Use Lord's Prayer to respond to bushfires, politicians told

Anglican Bishop Stephen Pickard gives homily at ecumenical service to open parliament

By Stephen Cauchi

February 26 2020 

The Lord’s Prayer was a powerful way of dealing with the challenges of Australia’s devastating bushfires, Australia’s federal politicians were told at the service to mark the new year of Parliament.

Bishop Stephen Pickard, who is Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture and Professor of Theology at Charles Sturt University, gave the homily at the ecumenical service, held at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Canberra, on 4 February.

Professor Pickard, the Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, said that he had been involved in bushfire evacuations on the NSW south coast and returned home to the choking bushfire smoke in Canberra.

“My youngest daughter, Miriam, and I were talking about the events of the recent weeks. The heartache, loss, anger, bewilderment at the forces of nature,” he said.

“So what kind of resources do we have to help flesh out our prayer, give it some bite, cause us to act? Enter the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer has it all.”

The prayer focused on our worship, identified our yearnings, needs, failures, fears and hopes, and speaks to our fundamental responsibilities, said Professor Pickard.

“Perhaps when Parliament resumes today you might ponder the words of this prayer as they ring in your ears and you can fill in the blanks as the Spirit leads.

“May the prayer of Jesus take root in our lives and inform the deliberations of this new session of Parliament. And as you begin your work for this year know that you do so with the prayers of many Australians. And may God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Professor Pickard said the Lord’s Prayer reached the “deepest caverns” of the human heart. It was “mobile, powerful, universal, convicting and opens up the heart of God”, he said.

The verse “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” was a prayer for an earthy, grounded faith, he said.

“Does not the human heart long for the kingdoms and rulers of this age to give way to the merciful, loving and wise God; and leaders after God’s heart?

“Maybe … as we consider the challenges before us, we might dare to pray for an “earthly Christianity” and in so doing pray for ears to hear the cry of this country and its First Peoples.”

Professor Pickard said that the prayer called Australians to “faith and action for the common good.”

“I wondered what might a Government policy look like that offered a glimpse, however fleeting, of heaven upon earth?

“How poignant to pray this prayer as the earth of this country is turned black, people’s lives overturned, grief abounds and the human spirit is stretched to its limits.”

The verse “Give us each day our daily bread” was important to remember given Australia’s vast wealth, said Professor Pickard.

“For those with an abundance of resources – food, material things, wealth and power … it is easy to become smug and self-satisfied and forget the giver of the gift,” he said.

In contrast, “what of those with not enough sustenance for mind, body and spirit? They lack daily bread: security, food, dwelling, community, purpose, voice, rights, representation. It generates frustration and anger and arises out of a sense of being ignored.”

“Give us this day our daily bread” was a prayer for sustenance in our lives, care for each other, care for the earth and its climate and care for this country and its people.

This prayer had been answered during the bushfires by the remarkable generosity of people helping one another, said Professor Pickard.

Click here to watch a video or read a copy of Professor Pickard’s sermon.