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Directory of Desire
I am a visual learner. If asked where I would like to go out for dinner, my mind is literally blank until I pull out my phone to see what restaurants are nearby. The same thing happens when my wife asks for meal suggestions before grocery shopping. Without some kind of reminder of the delicious meals we had recently — by no means a rare thing! — I have no input or preference, and it might seem like I don’t care much about food. However, give me reminders of satisfying dishes, a dinner menu if you will, and I’ll quickly desire eating them again.
The Lord’s Prayer is like that. Augustine of Hippo referred to the Lord’s Prayer as “a directory of desire”. Perhaps if he were living today Augustine would use the analogy of a food menu, a written directory of spiritual delights. As with food, but with more serious consequences, I am prone to forget what satisfies my soul, prone to forget what I have desired and been fulfilled by in the past. For new and old believer alike, “the petitions [of the Lord’s Prayer]…include every thing relating to the glory of God and our own salvation, to which pious and holy desires can be directed” (Herman Witsius1).
Watch what happens when we turn each part of the the Lord’s Prayer into expressions of desire:
Our Father, who art in heaven: We desire above all else to live as sons and daughters of God who cry in genuine faith, “Abba! Father!”
Hallowed be thy name: We desire a new heavens and new earth filled to overflowing with the glory of God.
Thy kingdom come: We desire to live under God’s perfect rule which rights all wrongs.
Thy will be done: We desire the doing of God’s will, not our own, because his alone is wise and good.
Give us this day our daily bread: We desire the daily provisions of God, rather than desiring more or different than God provides because that leads to worry.
Forgive us our trespasses: We desire forgiveness as the gift from God which keeps us close to him and one another.
Lead us not into temptation: We desire shielding from temptation, protection from what disconnects us from God and our freedom to serve him.
Deliver us from the evil one: We desire deliverance from our enemy, the devil, who would have us desiring all the wrong things, and desiring all the right things for the wrong reasons.
Sometimes in corporate worship we introduce the Lord’s Prayer as how Jesus “commanded us to pray.” It is that. But it is also a “directory of desire,” reminding and directing us daily to what is most desirable in this life:
Being God’s children Living for God’s glory Yielding to God’s rule Willing God’s will Trusting in God’s provision Welcoming and extending forgiveness Relying on God’s protection Seeking God’s deliverance
Quote from Augustine of Hippo
Eternal benefits, on the other hand, are first and foremost eternal life itself, the imperishability and immortality of flesh and soul, the company of angels, the heavenly city, unfailing titles of nobility, a Father and a fatherland, the one beyond death, the other beyond enemies. We should be longing for these benefits with infinite desire, pray for them with tireless perseverance, not with long speeches but with the evidence of our sighs. Desire is praying always, even if the tongue is silent. If you desire always, you are praying always. When does prayer nod off to sleep? When desire grows cold. So let us beg for these everlasting benefits with insatiable eagerness, let us seek those good things with a singleminded determination, let us ask for those good things without a scruple of anxiety.
The Prayer That Spans the World: Sermons on the Lord's Prayer, by Helmut Thielicke
Essential Sermons, by Saint Augustine
Of the 7 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, along with the opening “Our Father”, which one do you least desire right now? Or which one are you most desperate for, even though the real desire is low? Could you commit to asking the Holy Spirit every day for the next week to give you that desire?
Praying for and laboring with you,
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Original version mistakenly attributed this to Wilhelmus a Brakel