Imagine a father who knows you inside-out. He knows what you need. He is not rushing off. He loves spending time with you. You have his full attention. Meet your heavenly Father.
5 ‘And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
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.”
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Jesus covers the how, where and why of prayer, but behind each one of his dos and don’ts is a clear message which is key to why we pray and how we pray. Did you notice how many times Jesus mentions ‘your Father’? Understanding that God is our Father underpins every prayer.
Why are we so keen to impress others with our prayers (v 5), when the most important person in the universe is waiting to give us a private audience (v 6)? Praying to pagan gods was based on the equation: the more time spent praying, the better the results. This led to mindless, repetitive incantations (v 7). Since God is our Father, we don’t need to cajole or impress him. He knows all about us and is already determined to bless us.
Praying Jesus’ prayer (vs 9–13) reorders our priorities and transforms our thinking. We begin to prioritise what matters to our Father (vs 9,10). Our needs aren’t forgotten, but we are secure in the knowledge that our heavenly Father will provide (v 11), forgive (v 12) and protect us (v 13).
Pray the Lord’s Prayer sentence by sentence, considering the implications of each phrase, allowing your heavenly Father to shape your thoughts and priorities.
Deeper Bible study
Ask God for help to overcome the barrier of familiarity with this text, so that we hear it afresh in all its power and beauty.
Here is a point at which cross-referencing with Luke’s account of the origin of the Lord’s Prayer is helpful. He informs us that it resulted from a request of the disciples who, having witnessed Jesus’ own life of prayer, pleaded with him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray …’1 This prayer has a unique place in the history of Christianity, being a symbol of a unity transcending all the divisions of different traditions, yet leaving us, as John Reumann wrote in his introduction to Joachim Jeremias’ book, The Lord’s Prayer,2 with the feeling that ‘somehow we have never yet plumbed its depths’.
In the earliest Christian centuries, the Lord’s Prayer was taught to new believers after their baptism and first communion. It was a prayer for committed disciples, a secret treasure disclosed to people who now belonged to the new community which endeavoured to follow the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. It became ‘one of the most holy treasures of the church’ and it ‘was a privilege to be allowed to pray it’.3
Fast-forward to the German city of Stuttgart in the 1940s. In the last days of the second world war, with Allied bombers raining death and destruction on urban centres night after night, Helmut Thielicke stood before the terrified remnant of his cathedral congregation and declared that the Lord’s Prayer ‘can be spoken by everybody in every situation, without exception’. He concluded: ‘In this world of death, in this empire of ruins and shell-torn fields we pray: “Thy kingdom come!” We pray it more fervently than ever’.4
Whatever your present circumstances, quietly, slowly and sincerely, pray the prayer Jesus has given to us.
1Luke 11:1 2 Fortress Press, 1964, piii 3 J Jeremias, 1964, p4 4 H Thielicke, The Prayer that Spans the World, James Clarke, 1965, p56–57
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Genesis 28,29; Psalms 7,8
Pray for Scripture Union
Pray for Mission Enabler Sarah Davison as she continues to connect with Faith Guides in the north-west, and for the young people she supports through Rooted Hubs asking that they may grow in understanding and faith.