Praying the Lord’s Prayer

Luke 11:1 … “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples to pray.”

Throughout my young adult life (now far in the past) I made the fatal mistake of believing that spirituality came naturally. I say fatal because it nearly killed my prayer life. I thought real prayer was simply a matter of closing my eyes and pouring out my heart to God. I considered learned or “rote” approaches to prayer to be inauthentic. The irony is that when I solely prayed “spontaneously” my prayers became rote, repetitive and flat-out boring.

It is true that many effective prayers have been a desperate cry of “help” from the back of a cave or pinned down in a foxhole, but to say that we can’t learn to pray will severely limit our experience of prayer. In Luke 11:1 Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus didn’t say, “just close your eyes and pray what is in your heart.” He said, “When you pray, say” (Luke 11:1) or “This then is how you should pray.” (Matthew 6:9).  What followed is what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” We recite it every week at our church, but it never occurred to me, until recently, that this is Jesus’ instruction on how to pray. It is both a prayer that we recite as a community (“pray this” – Luke 11:1) and a pattern for our prayers (“this then is how you should pray” – Matthew 6:9).

So what would it look like if we allowed the Lord’s Prayer to guide our prayers? I’d like to take this and the next couple of posts to explore that idea. My hope is that you won’t read these articles and agree with me, but that you will actually try this and share your experiences by posting a comment.

Here’s a couple of things to help us get started:

Overview of the Lord’s Prayer.

I’d like to give a wide angle view of the Lord’s Prayer in today’s post. We’ll take a more detailed look in the next couple of weeks.

Scot McKnight’s book, The Jesus Creed, helped me get a big picture perspective on the Lord’s Prayer. He points out in the book that the Lord’s Prayer is rooted in what Jesus considered to be the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39) If you take a look at the prayer, you’ll notice that it follows the same pattern.

The first half of the Lord’s Prayer explores what it means to love God through prayer.  God is addressed as “our Father”, not simply a god we wish to do business with. We long to see his name honored and worshiped (“hallowed be your name”). We align our will to God’s will by praying for God’s kingdom to come to earth so that his will be obeyed on earth just as it is in heaven. When you love someone, you begin to desire what they desire.

The second half of the Lord’s Prayer is an expression of loving your neighbor through prayer. Notice the pronouns in Matthew 6:11-13. It is never  “me”, “I” or “my”, but always “us”, “we” and “our”. We don’t pray for my daily bread, but our daily dread.  We are not asking for forgiveness only for ourselves, but for the community also. We don’t pray, “deliver me from temptation” only, but also, “help my friend, help my neighbor be freed from temptation.” The Lord’s Prayer does not ignore our personal needs, but it does teach us that prayer is incomplete without concern for our neighbor.

Two Approaches to Praying the Lord’s Prayer.  

Mark Gelinas introduced this approach at our worship service on April 30th. We did it as a church, but we invite you to try this on your own.

  • Read each line of the Lord’s Prayer slowly.
  • Pause after each line and reflect (meditate) on the words you have read.
  • Pray back to God whatever thoughts and prayers emerge from your meditation and then move on to the next line.
One of the men from our Wednesday Coffee group suggested praying through the Lord’s Prayer in a week, focusing, meditating and praying one line a day.
  • Monday – “Our Father in heaven”
  • Tuesday – “hallowed be your name”
  • Wednesday – “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
  • Thursday – “Give us today our daily bread.”
  • Friday – “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • Saturday – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Get Involved.
Our goal is to become people of prayer, not simply people who know a lot about prayer but never actually do it. You can help us towards this goal by giving this a try and posting your experiences and ideas as a comment to this post.

3 thoughts on “Praying the Lord’s Prayer

  1. Nate, fantastic post! As you suggested, I’m copying in part of our Youth Alpha talk on prayer that also uses the Lord’s Prayer as a model. Some of you who have been on Alpha will have heard much of this.

    …So we’ll look at another model of how to pray, in this one we look at using The Lords Prayer as a guideline. In it Jesus gave us a magnificent model of how we should pray. Many of you either know this or have heard it. Let’s take a look. It’s in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9.

    This is what Jesus said:
    ‘This, then, is how you should pray:

    I’ll suggest that Jesus isn’t meaning for us to use the exact words, but directing us to the model of prayer. He starts with “Our Father in heaven”

    That’s normally just a question of basking in the presence of God, enjoying his love, thanking him, looking back at the day before and all the blessings of life. His goodness, his grace, his forgiveness, his kindness, his love.
    Reminding ourselves that God rules over everything. He is “in Heaven”, but that also he knows us and loves us uniquely and tenderly. He is “our father”.

    ‘hallowed be your name’
    That’s praying that God’s name will be honoured again in our society. As you look around at our society, so often the name of Jesus is used as a swear word. And it’s a prayer that once again Jesus’ name would be honoured in our lives, in our families, in our workplace, in our society.

    ‘your kingdom come’
    God’s kingdom is God’s rule and reign. And that’s a prayer that God’s kingdom would come in our own lives, and in the lives of our families.
    I read of one young mother called Monica who was a Christian woman, and was having real problems with her rebellious teenage son. He was lazy, he was bad-tempered, a cheat, a liar, a thief. And later on, though outwardly he became very respectable as a lawyer, his life was dominated by worldly ambition and a desire to make money. His morals were loose, he lived with several different women and had a son by one of them. And at one stage he joined some weird religious sort of cult and adopted all kinds of strange practices. And throughout this time his mother just continued to pray for him, ‘your kingdom come’ in his life. And one day the Lord gave her a vision, and she just wept as she prayed, because she saw the light of Jesus Christ on him, and his face was just smiling at her with great joy. And that encouraged her to keep on praying. But it was nine years before her son finally gave his life to Christ, at the age of 28. That man’s name was Augustine, Saint Augustine, converted in 386 AD, ordained in 391, bishop in 396 perhaps the greatest ever theologian of the worldwide church. And St Augustine always attributed his conversion to the prayers of his mother. His mother’s prayers literally changed the course of history.

    ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’
    That’s not resignation but a desire to see God’s will in our lives, God’s will which is good and pleasing and perfect. It’s perhaps the most potent prayer we can ever pray on Earth.

    ‘Give us this day our daily bread’
    Strength and provision for what the day will bring. God is interested in all of our lives. God loves you. He’s interested in the things that you’re concerned about, just like any parent would be concerned about the things that their children need.

    ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’
    Forgive the things that I’ve done wrong, as we forgive others. There’s a virtuous circle at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. The more we understand that we are forgiven, the more we want to forgive. Forgiving people is not a way to earn forgiveness: it’s a sign that we have been forgiven ourselves.
    But here’s a question: where do you draw the line with that? I once saw some live interviews done on the streets of London where people were asked the question “Should we forgive?” One person said in response: “It depends what they’ve done” Is that right? What’s the most unforgivable thing or person you’ve ever heard of? For many of us one of the first things we would think of would be the Holocaust of WW2.

    I’d like to share this story:
    In Holland in 1944, a Dutch woman by the name of Corrie Ten Boom was arrested and imprisoned and her family for hiding Jews from the Nazis. Corrie and her sister Betsie ended up finally in the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany, where Corrie’s sister Betsie died. Before she died Betsie told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” After the war, Corrie’s writing and speaking focused on the Christian Gospel, with a special emphasis on forgiveness. She tells the story of how, after she had been teaching in Germany in 1947, she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards.

    This is what happened in Corrie’s words:

    “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. ….He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fräulein”, he said “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?

    “Lord Jesus”, I prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him”. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your Forgiveness.” As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

    If we really experience God’s forgiveness ourselves, forgiveness which, let’s face it, we need daily, we will want to extend forgiveness, however hard that may be — and sometimes it is very hard. But we make that decision, as an act of will, to forgive, and then God floods in after that and transforms our hearts.

    ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’
    God doesn’t tempt us, but he is in control of how much we’re exposed to temptation. All of us have weak areas, whether it’s fear or greed, pride or gossip, cynicism or lust, etc. And if we know our weakness, we can pray for protection against it, as well as taking practical steps to avoid unnecessary temptation. And our place in prayer is simply to align ourselves more closely and more deeply with him, gaining his perspective and priorities on life as we do so Knowing that He is both in control and that he is with us, we can make it through ANYTHING life throws at us.

    Can I get an Amen 🙂

  2. mike doherty

    Nate and Mark
    Thanks for focusing our church and us as individuals on how we should be “prayer full”…..
    Our bodies would certainly fall apart without our skeletal system and maybe the Body of Christ needs to view prayer as the “skeleton” of the church with Christ as our head….. it’s the communication link between, among and for one another

  3. Pingback: Our Father « Pacific Union Connect

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