He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
We're entering our first full week of Lent and its about the time that some of our best intended Lenten practices begin to fall by the wayside. Whether it's a devotional book, journaling, giving up sugar, or swearing off swearing, it is difficult to keep our disciplines, well, disciplined. It's not that our intentions are not sincere. In both our hearts and heads it seemed like a 40 day spiritual journey would be good for us. But sometimes life happens; we get thrown off our schedule and what we had hoped to do, write, avoid, pray... doesn't happen.
It's in these times that I am grateful for what is commonly called, "The Lord's Prayer." Even when I have forgotten my daily practice, I can stop what I'm doing for a moment, and pray this prayer, no matter what time it is or where I am. I know it by heart. I memorized it as a child. We said it every week in church and almost every time we prayed in Sunday School, Youth Group, and church events. We said it around my father's death bed. We've prayed it over my sick children, at communion ceremonies, and even at civic events.
As a pastor I've been in churches where this prayer was part of the liturgy each week, and I've also relied on it as the go to prayer at funerals and other solemn events. (1)
There's a reason it's THE prayer for Christians. Jesus wrote it. The disciples wanted instruction. "Teach us to pray like John taught his disciples to pray..." And it's easy to understand why. The disciples, like us, both want to say the right words when we pray. We want to express our needs to God with phrases that will yield the best result. We also want God to know we are sincere when we pray in the hope that God will listen, really listen, and be moved enough to act on our behalf.
Luke weaves in what we call the Lord's Prayer directly after the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the story of Mary and Martha. So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he gives a distraction free, no frills, "better part" prayer.
You might notice this version is a bit different than the other gospels. It is trimmer in content. It leaves out, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"and concentrates more on the here and now needs of the people. Each day this week we'll be looking at a different line of this prayer, as each one deserves unpacking. Each phrase honors God, and also instructs us in how to live "on earth" and in Christ.
For today, why not leave a comment... what does/has the Lord's prayer mean/meant to you?
(1) Saying the Lord's prayer together often serves as a way for grieving attendees to participate in the service and express their sorrow. Many find it comforting as well.