The Lord’s Prayer, and Praying

Robin WilliamsonPosted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 by Robin Williamson


Luke 11:1-13


One of the ways to make most of us feel guilty is to ask one another about our prayer life. Instinctively we feel we don’t pray enough, or not well, or have perhaps given up all together. Our theme is “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Praying” – and we continue to think about the various petitions in the Lord’s Prayer throughout August and into September.

May I suggest that we put any guilty thoughts about our lack of praying to one side, at least for the moment, and think about this passage in Luke’ gospel and what God may be saying to us through it? (It’s an enormous subject so we’ll only just scratch the surface!)

Verse 1 of our reading says that it was when Jesus finished praying that one of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray”. So I guess that although I imagine Jesus’ heart was always open to His Heavenly Father – He stopped praying! How did the disciples recognise that I wonder?

Jesus went on to give them the example that we now refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer”.

This version in Luke’s gospel is slightly shorter than the one we are probably more familiar with from Matthew’ gospel (Matthew 6:9-13). That one has tended to be used by protestants – and is the one included in Anglican Liturgy, whereas the one here in Luke tends to be used by the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox branches of the church. Interestingly (according to the internet, anyway!) it was estimated that 2 billion Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians read, recited or sang the Lord’s Prayer in 100’s of languages on Easter Sunday 2007. Doubtless there are more now!

The first thing to notice is that Jesus begins, “Father” (which is how he repeatedly described God) which was an usual title for a Jew to use as generally God was regarded by Jews as distant. In fact the translation of the Aramaic, “Abba,” is the term that was commonly used by little children for their father; so I guess in our culture the nearest equivalent would be, “Daddy” (or &ldquo0;Dad”). (A cousin of mine used to only refer to her parents by their Christian names, which I found difficult!)

By using the term ‘Abba’ when teaching the disciples how to pray, Jesus was encouraging them to have the same intimate relationship with the Heavenly Father that He did – and as His followers too, I believe he would want us to have the same loving, intimate, relationship with God – or at least be working towards it!

For Jesus, His Heavenly Father was the head of a large and loving family who was approachable and caring. He was the author and sustainer of life who delights in His children, and although I find the idea of rewards for good behaviour difficult too, there are passages in scripture that clearly suggest that God rewards us when we please Him e.g. Matthew 6:3 & 4:

“When you give to the needy do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

We believe that our Heavenly Father forgives those who ask him to, and values people highly. Matthew 6:26 says:

“Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father deeds them. Are you not more valuable than they are?”

Our Heavenly Father provides for our needs. (Matthew 6:33)

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

He can be found by those who really seek Him: (verses 9 and 10 of our reading for today):

“So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you”.

God never inflicts us with bad things, but always loves to give us good things (the end of today’s reading):

“If you then who are evil (compared with our Heavenly Father) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”.

We are encouraged by Jesus, then, to bear in mind when we pray that God longs for a real relationship with us and yet all too often we can imagine God as a dictatorial, authoritarian Head Teacher, rather than a loving Heavenly Father who longs that we communicate with Him and listen to Him.

In the introduction to the version of the Lord&rsquo’s Prayer in Matthew’s gospel

Jesus says:

“When you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

So we don’t need lots of words, and silence and listening to Him are important too.

Tom Wright, theologian and previous Bishop of Durham translates this version of the Lord’s Prayer:

“Father may your name be honoured; may your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, since we too forgive our debtors; and don’t put us to the test”.

Some Christians see the Lord’s prayer more as as a model of things to pray for, others (including me) think it’s a form of words we can use – as long as we think about what we are saying!

So in conclusion:

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