Prayer 2

Some Guidance from Jesus

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:9-15

Before we get too far into this discussion, it’s important for us to bear in mind that these verses are found in a part of the Sermon on the Mount in which context is set in Matthew 6:1:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Keeping the context of 6:1 in mind, take a look at this prayer, what do you see?

Do you see “look at me”? Do you see “gimme the goodies”?

Hardly.

What we can see here is humility, putting God’s purpose first and foremost, necessities forgiveness, and overcoming the evil one; it is elegant in its simplicity.

We are addressing the Father in heaven, acknowledging His glory and giving Him honor, and then asking for His kingdom to come in its fullness, where His will be the only will that is done on earth, just like in heaven. Notice that this doesn’t leave all that much room for my own will to be done, in fact, my will and your will are not mentioned at all.

There is a request that God would provide for us, a humble request to be sure, and then a request for God’s forgiveness as we forgive others; a scary thought for many, I might add. Finally, we are to ask God not to lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one, again a request of supreme humility. When you put this all together, Jesus is teaching us to pray in a manner that is entirely foreign to the religious life of His time, and a lot more foreign in our own time than we might like to think about, with only God’s will being mentioned.

After this, Jesus goes on to expand a little bit on the whole subject of forgiveness making a conditional statement in verse 15, which must have blown the minds of the Pharisees and their gang of friends. Truly, this is radical now as it was back then.

Was it Jesus’ intention that we simply recite these words over and over? I really doubt it; I see this as a model for prayer, the elements to be included in prayer, rather than something to be memorized and recited to the absence of anything else, particularly when we lose what He is actually saying here. Of course, I would never say that there is anything wrong with reciting these verses, or any verses.

Here’s some homework: Reflect and pray on these verses, asking Him to reveal them in their fullness to you. I think you’ll find this to be a fascinating exercise in spiritual practice. Next time, we’ll see what Jesus says about fasting.

In our next installment, I’d like to share a very classic method for prayer, one that has changed the lives of thousands over the centuries… see you then!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to Prayer 2

  1. Ever wonder why Matthew’s version is so popular that Luke’s is hardly known?

  2. BT says:

    Prayer the Privilege of Relationship

    Part One

    “After this manner therefore pray ye:
    Our Father which art in heaven”
    Matthew 6:9

    The true foundation of prayer is relationship. While many religious people may use rote prayers and vain repetitions, relationship is the determining element of the power and efficacy of prayer (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). True prayer has as much to do with listening as speaking. Prayer is the fragrance of relationship, the very atmosphere in which our hearts touch the Holy presence of God Himself. We see in the opening line of Jesus’ prayer that he presents the Fatherhood of God as the first key to prayer. For prayer is to be the conversing of His child with their heavenly Father in the bonds of love.

    “Hallowed be thy name”
    Matthew 6:9 KJV
    “Your name be honored as holy”
    other translations

    The entrance into this Holy place of communion will be most felt within the hearts of those who know of His Holiness. The heart that spends time in prayer with Him will have a desire to keep His Name Holy in their thoughts, desires, intentions and deeds. One does not come brazenly or carelessly into this place for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning (principle part) of knowledge”. There is a beauty and a fire associated with the true prayer of relationship where the intimacy of connection grows as the years pass and becomes as natural as breathing. The intensity of the soul to cultivate an audience with Him becomes the chief purpose and desire of life itself.

    “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
    that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple”
    Psalm 27:4

    It becomes the one thing. It is not something to be scheduled into specific meetings and times of prayer for in reality it becomes the very posture of our hearts in everyday living. How privileged we are to have such access to God Almighty. The true wonder of prayer is to be held within the miracle of relationship! Relationship with the Father has no end or limit other than the condition of our own hearts! The Eternal Mystery of God in Christ is infinite in nature and scope; so is our knowing of Him.

    “For prayer is nothing else
    than being on terms of friendship with God”
    Saint Teresa of Avila

    BT

  3. wmhny says:

    Just this past Sunday we were talking about that between myself and a fellow members. Plus how some religions use that as a only prayer rather ceremonious. I brought it up as I saw it recited a Barbara Bush’s funeral.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I experienced the same thing just the other day at a funeral. It was just reading some more words off of a script handed out at the door. It was really nice as ceremonies go I guess, but I highly doubt that was Jesus’ intent.

  4. cordell79 says:

    This is a great post. I get what you were saying about the Lord’s prayer. If we are to recite the words, put our hearts into doing so. This way it’ll have meaning and we won’t be just going through the motions. God bless.

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