Today our series on prayer turns to the only prayer Jesus taught his followers and while it was given to the disciples we know it as the Lord’s Prayer. A new insight on the prayer came from my trip to Israel. In Matthew, the prayer is taught as part of Jesus Sermon on the Mount which was given here, on the hills outside of Capernaum looking over the Sea of Galilee.
|The Sea of Galilee from the hills or Capernaum.|
Not only was this a place where the majesty and glory of God could be seen in natural beauty, but this was Jesus home. Jesus didn’t teach his followers to pray in the Temple of Jerusalem, he taught them on the hills of Galilee and that makes a difference.
Walking through Jerusalem and standing near the Wailing Wall, which would have been part of the Temple walls, inspired a kind of awe and reverence that shaped my prayers while I was there.
|The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem|
|Praying at the Wailing Wall.|
When I prayed at the Wailing Wall the prayers were more formal and detached, maybe religious is the right word, but walking alone in Galilee, my prayers were personal. I felt a more intimate connection to God here and that’s what the Lord’s Prayer was to be for the disciples, personal and relational. We see that from the very beginning of the prayer when Jesus told them to call God Abba, which doesn’t refer to God as an impersonal Heavenly Father but a very real, personal and loving Dad.
So Jesus teaches us that prayer is not be detached and filled with religious words and phrases but with personal love and honor which shows a connection to God. Leading up to the prayer, Jesus teaches the same thing when he says that we shouldn’t pray to be seen by others and prayer is not to be a show for God. Matthew 6:5-8. Prayer is to be a personal conversation with God where we go into our rooms, close the door and pray in secret – which didn’t mean going inside necessarily, but maybe just going off alone, or shutting out distractions so we can connect with God.
Matthew 6:8 also reminds us that we are praying to a God who personally knows us. God knows what we need before we ask. God knows what we need, what we want, what we struggle with, what our sins are and where we are going – God is personal and knows all of that but He still wants us to pray because God wants the relationship with us. God wants the personal connection and that requires us to pray and intentionally reach out to God.
So the location where Jesus teaches this prayer is important because it reminds us that prayer is personal and helps connects us to a God who desires to be personal with us. When we look at the prayer itself we see that it is an introduction, followed by 6 petitions and then a closing.
Introduction: Our Father, which art in heaven
1: Hallowed by thy name
2: Thy kingdom come
3: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
4: Give us this day our daily bread
5: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
6: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Ending: For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN
Much of this prayer would have sounded familiar to Jesus’ followers because several of the sections find their roots in the prayer life of the Jewish people. One of the prayers that was said by the rabbis and the people in Jesus’ day was the Kaddish. It says:
May God’s great name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed.
May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon.
May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life upon us and upon all Israel. He who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel.
Did you hear the similarities? The themes of the Kaddish are very similar to some of the themes Jesus outlines in his prayer. There is a focus on God’s name being great and holy, God’s kingdom needing to be established in this world and how God’s will needs to be lived out in our lives. So the prayer Jesus gave the people had roots in the prayers that would have already been known and said in worship. This would have made the prayer more familiar and personal and easier for them to remember.
Now let’s look at the prayer itself. The introduction may have been the most surprising part of the prayer because Jesus used a very personal word for Father – Abba. When we look at the Kaddish, the name of God was to be keep holy and powerful and completely beyond anything in this world. May God’s great name be blessed forever and ever. Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. While Jesus does say that God’s name is holy, he makes God much more approachable. God is that father who loves us and knows us and is right here to listen and care for us.
Following the introduction are the first three petitions which all focus on God. We honor God’s name, we look for God’s kingdom to come into this world and we want God’s will to be done in our lives. The focus is on God and our desire to see the fullness of God enter our lives and community and world. These three petitions help get us in line with God’s will. It is hard for us to ask for what we want when our focus is on God, so these petitions not only honor God but they direct our thoughts and hearts which is needed as we move on to the next 3 petitions which focus more on us and our need for God.
Give us this day our daily bread. This isn’t just a request for food, this is an acknowledgement that we need God for everything in life. We need God to sustain all that we have and provide for all that we need. This petition is a simple request for God to meet our needs.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This petition reminds us that we not only need God to meet our physical needs, but we need God to meet our spiritual needs. Our sin has separated us from God and only God can heal or mend that divide. Other traditions say forgive us our debts and our actions have created a debt that we owe to God but cannot repay – ever. We can’t repay God, we need the debt wiped out or forgiven and that is what God does. God forgives and in this petition we ask God to forgive us with the understanding that we also need to forgive those who have sinned against us. While forgiving others is hard, this prayer helps put it in the proper perspective. When we think of all God has forgiven us it gives us the strength to forgive others.
The last petition says, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Now let’s be clear and say that God is never the one who lead us into temptation and evil, he doesn’t need to because we do a pretty good job of that all on our own. What we need is God to lead us in the other direction, away from the temptation we desire and the evil we so often turn to. This petition reminds us that all that is healthy for us in life, physically, morally, spiritually and in all of our relationships comes from God and if we will follow his lead our lives will be significantly better.
When we look at these three petitions:
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
What we see is that we need God to help meet all of our human need. We have physical, emotional, spiritual and relational needs that God can meet and so we need to ask God to meet them for us and then we need to work with God to make it happen.
The closing of the Lord’s Prayer, For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN, isn’t found in Matthew or Luke and so many people ask why we include it in the prayer and one reason is because it is found in the earliest teachings of this prayer in the life of the church. From the very beginning of the Christian church, this ending was connected to the prayer Jesus taught and it can be seen reflected in the Kaddish from which Jesus drew others parts of the prayer, but it also can be traced to an Old Testament prayer found in 1 Chronicles 29:11-13. This ending again reminds us that the prayer Jesus taught wasn’t something new that he made up in his head, it was a prayer based on the prayers that the people had been taught as children and knew by heart.
So when asked about prayer, Jesus gave his followers a model to follow. Prayer to God needs to be personal, it needs to focus on the will and kingdom of God and it needs to acknowledge our needs and that God meets those needs. When prayer does these things – it is the Lord’s Prayer and it not only connects us to Jesus but identifies us as his disciples in this world.
While the Lord’s Prayer is personal, it is also one of the few prayers that we say together and when we pray it together it reminds us that we are connected to one another. In some ways the prayer was given to be prayed together because all the terms found in it are plural. It’s OUR father, give US, forgive US, lead US, deliver US. This prayer of Jesus draws us together as one and sets our hearts and minds on God’s kingdom and God’s will for our lives and how God sustains everything in this world. This prayer reminds us that we are not alone in this world but that our faith in Christ Jesus draws us together.
While our faith is personal and our relationship with God our father is personal and unique – we are also part of a larger body of believers working to bring God’s kingdom into this world. We can’t remain faithful disciples of Jesus alone. We can’t live out God’s will for our lives alone. We can’t bring God’s kingdom into this world alone and while we can lift up and honor God’s name alone – it is so much more powerful when we do it together. Praying this prayer draws us together and it shows the world who God is and what God’s love and grace and kingdom is all about. When we pray and live this prayer together, God is glorified and in some small way God’s kingdom does appear on earth just as it is in heaven.
Opening the Door ~ TOGETHER
1. There are six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Spend one day each week focusing your prayers on that petition.
• Hallowed by thy name
• Thy kingdom come
• They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
• Give us this day our daily bread
• Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
• Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
2. How does this prayer need to shape your life and actions?
• Who do you need to forgive?
• From whom do you need to seek forgiveness?
• How can you provide daily bread to those around you?
• How can God’s spirit and power lead you away from those things that tempt you?
• How can you help lead others away from temptation and evil?
3. Much of the Lord’s Prayer was based on the prayers of God’s people known as The Kaddish.
• What prayers did you learn as a child?
• Do any of those prayers reflect themes found in the Lord’s Prayer?
• Share these prayers with others on the Faith Church facebook page.