Monday, March 16, 2014
There’s a place for written-down prayer
The Lord’s Prayer, taught by Jesus, is more than familiar words written down. It teaches us how to pray like the Master.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of His disciples said to Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught His disciples.”
THIS week I’m going to look at the Lord’s Prayer from a different angle. Understanding is good. Proficiency is better.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the words that Matthew and Luke recorded were part of the answer. We have them as printed words in the Bible — words we can study and learn. But Jesus was not teaching words. He was teaching the disciples to pray to the Father the way He did. Perhaps it would be better to say that He was teaching the disciples how to relate to the Father in a personal, intimate way.
Prayer is not words, although it usually relies on words (but not always). Prayer is all about how we relate to God – learning to hear Him and to be steered by Him, as well as us bringing our concerns to Him. How do we learn to relate to God confidently and trustingly? We learn by doing – by practising that relationship.
The Lord’s Prayer is probably more of a template, an outline to help us pray through something at length in a balanced way, rather than a written-down, recited liturgical prayer. However we know it best as a prayer we say with others.
If your Christian tradition prefers freestyle to prepared or shared prayers, you’ll still turn to liturgy on formal occasions, like weddings and funerals and civic services, and this familiar prayer will be a kind of kingpin which centres everything on the priority of the kingdom of God.
For some, on these formal occasions, this is going to be how we relate to God as a fairly low level. If that’s where people are, more them going through the motions than entering into a genuine conversation, so be it.
This is the best starter, 65 powerful words that connect and enable and proclaim the kingdom purposes of God. A starter that helps people to pray, that gets us praying, is important. It is the Father’s heart.
CHECK IT OUT
- Have you thought of this prayer, as recited, as being a bit old-fashioned? Is it?
- Why not put the kettle on at the beginning of the day, with these words – the start of a prayerful day.