The Lord’s Prayer: Introduction
How many times have we prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of Thousands? I remember my parents teaching me this prayer as part of my bedtime prayers as a child, and as my son grows (and any other children the Lord may choose to give us), my intention is to teach this prayer to him as well. Memorization is a good thing, but sometimes, when we become terribly familiar with a song or a prayer, we fall into the trap of simply repeating words rather than dwelling on what those words are saying.
Thus, I would suggest that it is a good idea to every once in a while take the time to reflect on what those words mean and what they imply. And, in the case of the Lord’s Prayer, be sure that you know what it is that you are praying for. Thus, I thought it good for us to do just that. My prayer is that, over the next few days as we work through this prayer, you will gain a deeper appreciation for just what it is that Jesus has taught us to pray.
Yet, before we jump into the prayer itself, there are a few things by way of introduction that need to be laid out before us. First, this is given to us as a model prayer. This is not the only prayer we can pray, but it is set before us as a guide. There are many other prayers in the Bible that are commended to God’s people to pray. Jesus taught and prayed other prayers, though this is the one he most formally taught. I would encourage you to not only pray this prayer, but look to the Psalms and begin praying through some of them. Look to the prayers in Revelation or Paul’s epistles or in the book of Genesis. We can go on and on. The Bible is filled with prayers to support us in our spiritual growth—through both the good and the bad times.
Second, This prayer assumes that it is being prayed by a believer. It begins with, “Our Father…” Friends, if you are not a born again believer in Jesus Christ, you have no right to call God “Father.” It is presumptuous and arrogant. One of the problems with our culture is that people think that we are all God’s children. The Apostle John makes it abundantly clear in first epistle that there are two families: one of God and one of Satan (1 John 3:4-10). Everyone has a spiritual father to which they belong—believers are given the privilege to call God their father because of the work of Jesus Christ, unbelievers may only call Satan their father.
Third, this prayer is a corporate prayer—it begins with “Our…” While you may pray this for yourself, this prayer forces you to recognize that you cannot be inwardly focused as a Christian. We are part of a body and we should pray in a way that reflects our unity. When we pray, we pray for and on behalf of those we love, those in our Churches, and those in the Christian church worldwide.
Fourth, this prayer begins with petitions for the glory of God. It is a God-focused prayer, not a man focused prayer. Nearly half of this prayer (3 of 7 petitions) is focused on God’s glory. I wonder if our prayers reflect this. All too often, when we pray, we pray as if God is just a celestial gumball machine—we put a quarter-prayer in and expect a sweet treat out. God is not Santa Claus. Yes, he gives good gifts, but our prayers should not be, “gimmie, gimmie, gimmie…”
Lastly, when Jesus teaches this prayer, he teaches it on the assumption that prayer is a part of a believer’s life. He does not say, “if you pray, pray like this…” No, Jesus says, “When you pray…” A healthy prayer life is something that many believers struggle with. And one of the reasons that we struggle with it is because Satan loves to run interference, bringing us to frustration or distraction. Prayer is one of the most amazing privileges that a believer has and it should be cherished and looked forward to. It is something that should be so natural to us that it becomes a part of who we are—because it is a part of who we are.
One last note: when most of us learned the Lord’s prayer, we learned it with the language of the old King James Version. Though I usually do my own translation work, this passage just does not sound the same outside of the King James English, thus, I have included it as well. I pray that both translations of this wonderful prayer will speak to your heart.