The Lord's Prayer

The disciples of Jesus regularly saw their teacher praying (see Prayers of Jesus). Often Jesus would withdraw from his disciples, and the following crowds, to pray or speak with his Father. On one occasion Jesus' disciples, on seeing him praying, asked their teacher for some instruction. Jesus replied, "Pray like this", and offered his disciples the original Lord's Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.

The Original Lord's Prayer

The words to the original Lord's Prayer are recorded twice in the gospels, Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Luke's version of The Lord's Prayer is slightly shorter than Matthew's, and neither version includes the 'doxology' - the short 'hymn of praise' (as in italics above) at its end.

In this prayer all Christians are invited to experience the same intimacy that Jesus enjoyed with his Father. This intimacy is often lost in the translations we read in our bibles, as Jesus actually addresses his words to his 'daddy' - a term which more accurately describes the tone of the loving relationship shared here in conversation.

The Lord's Prayer is not a selfish petition for personal gain. Instead, it teaches us to ask for just enough of what we need now and in the immediate future. Further, in this prayer Jesus teaches us that our needs are not just material, we also need the will to forgive others and the strength to avoid doing what we know would be displeasing to God.

On the one hand then, this is a prayer illustrating the simple trust, love and respect between a parent and child. The child approaches his father, and is both eager to please and aware of his own shortcomings. On the other hand, this prayer does not detract from God's supremacy and holiness. The child talks to 'daddy', but recognises daddy's 'name' - His whole being - is to be praised and held in awe.

A Set Prayer, or a Model for Prayer?

The Lord's Prayer unites all Christians, geographically spread across the world, and chronologically spread over two millennia. That the familiar words to the Lord's Prayer are repeated by so many, and have been for so long, is a unifying power to those who follow Jesus Christ and count themselves members of the Christian family.

Even so, the words to the Lord's Prayer should be seen as a guide to the right way of praying, rather than a set text from which there should be no variation. It is a model for prayer, stimulating fresh expressions of itself in every generation and context. Our conversation with God should be alive and ongoing, familiar in form, responsive to circumstances - and never mechanically repetitive.

Praying the Lord's Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer can be a very useful tool for a series of guided meditations. Instead of just reciting the Lord's Prayer in its entirety spend a short time meditating upon each of its phrases.

How do you acknowledge God as 'Father', or even 'daddy'?
For what do you praise God's name?
What do you consider to be God's kingdom?
How do you do God's will?
What are your spiritual needs?
For what do you need to be forgiven?
Whom do you need to forgive?
What temptations weaken you?
What do you fear?

How does The Lord's Prayer shape your own prayer life?