, have you ever paid extra attention to each step you take on the usual route on your commute to the office? Perhaps, as our minds are often preoccupied with numerous tasks, frequently perceived as problems, we seldom have the luxury to focus mindfully on each step we take. Have you ever counted the number of steps in the train station? Have you ever noticed a procession of ants carrying food to their colony on the sidewalk? Have you ever savored the sound of carpenters sawing wood while working on a house under construction along your path?

Centuries ago, the primary means of transportation was walking. Traveling from one city to another took days and weeks on foot, a journey that now can take only several hours by train or highway. Our mobility was helplessly slower. It was indeed inconvenient from the modern-day perspective. Yet, it seems we knew how to appreciate the journey at that slower pace. We faced, experienced, and overcame various obstacles, which today might seem unnecessary and sometimes even intolerably challenging for people accustomed to the fast-paced world.

I still vividly recall my first experience of writing airmail. It was a thin piece of paper that could be transformed into an envelope to keep it light, as weight mattered for all oversea mails. I drafted my message with a pencil, checking spelling, grammar, and vocabulary with a thick paper dictionary. Once confident with the final draft, I carefully inscribed each line onto this thin airmail paper with a pen, imagining how my pen pals overseas would read and appreciate my carefully crafted message. It took weeks for my letter to reach the recipient and several more weeks to receive their reply. The world was not yet flat but vast and round, with foreign countries seemingly as distant as the moon in the night sky. We were slow. The obstacles were unimaginable. Yet, we knew how to savor such slowness, for we didn’t perceive it as slow but as realistic at the God-allowed pace. 

Reading used to be a really slow process. We read books as if we were reciting and appreciating prayers and poems. Nowadays, however, we even pray and recite poems faster, as if our time to communicate with God or the Muse is as limited and expensive as overseas calls. We pray eloquently and swiftly. But why do we have to pray so quickly? Can’t we focus on each word mindfully and wholeheartedly?

When we recite the Lord’s Prayer, which is well-memorized, we often tend to take each word and line for granted, as if it is a passage we must recite and finish as quickly as possible:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

Let’s pray as slowly as possible. After saying “Our Father,” let’s pause, meditate on this phrase, and spend enough time. Who is our Father? What is your relationship with Him? Are you now ready to talk with Him? Let’s take plenty of time to be fully present at this moment.

And once ready, let’s move on to the next phrase, “who art in heaven,” and pause again. Now, you are ready to envision Him in heaven. Where is heaven? How is it different or similar to Earth? There are profound implications in the word “heaven.” Let’s spend enough time contemplating this extraordinary realm.

In the next line, we mindfully utter, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” What does it mean to say His name is hallowed? Does God have a name? The answer is both Yes and No. We must contemplate the non-duality of enabling and disabling our understanding of Him. And what is “Thy kingdom”? What is “Thy will”? While we may easily utter these phrases without much thought, the implications we can contemplate based on these words are tremendous, even overwhelming. We must pause and spend sufficient time contemplating.

Let’s slowly recite the Lord’s Prayer, cherishing every word and phrase. This process is akin to practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer. The goal is not to cover as many words and phrases as possible, but to delve deeper, transcending them eventually through the lens of contemplation. 

No amount of time is ever enough. Each line of the Lord’s Prayer represents human history’s search for God, from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. In the writings of John, whom Jesus loved, it is said, “The world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

We should pray slowly so as not to overlook moments of contemplation. Prayer is not merely about uttering words for requests and petitions; each word should reveal a profound depth. If we solely concentrate on the superficial words and aim for a quantitative increase in repetitions, we risk never progressing beyond the surface. This is akin to traveling from one place to another via a highway; we bypass and miss the in-between locations, which could potentially be life-altering and deeply meaningful. 

Paradoxically, in our efforts to move faster and achieve more, we overlook the profound depth of each moment, each word, and each step. Ironically, in our rush to live life to the fullest by seizing as much as we can as quickly as possible, we bypass the essence of our existence as if blindly sprinting toward the inevitability of death. You might feel you’ve merely arrived hastily at the end of your life, having whizzed through it all too swiftly. What was your life? You might struggle to recall it.

We must slow down to fully immerse ourselves in each moment. We must pray slowly to make each precious word and line of prayer genuinely meaningful. How many more times will you recite the Lord’s Prayer in the remainder of your life? The number will be incalculable beyond your comprehension. However, it’s certain that if you follow the Christian tradition and are fortunate enough to live a long life, you will experience the moment of reciting your last Lord’s Prayer on your deathbed.

What would your final Lord’s Prayer be like? I’m certain you would pray slowly, very slowly, as each word and line become extraordinarily significant—it’s the final moment you can utter, savor, and appreciate the prayer with your physical presence. Your last Lord’s Prayer.

Image by James Chan

2 thoughts on “Your Last Lord’s Prayer

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad the article resonated with you and that it inspired reflection. I agree that we need this perspective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s