Struggling Well with the Lord's Prayer
What? How can you possibly question the most excellent prayer ever written? Jesus gave it to you, for heaven’s sake. If it’s your go-to prayer, that is terrific. I struggle with “the Lord’s Prayer” because I don’t believe it’s a prayer. I see it as a model, a guide, a template.
Let’s examine it for a minute. The first time we encounter the teaching is in Matthew’s Gospel. In the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 6: 5-15, Jesus is precise regarding prayer. Three different times he said, “When you pray.” He fully expects his followers to pray. Often. Specifically. He gives them specific warnings and guidelines. First, don’t pray like the hypocrites who want to be seen and recognized for their piousness. That is their reward: that they are seen. They have not connected with God. He also says don’t pray like the Gentiles who use many words, going on and on and on. The more terms, the closer to God they believe. Instead, he says, go to your quiet place, your private room, close the door and pray in secret. Your Father sees you in secret, knows what is in your heart, and knows what you need before you even ask him. And if your Father already knows what you need, do we need to ask? Yes, because He longs to have a relationship with us.
When I became a Christian, my first bible was an NIV translation. The following sentence is crucial in this translation: “This then is how you should pray:” Mt. 6:9. It is not “This is what you should pray.” What is a formula. How is descriptive and instructional. Here is the model for prayer:
“Our Father” These words establish the relationship – He’s our dad. We are his kids. We are part of the family. We belong. Jesus also embraces his humanity with us. He doesn’t say “your father.” Intimate, intricate, and complex; what a great way to start.
“In Heaven” establishes the place - God’s in Heaven, and we are on Earth. Heaven is perfect, while we live in a good but broken world.
“Hallowed be your Name” - His name is holy, to be used in reverence, not to be taken lightly nor casually.
“Your kingdom come” - We long for it to resemble Heaven and to work towards it.
“Your will be done” - Your agenda, not ours. We want to be on the same page as You are.
“On earth, as it is in heaven” - the goal is perfect alignment; we want God’s plan in our lives.
“Give us today our daily bread” - note, this is the first time we ask for anything for ourselves. Jesus knew us so well. He wants us to come to the Father every day, not once a week or when convenient. Like the manna in the desert, it is to be enjoyed daily. As members of the family, we ask and confidently receive.
“And forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (trespassers)” - We ask forgiveness, and we forgive. “Debts” communicates this truth to an urban audience in monetary terms; “trespasses” corresponds to forgiveness of the agrarian/farming way of life regarding geographical boundaries.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” - God allows but will never lead us into temptation. Satan tempted Jesus; Jesus knows the evil one is present, and we ask for protection.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” – The promise and the warning. Jesus re-emphasizes forgiveness, removing any doubt about its importance.
For a long time, I thought prayer was talking with God. It is so much more. Prayer is communion with God, not merely communication. I am finding my place in God’s heart. Using this as a prayer is okay, but it’s so much more. It’s the core of worship.
[As adapted from EPIC Journey; The Lord's Prayer Journey by Dr. Dave Park.]