By Pat O. I WANT TO SHARE PARTS OF MY STORY WITH YOU BY RELATING IT TO A VERY FAMILIAR SCRIPTURE PASSAGE OFTEN REFERRED TO HAS THE “LORD’S PRAYER” WHICH OF COURSE IS MORE CORRECTLY TITLED THE “DISCIPLE’S PRAYER” GIVEN TO US BY THE LORD.
I want to share parts of my story with you by relating it to the very familiar Scripture passage often reffered to as ‘the Lord’s Prayer’, which, of course, is more correctly called ‘the disciples’ prayer’ – one given to us by the Lord Jesus.
To do this I will either have to go through the Lord’s Prayer out of order, or share some of my life experiences out of order… and seeing as how you probably don’t know the chronology of my walk with Jesus, it may be less confusing to you if I leave the Lord’s prayer in order… and share my experiences out of order…
MT 6:9 "This, then, is how you should pray: " `Our Father in heaven,
What image comes to mind when I say the word FATHER? Doesn’t our experience of “father” greatly influence how we see God the Father? I was fortunate… to have a father who was always “for me”…. But as happens to all earthly fathers, he died in 1980 about a year and a half after I married and eight months before the birth of my first son, John. I was deeply involved at the time to a committed group of good Christians at the time and found lots of support…. However I began to really miss him more about 1987 when my family had grown and we had discovered John had Asperger’s Syndrome (making normal family life impossible), at the same time my wife was paralyzed with chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic depression, and the wonderful Christian group I had invested 15 years of love and service to was going through a divorce… (two main leaders were both sure they knew which way Jesus wanted the group to go… and it was not the same way…so they parted company). This, of course, left all of us in the group forced into the painful position of either following one or the other or neither…
It was in the context of all this internal and external turmoil that I found myself at a prayer service feeling completely overwhelmed with no one to turn to for comfort. We were singing the song “Lord I lift your name on high”… and I was crying out for help to the Father… the load in my life was just too great… I knew I couldn’t make it by myself…. And as I poured out my heart… God’s fatherly presence seemed to approach me from behind; I felt a firm, but gentle touch on my right shoulder and heard these words in my heart… “I know how hard your load is right now. Do not be afraid, it will be OK because I will be there for you as you press on each day.” The dread and heaviness I’d just been groaning under vanished. I was once again confident about my ability to face the future.
hallowed be your name, The Pine Lawn angel… The year was 1965. My mother had been gone 2 years. My father had just remarried Gertrude. I was a lost, grieving, confused, angry 15 year old. It seems Gertrude’s mother had died which to me only meant the pleasant surprise of a day off the pain of school to go to a funeral in NYC and a burial out on the Island at a huge cemetery called Pine Lawn. Our limo was first to the graveyard, so to kill some time I headed to the plotting house where I was told I’d find a restroom.
As I started down the few stone steps in front of the house, I noticed a lengthy inscription on the building’s wall in gold letters. Glancing at the first few words “One Solitary Life- He was born in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. He then became an itinerant preacher….”
About this time I lost interest and started down the steps again only to be riveted in place by a brilliant light just to the left of the inscription and a voice of command coming from somewhere within “Keep reading.” So I read a few more sentences now having to squint to see the letters because of the degree of brilliance at the left of the message. My rational mind attempted to explain away the strange phenomenon. I thought, “this brilliance is just the sun coming out from a cloud.” I turned around to verify my deduction. There was the sun shining brightly in the clear, cloudless sky. The command hadn’t stopped, “Keep reading”. I turned back to the more brightly shining wall and finished the message which ended,
“…and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.”
At the final word the light was gone and I was released to wonderingly stumble into the restroom, sit down and ask myself, “What was that all about?”
Not until years later did I figure out that God so loved Pat O’Connell that he sent an angel to make sure I didn’t miss some important basic truths about the coming of Jesus. Today I carry in my wallet the complete message I encountered on that wall just in case the topic of angels seems to fit into a conversation.
