by Andrew Cromwell
Jesus knew how to pray. He did it all the time. He was always leaving the crowd to spend time with His Father in prayer. And it wasn’t only the amount of time that He spent in prayer that was is startling, but there was something fundamentally different about Jesus’ prayer life. He REALLY talked with Father God.
One day the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. You get the sense that they wanted to be let in on this powerful relationship that Jesus had with the Father. Jesus’ well-known answer is what we know today as the Lord’s Prayer. It is a powerful prayer that is repeated today by millions upon millions of Jesus followers.
But it is more than a prayer to repeat. We know this because He tells the disciples to be careful to not pray like the pagans, who babble and repeat prayers in the hopes that their gods will hear them. The power in the Lord’s prayer is not found in repetition.
Rather, it is a pathway and a pattern.
When we see the Lord’s Prayer as the entrance to prayer, rather than the end of it, we will watch our prayer life explode into something rich and beautiful. We will discover that there is so much more to what Jesus was teaching the disciples than just a few short phrases.
If you look at the prayer, you will see that it naturally falls into five petitions or requests. Each of these represents countless other prayers that can be offered:
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name” — this opening petition is the foundation upon which all there rest of the prayer is built. To hallow something, is to make something holy. In other words, here we are taking time to recognize how great and awesome and holy God is. Unless we begin here, the rest of our prayer will be out of balance. For once you put God in His place, then everything else falls into its place. We dare not move too quickly through this section of the prayer, for the One who made all things is surely worthy of praise.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” — now we move from declaring who He is, to inviting His kingdom into the place where we live. A kingdom is where the king rules. What the king says is done. He is the source of law and ultimately of justice. We know that in heaven, whatever God says is done. In heaven there are no tears and no sorrow because complete and total justice and goodness dwells.
We also know this is not the case in the world today for wherever we look we see injustice, brokenness, and destruction. We also see this same brokenness and evil in our own hearts. So here, as we pray, we are giving the King of Kings the invitation to come into our hearts, our homes, our cities, and our world and to bring His righteous rule and reign to bear. We are laying our agendas down and picking His agenda up. This means that we are not saying to the Father, wherever my list of wants comes into contradiction with what You want, You win!
“Give us this day our daily bread” — Now the prayer shifts gears to focus on our practical need. It is so wonderful that God is concerned with our need. He desires for us to have provision for our body (food and shelter), soul (relationships, imagination, and education), and spirit (affirmation and direction). He wants us to recognize Him as the source of all provision. He is the one who cares for our needs and while things like our paycheck may come through our human employer, ultimately He is the one that signs our check!
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” — here we are reminded we are desperately dependent on the Father’s forgiveness. If we are not acutely aware of our own internal brokenness, then we have not approached the Father very closely, for His light will surely expose us for who we are. But this realization is not cause for condemnation, but rather for celebration, for even in the moment of failure, we are provided what we need. Forgiveness. Here too, we cannot miss that the gift that we have been given can only be enjoyed to the extent that we are willing to give it to others. This lesson, we would prefer to skip, but we cannot. For to say that we are unwilling to forgive is to say that we are somehow better than them.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” — This final petition is about winning in life. We are not concerned that the Lord will tempt us, for we know He cannot and does not. We are concerned that as He leads us, we will fall into the ever-present temptation found all around us all the time. So we are praying that as we walk in this life, the Lord will preserve us, He will help us to see the enemy’s traps, and He will give us the strength to run away rather than run to temptation.
No wonder the Lord’s Prayer is so well known! It covers everything.
Have you ever prayed it in this way? Perhaps you have never prayed it at all. Whatever your experience of the Lord’s Prayer, it is an invitation to start talking to the Father. Will you answer?