Thursday, March 02, 2006

Are We Regularly Engaged in the "Our Father" Prayer?

9 "This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'

(Matthew 6:9-13; TNIV)

Notice what this praying is about. It's about the Jesus Creed, loving God with all of our being and activity, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is given to us from Jesus, as he gave it to his disciples. It is surely for us, a gift. A gift to help us know how to pray. Though at times we're certainly overwhelmed, and need the Spirit's intercession (Romans 8).

Note that this prayer is not given in individualistic terms. It's not merely about myself. Yes, I pray it as petitions for me. But the prayer is framed with words as if I am not praying alone. Others are with me in the prayer, the communion of saints still here on earth. They are surely praying the same prayer. Yet also I am praying not only for myself but for all my brothers and sisters in the faith. So this is a prayer that takes us beyond just praying for ourselves. But for others as well. And for God's name and glory.

Do we pray this pray regularly? At least daily? It seems in evangelical circles in which I live, to pray "the Lord's prayer" smacks all too much of an empty ritualistic rote ceremony. This is unfortunate. We need this prayer. Every part of it is important, in our worship and praise of God and desire for his shalom on earth, and for our own ongoing needs. This prayer boils it down to the essentials. And we are at a great loss not to be regularly engaged in it.

Do you pray this prayer regularly, daily? If so, what difference has it made? In your life? And in others lives?


Andii said...

One of the big surprises, imo, is that we don't take the Lord's prayer more seriously as a pattern of prayer rather than a recitation. It may go back to the way that regular prayer and community prayer developed in the early church. But it does seem to me that Jesus was envisaging the use of the Lord's prayer as a way of shaping regular prayer. I was told the acronym "ACTS" as a young Christian, and I'm now really surprised that we are passing on things like that with little biblical foundation and ignoring the Lord's prayer.
There's more on exploring how to make the Lord's prayer a fuller part of our praying at

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan said...

I agree with andii, I see this as more of a teaching tool, not as a prayer to recite. There is so much we can learn from this loving and personal time of instruction Jesus provided for his disciples when asked "how should we pray?" I like the way andii puts it: "a way of shaping regular prayer" Shaping...rather than standardizing.

Ted Gossard said...

Andii and Susan,

Thanks for your comments.

I agree that it is for shaping our praying. But I don't see it as either/or, but and/both.

In Lk 11:2 Jesus uses the word, "say"- I think a good translation, don't have my Gk.

I believe that saying that prayer can help us to shape our own praying/prayers, and can tend to do so naturally (by the Spirit, of course).

I also believe that the practice of lectio divinia (reading Scripture with the heart) is related to this idea. Scripture is the Word of God and we need to let its very words wash over us and transform us. This takes time, and a proper recitation of the "Our Father" prayer, I think is good in doing this.

Of course if it's just rote, and people think mouthing the words somehow will give them God's grace, and they themselves are not engaged in it- then of course, it will be of no value, not being practiced with faith.

Andii, I will read the link you gave later, when I have more time.

Ted Gossard said...

One more thing I'd like to add, this according to my memory:

In Dallas Willard's book, the Renovation of the Heart, (or maybe it's in the Divine Conspiracy, I think so)- he mentions how praying this prayer as a teenager, in a meditative way, each line, powerfully impacted his life.

And in the words of Scot McKnight: something like, we hang our prayers on those words. something like that concept, he says, I believe.

Thanks again.