Jean’s Gospel: Introducing the Lord’s Prayer: Conclusion
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
This is the concluding article in this series on the Lord’s Prayer. Thank you, Michael, for hosting this series. It has been a personal joy to write and share on this topic.
My purpose for writing this series has been to draw from a variety of traditions and sources, old and contemporary, to present the richness of the Lord’s Prayer, demonstrate its significance, and encourage its use.
Jesus said: “Pray then like this” (Matthew 6:9)
The Lord’s Prayer is special because it was composed and taught by Jesus for our use. It is short and easy to memorize, yet reverent and comprehensive in scope. Therefore, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are relieved of any concerns over whether the prayer is too long or too short, whether we are praying correctly or using the right words, or whether we are asking our Father for the right things. Jesus has given us exactly what our Father wants to hear from us. We can be certain at the outset that the Lord’s Prayer is pleasing to our Father.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11)
Jesus makes prayer so very easy for his disciples and attaches such great promises to prayer. Why then is prayer often so difficult for many of us? Could it be because we make prayer more difficult than it should be? Have you ever encountered any of the following roadblocks to prayer?
- It is difficult to get started
- It is difficult to concentrate
- Am I being selfish? Too demanding? Too timid?
- How long should I pray?
- How should I organize my prayer?
- Is God listening?
- Will God answer my prayer?
- Does prayer really make a difference?
The easiest thing to do if we encounter these (or other) difficulties is to do nothing. Perhaps we can postpone prayer to a better time, when we are feeling more focused, articulate or energetic. But, when does that better time for prayer ever come?
“[P]ray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17)
Adding to these difficulties are the verses in the Bible which exhort us to pray constantly (see also Rom 12:12: “be constant in prayer”). What do we do with those verses? If we conceive of prayer as solely or primarily a command or duty, then we may become resentful or despondent. Neither emotion is helpful to prayer. All of these roadblocks are the work of the devil, working through the world and our sinful nature, trying to separate us from our Father and his Word.
So, look again at all those bullet points above. Is that the way a child should think about having a conversation with his or her Father? Of course not! “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” (John 8:35) We must never forget that we are not slaves, but children of God. Prayer is the exercise of our family relationship with our loving God.
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say:’” (Luke 11:1-2a)
It has been my experience that if we simply take Jesus at his word and pray as He taught his disciples, we can overcome the roadblocks to prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is not milk for an infant Christian until He grows up into a mature Christian. Quite to the contrary, praying the Lord’s Prayer is the lifelong journey of discipleship.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt 6:7)
You may be familiar with the objection that prayers that are fixed or rote are not from the heart and therefore are not good prayers. (Of course many of the same people making these objections also claim, when it suits them, a high view of scripture or skip right over the warnings against heaping up many words.) However, there is a point to be considered: Prayer originates in heart. Therefore, any prayer, whether fixed or extemporaneous, should reflect what’s in our heart and on our mind.
Prayer is how we stay in communion with God anytime and anywhere. Therefore, we need to bring prayer back to the concept of a conversation between a loving Father and a loved child. This is where the Lord’s Prayer proves invaluable. It shows us what we need and provides us with a pattern for praying. I will now conclude with suggestions from two theologians, one a Church Father and the other a contemporary, who show us how we may append all our individual petitions to the Lord’s Prayer, so that we can use it every day and throughout the day to converse with our Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Since, however, the Lord, the Foreseer of human necessities, said separately, after delivering His Rule of Prayer, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive;’ and since there are petitions which are made according to the circumstances of each individual; our additional wants have the right— after beginning with the legitimate and customary prayers as a foundation, as it were— of rearing an outer superstructure of petitions, yet with remembrance of the Master’s precepts.” (Tertullian, 155-240 A.D.)
“[T]here is the time-honoured method of making the Lord’s Prayer the framework for regular daily praying. Take each clause at a time, and, while holding each in turn in the back of your mind, call into the front of your mind the particular things you want to pray for, as it were, under that heading.” (N.T. Wright)
Thank you for reading this series on the Lord’s Prayer. May His prayer enrich your prayer life through the power of the life-giving Word.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26) Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Jean Dragon – All rights reserved.