MT 6:10 your kingdom come, … Promise Keepers …Indianapolis IN. 1993 Very wounded by the “divorce” our group was experiencing, and thus skeptical of all “Kingdom activity” as well as being still tinged with a bit of carnal charismatic pride, I set off to Indiana to find out if this upstart group called Promise Keepers was perhaps a move of God. To it’s credit the leader Coach Bill McCartney, before leaving for Colorado, had at one point been involved in a charismatic Men’s breakfast sponsored by our community. But I wasn’t really too sure about whether this men’s movement was really of God or of man. I would take some real convincing.
The first few sessions were OK. Good teaching, heartfelt recounting of personal conversions and a healthy call to men to turn from the world’s agendas for their lives. I was moved by the host of male voices (40,000) singing great church hymns like “Holy, Holy, Holy”. But God used another song sung with great conviction by these 40,000 voices to convince me that this was truly an expression of His Kingdom. The song, “This little light of mine” sung by this room full of grown men in response to a call to make a difference in our daily environments, I felt could only be the result of the presence and working of his Holy Spirit.
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The battle of the “wills” in Rochester, NY Spring 1971. Still angry, lost, confused and getting very tired of living in this condition. Having finished 3 years at the U of Mich. I was even tired of the girl-chasing game. It seemed that I always ended up looking in vain for an impossible combo deal. A girl my age who could be both girlfriend & mother to me. The result was always the same. Short lived unfulfilling relationships.
Then I met Susan. She was attractive to me for totally different reasons. She talked as if she had a connection with God who she referenced in making daily decisions. My initial curiosity quickly gave way to a desperate “I must have this” as I began hungering after the imagined security of being in relationship with God. My thinking was simple. I must convince Susan to stay in relationship with me long enough for me to discover the secret of how to talk meaningfully to God. I began with a relationship “test”. Would she agree to a motorcycle ride from college in Ann Arbor, MI to Chappaqua, NY (my hometown)? Yes, she would! But on the way something went terribly wrong and it dawned on me in Rochester, NY that she was not going to stay around after landing in Chappaqua, but would continue on her personal journey without me. Devastated, not by the loss of a potential boy/ girl relationship, but by the conviction that I may never find another person who could lead me to God, I gave up all desire to live.
Imaging for a minute if you REALLY believed that the only reason you are alive and breathing is because you continue to want to live. If you truly believed this which, due to my study of psychology and my estimation of the power of the mind, I REALLY did, it follows that death would result from a firm decision to abandoned your desire to live.
Despite this belief system, as I contemplated life without getting to know God vs. death, I chose death. Accordingly I shut my eyes and relinquished my will to live. Instantly a bottomless dark pit opened to my right, and I was struck with the thought, “Give up you life and you’ll sink into this pit of oblivion. Are you sure you want to do this?” Not being one to go back on a firm decision, I stubbornly held to my resolve and began to sink slowly into the pit. At about 4 feet down, still clinging tenaciously to my decision not to go on living, I stopped sinking. Someone or some force was in that pit under me refusing to let me sink. What did this mean? Well, if I didn’t want me to live, and I was still living, if must be that someone with a will stronger than mine did. AND If that someone (it was beginning to seem to me that this might just be God) wanted me alive against my will, he must have a reason for my existence. Was I disappointed? Not at all, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness that comes from knowing I was known and wanted, as tears of release and joy followed for the rest of the night. MT 6:11 Give us today our daily bread. -- The Texas angel story
Have you ever been convinced that your limited finances just aren’t going to be sufficient to meet a financial stress? Far from home, in the summer of 1993 on a cross-country family pop-up camping adventure with six in the Ford van, my eyes roamed the barren northwestern tip of Texas in vain for a Taco Bell, or a McDonald’s. Buying the van and the pop-up had cost more than anticipated, so our plan was to camp, stay with friends, and live on car snacks and a daily fast food restaurant stop. But as 2:00 p.m. approached and six stomachs growled louder, I finally veered under a Texas Steakhouse sign and apprehensively parked the rig, praying we’d find something like a kid’s meal on the menu. No such luck, and even ordering conservatively I could feel the total cost mounting beyond the cost of several Burger King meals. I tried hard to conceal from my family the level of anxiety I felt. The meal winding down, I approached the register bracing for “sticker shock” and was greeted by a waitress wearing a curious smile. “Oh, sir, there is no charge for your family’s meal. That gentleman who just left paid your bill.” MT 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Back to the saga of our group’s divorce. Between the years of 1988 and 1994 those of us who hadn’t physically left were pretty much just “going through the motions” of our Christian lives… Why? Because of disillusionment and self-deception. Most of us had joined the group as young idealistic Christians, sure of our leaders’ love for God and for our well-being. We were by and large simply convinced that we had a formula that couldn’t fail to produce holy, content, mature Christian living. We had all made a public commitment to put God, and His ways first in our lives. We expected our leaders to study Scripture and teach us how to apply it to our daily lives. We were ready to let our lives be distinct from those around us and accept any ridicule that may come of it. We were all empowered by the thought that God could use us to be an example of how disciples of Jesus could live today in peaceful loving relationships with each other and worship together despite our different denominational affiliations…. And for 20 years or so He was pleased to let us do just that… And then we began to think too highly of ourselves and we began substituting relying on Jesus with relying on a set of godly principles.
I and many in our community had fallen far short of this passage in Philippians. PHP 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Lord, forgive us, for we have sinned. Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned!! I, who claimed to know the Way to live the most pleasing Christian life, have been sitting in judgment on my brothers and sisters… On YOUR Sons and Daughters!!!! OH GOD CAN YOU FORGIVE ME???? - - And then I heard, as if for the first time the voice of Jesus answer, “Yes, I forgive you.” Oh the sweet freedom of knowing I was forgiven!!! MT 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ' -- Jesus shows his power over my fear of death and the god of Pot. A new believer’s life is filled with paradoxes as they learn to trust God’s word and not the habitual responses developed over time. One moment he may be praising God for all he’s worth, the next a harsh word from an acquaintance elicits a disgusted, profane retort. At once he may be talking with a female friend about the wonderful thing Jesus just did and be lusting after her body in his heart.
Such was I in the winter of 1973. Driving a co-worker home from our work at a restaurant late one night, I suddenly stopped to avoid hitting a human body lying on a main Ann Arbor street. It appeared that a van stopped at my right may have just struck this pedestrian. Being asked to go call an ambulance, we sped off to do so. After the call and both still feeling shaky my coworker went about lighting a joint and handing it to me. Knowing I shouldn’t probably be accepting his offer, I accepted anyway to avoid not looking cool or making him feel awkward. Bad move. At the first evidence of the drug’s influence, the somewhat uneasy feeling from seeing the dead looking body on the ground exploded into a suffocating, fear-filled, overwhelmingly oppressive experience. I barely got the words “Gotta go!” out of my mouth as I ran for the door foolishly thinking a dash from the house into my get-away car would distance me from the experience of spiritual oppression I’d opened myself to. I tried to drive to no avail. Still suffocating from the awful weight of this oppressive spirit which is perhaps best labeled fear of death or death itself, I pulled over unable to keep driving. From somewhere deep within I remembered being told that the name of Jesus was given to believers to thwart the work of the devil. So in a pitiful, feeble voice I croaked, “Jesus”. Instantly the degree of oppression lifted slightly and seemed hover roof-level getting ready to attack again. But that small retreat was all the encouragement I needed. In a loud, somewhat frantic, turning to victorious voice I kept repeating “In the name of Jesus, get out of here!” Soon I was free to drive home in the Joy of the Lord.
Upon reaching home Jesus showed me my unresolved anger at God for allowing my Mom to die 12 years earlier was the cause for my being so susceptible to this satanic attack. Getting out of the car and onto my knees I finally accepted God’s sovereignty over the issue of Mother’s early, unexpected death. I went to sleep ready to face death unafraid knowing in my spirit that death turns out to be the doorway to real, eternal life.