One of His disciples said to Him, Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples. And He said to them, When you pray say, …
Prayer, talking with God, praising, asking, confessing and thanking; it’s part and parcel of the Christian life. Right now my wife and unborn child are in Sydney in danger of infection and I am here, would you think it strange if I told you that I had not spoken, even texted her for 4 days? Does it hurt when you realise you haven’t spoken to your child for half a year, or to your father in ten years? When you love someone, you talk to them; communication is the basis for all relationships. And yes I have spoken to my wife and am ready to leave if baby comes. I’ve also spoken today a few times to our heavenly Father, asking for help, guidance and that you may hear Him; and He hears me.
It’s been said that other church traditions pray better than us, are more comfortable in praying aloud with another or in a group, where we might just recite a good memorised prayer. We’ve heard others pray and think, ‘Oo they’re good, eloquent and passionate, I couldn’t do that.’ Or perhaps, ‘why do they have to say God, Father and Jesus in every single sentence, I’m not even sure they’re saying anything.’ We might feel like we’re not good enough to pray, or that the only appropriate time to pray is when we’re hidden in a box by ourselves, as Jesus says (Matthew 6:6). But Jesus also says that if two or three ask for something in His name it will be done by our heavenly Father (Matthew 18:19). So then, how do you pray? How often? What about? What for?
This is what Jesus’ disciple wants when he tells Him, teach us to pray. So Jesus gives this prayer, His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come; give us our bread of necessity for the day, and forgive us our sins and we forgive those indebted to us; and don’t lead us into temptation. (Luke 11:2-4). A shorter version of what we are used to for we translate from the Matthean one, with will and trespasses and salvation from evil, but still God’s words, His direction for prayer. After telling us what to say He then goes on that our heavenly Father will answer your prayers even if you think it’s inconvenient, ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find (11:9-10). There is much in this text, even an affirmation of our sin from conception, ‘you who begin in evil’ in the NIV you who are evil, but prayer itself is so important we cannot over look it, just as I can’t overlook a call from my wife. So how does this teach us? From His words how do we pray?
John writes in His first letter to ask according to God’s will and He will give it (5:14). So use His words, not as dead recitation but truly pray to your Heavenly Father. Luther in his catechisms wrote for you and me an explanation of how we can use God’s word to pray according to His will. The seven petitions that can encompass so much. First, ‘hallowed be your name’, thanks and praise that His name is already holy, set apart, and ask for help to keep His name and reputation holy in our lives, in the church and in the world. Second and third for this Lukan passage, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’, Thank and praise that He is king, He rules and does His will, and ask that He rules over us by His Holy Spirit, that the Spirit comes to others too, that our desires might be changed to be holy and good according to His will, that the devil doesn’t have His way in us or others and that we abandon our small attempts at control and our corrupt will. Fourth, ‘give us today our daily bread’, thanks and praise for all that He has provided, and asking that He continues to give just what we need, not more or less, also what others need and that we don’t take these gifts of God for granted. Fifth, ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who are indebted to us’, thanks and praise for taking away our sins, giving us peace and joy in this life, freedom from the power of sin, death and the devil, also asking for help to forgive others and ourselves for the wrongs done. Sixth and seventh, again in the Lukan account, ‘don’t lead us into temptation and save us from evil’, summing up the whole prayer that our Heavenly Father might save us from our sins, our destructive desires, from the devil and all evils in this world. Jesus says ask these things, you will receive, seek these things, you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. So we say Amen, this is true, it will be done, I utterly believe this.
Each of these petitions can be expanded, Jesus does this the night He is betrayed (John 17) and all our prayers can been seen in this one gift that Jesus gave us. When you pray for your family to grow in the faith or come to faith, your are asking your Father that His kingdom, His rule, would come into their lives. When you thank God for a meal, before and after, when you pray for rain, you’re asking for daily needs, daily bread. When you ask for comfort to those suffering this drought, for those who are sick, for those who grieve, you are asking for deliverance from evil. These are the words of God, these are prayers according to His will and He answers these, often even when we fail to ask. But asking that you win the lottery, that others die for what they did to you, or for a Mercedes; these things are building your own kingdom, not God’s; He might teach you through this but those prayers are against Jesus’ teaching on prayer, opposed to the Lord’s Prayer.
This prayer is a gift to Christians, us who trust Him, are His children through baptism into His Son, servants in God’s kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t condemn yourself when you forget to pray, Jesus is still praying for you (Hebrews 7:25). But why would we not talk to our Father? Also don’t worry about the words. When a kid talks to their dad, the dad doesn’t care about the particular words, how good his kid sounds, no he cares about what the kid is saying; and how much more our Heavenly Father. And if you don’t know how to put the words together, He gave you a simple prayer to pray that covers everything; not meaningless words just to say aloud, but words of God full and overflowing with meaning, that He promises to listen to. He loves you, He wants to hear from you, to help you, guide and protect you from your sin and the world’s evil; He has forgiven you, as we pray, you forgave our sins; He sent His Son and Spirit to reconcile you to Him that you might have a strong relationship with your Creator who loves you.
And so, as I say some Wednesday mornings, lets pray!
Heavenly Father, thank you for this prayer. Thank you for who you are and help us, and others, by your Spirit to become more like you. Thank you for sustaining all people in our lives and please help all the world thank you for your gifts. Thank you for freeing us from sin in Jesus and grant us His peace that we might pass that peace to all we meet. Guard us from falling into temptation and the evil we live with, from now until your Son comes to finally remove it. Amen and Amen.