Talking to the God of the universe is no little thing.
Sometimes I get to the part in the Lord’s Prayer that says “hallowed be thy name” and I stop. Because when I really think about the greatness of God, I can’t just chatter away. I can’t fathom how someone so awesome and powerful would even tolerate me speaking. And then I remember that there’s a lot left to the Lord’s Prayer, so evidently, God does intend for us to talk to him, and although I think we should always be mindful of who God really is, we should also remember that the entire prayer begins with the words, “Our Father.” And fathers are easier to talk to than omnipotent creators.
Over the next few months, I’m going to take a moment each week to look at the Lord’s Prayer. I pray it and follow this model given by Jesus nearly every day when I pray, so I thought it might be good to do a little research and dive into what he shows us in this design.
Before I get going though, let’s take a look at the context of the Lord’s Prayer in scripture.
There are two instances of the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible. Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.
The Matthew version comes near the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, which starts with the Beatitudes (the blessed are theys) and ends with the story of the guy who built his house on the sand.
The Luke version follows a question from the disciples who had been observing Jesus praying. That’s the one I’m going to use.
The verse preceding the Lord’s Prayer in Luke says, “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’.” (Luke 11:1)
Several of Jesus’ disciples had been disciples of John the Baptist (Andrew, and John is commonly thought to have been a disciple of John the Baptist too), so they knew his teachings very well.
I can’t help but wonder what the differences are between the Lord’s Prayer given by Jesus and what John the Baptist had taught about prayer. Did he talk to God as his father? Did he present requests for his daily needs? Did he stress forgiveness?
Whatever he taught, the disciples looked to Jesus for more guidance.
“Teach us to pray.”
The making of this request implies that they needed to know how to pray or at least had some questions about whether or not they were doing it correctly.
Do you ever wonder if you’re praying correctly?
I think the fact that Jesus offers them an answer might suggest that prayer is more than just talking. I know, that’s what we’re taught in Sunday school. Prayer is talking to God. However, Jesus didn’t exactly say that. He didn’t answer with, “Just talk to God like you would your father.” He was more specific.
If you keep looking at the context, you will see that Jesus doesn’t stop with the Lord’s Prayer. He also provided an illustration.
In verses 11:5-13 (after the Lord’s prayer), Jesus told a little story about a persistent friend asking for help, and he finished it off with “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” And then he goes on to talk about how God gives good gifts and how God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
That’s pretty big stuff. Can you imagine if everything you asked God for you received? Hmmmm, what would that look like? Certainly there are some things I ask for that I shouldn’t receive, and how sweet it is that God knows the difference.
It would seem that the Lord’s Prayer is more than a formula to follow, more than simply a model. It would seem that it is a reminder of some very important things.
Maybe it was preceded not with a desire for a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather from a deep desire to be closer to God. The disciples watched Jesus pray. They saw something there that they weren’t experiencing.
“Teach us to pray.” That request was never about a formula. It was an acknowledgement of the almightiness of God and an earnestness to have a relationship with him.
I wonder if they held their breath when they asked that question. I wonder if they were worried about what he would say. Would this new prophet, the one John the Baptist had stepped aside for, tell them they weren’t good enough to pray like he did? Would he look down on them because they didn’t already know what to do?
How sweet those first words must have been! “Our Father…”
Oh yes, it is possible to be closer to the almighty God of the universe. He wants us to be closer. He has given us everything we need.
I hope you will join me as I journey through the Lord’s Prayer, and I hope you will share your insights as well.