“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.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father,[a] hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.[b] 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c] And lead us not into temptation.[d]’” Luke 11.1-4
”Lord, teach us to pray.” These were the words spoken to Jesus by one of his disciples. Which disciple, we do not know. But they wanted to be taught how to pray in accordance with how John the Baptizer was teaching his disciples.
Now Jesus was in the process of praying. When we think of prayer, we think of both a particular posture and maybe even a particular script. The posture is hands folded, knees bent, eyes closed. But this tradition, which is specifically Christian, is not Jewish in nature. When I’ve traveled to Israel, I do not see the Jews praying in this fashion. I witness them praying standing, with eyes open, hands raised, and bodies undulating front to back to represent a flame flickering and a soul alive to God. I assume the posture of prayer matters less than the intention of the heart but it’s interesting to note none the less.
In terms of the content, Jesus speaks to this readily upon the request of “one of his disciples.” Jesus offers what we Protestants know as the “Lord’s Prayer” and what Catholics label as the “Our Father.” This prayer, also recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, has clear parameters for communicating with God. This include 1) the address (i.e. Father), 2) the acknowledgment of honor (holy is your name), 3) the attribution of power (your kingdom come), 4) the ask (give us each day our daily bread), 5) the acquiescence (we are sinners and we need forgiveness and freedom from temptation.)
Sermons upon sermons and books upon books have been written interpreting this single prayer of Jesus. Some Catholic Christians pray this multiple times a day, we Methodists pray it weekly in worship, at weddings and during the Communion liturgy. And when asked by the disciple, “Lord, teach us how to pray,” this is what Jesus said. So, I think it matters.
However, what matters most isn’t how we pray but that we pray and to whom. The Lord, God, Jesus is our focus of our prayers. We pray through the power of the Holy Spirit in union with God’s will for us and for the kingdom. Prayer is important as a means to hearing from and responding to God with our very souls.
So the challenge isn’t that we would fully understand the “Lord’s Prayer” but that we might pray to the Lord, making contact with our Creator, and finding room for him in our very hearts.
Will you pray today?
“O Lord God, you are good and you are God. Thank you for the example of your love for me, for your people, for your disciples. Help us communicate with you. To speak, to pray, to listen, to worship. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill us with your power and help us walk in your ways. Bring about your kingdom, forgive me of my sins and draw me to yourself. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen