We couldn’t have a prayers of the Bible challenge without looking at probably the most famous and most recited prayer ever. It is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and a prayer that you may have learned in school and you will most certainly have recited if you have been to church regularly.
It is of course, the Lord’s Prayer.
First of all Jesus tells his disciples how not to pray.
He says, don’t babble and don’t draw attention to yourself. You see the religious leaders at the time would make a big show about praying. They would stand in the Temple or wide open spaces where everyone could see them and be impressed. They would stand with their hands held out and upwards and they would recite long prayers that they had memorised.
Jesus says don’t do that. There is a time for praying together but when you want to talk to God, He says go and hide yourself away in a private place where you are not going to be distracted or disturbed. Where your heart can focus on God and not on the opinions of those around you. When you can pour all your attention on God and not on your position in society.
When you talk to God it is a private matter. You can’t be open and honest with God when the world is judging you.
Jesus says that you don’t need to use any special words. He already knows what you need, he likes to hear about want you need, from you, but you don’t need to use prayer language or your telephone voice. Come as you are and speak as you would speak to a friend.
Don’t babble also means, not to stammer and not to speak empty words. Don’t worry Jesus is not referring to a physical condition if you do have a stammer but rather the tendency to repeat ourselves. We are to pray confidently and the words we say should mean something. If you know the Lord’s Prayer by heart, have you ever recited it just because you ought to but didn’t really think about what you were saying? Because that’s not good either!
The prayer itself is a great template for your own prayers. A template which I often use for my own personal prayers too.
This prayer opens with a greeting and statement about who God is. Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name.
The Hebrew word that we have translated as Father is Abba, another name for Dad. We are all brothers and sisters of our heavenly Dad. It is familiar, informal and intimate. Only children get to call their Father, Dad.
Hallowed be your name, is old language. It is a way of saying ‘may your name be recognised as holy.’ In other words, may people know that you God are worthy of worship. It is a statement that helps us to remember who God is and to give him the honour that he deserves.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Here we are asking for what happens in Heaven to happen here on Earth. In Heaven, God reigns and is worshipped. In Heaven there is no sickness, no disease and no crying or sadness. In Heaven there is peace and there is no evil.
On Earth, things are a little different. So we pray obediently for others, believing that what happens in Heaven can happen on Earth. In fact we can pray for people to be healed and situations to be changed so that Heaven comes to Earth.
Give us today our daily bread.
Here we are reminded that God is the provider of our most basic needs. He is the one that provides our every day, ordinary requirements. And whatever we need, we are to talk to God about it. If it is important to us, it is important to Him too.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
This line reminds us that no matter how hard we try, we do still get it wrong sometimes. But, as we have heard so many times over the past few weeks, when we confess our wrong doing, and are genuinely sorry and change our mindset and behaviour, God will forgive us.
But that is not the end of it. In the same way that God forgives us, we must forgive others too. In the same way that we have been forgiven we must pay that forward to others. In fact, Jesus says that if we don’t pay it forward and forgive others we won’t receive the forgiveness that we have asked for.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
In other words, I know that I am weak so please don’t test me by putting temptation in my way. I don’t want to give in to temptation and stray from doing your will God. So rescue me from anything the enemy throws my way.
There is so much more to learn about this prayer, perhaps you can use one of your reflection days to consider it further. Tonight though, why not find a quiet, private place to pray. Then, using each phrase of the Lord’s prayer as a prompt talk to your Heavenly Dad.
Next time, we are going to be looking the plea of a Roman Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant.