I have been stewing on a post about the Lord’s prayer for a while, so I figured I would take the opportunity to do it here, while I’m in that passage.
The Lord’s prayer is the best known Christian prayer in the world. Every Sunday, Protestant and Catholic churches across the world recite this prayer together. It is a beautiful, God-centered, God-inspired prayer that is worth reading and praying often. Here it is straight out of Matthew 6:9-13:
Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 evil.
What I want to do is give several reasons why we should pray this prayer (and pray like this), and then provide a few reasons to be cautious about praying it regularly.
Why pray this prayer?
1. It expresses intimacy with the Lord. Jesus simply calls the God of heaven “Father”, an expression of intimacy and love. God is the great Father of all who trust in His Son for salvation and we must learn to see Him as our perfect, holy, loving, Father who never leaves or forsakes us.
2. It expresses reverence for the Lord. Coupled with the intimacy of a Father and His child is the reminder that the Name of God is holy and high above the Heavens. He is our Father, but He is also God of the universe, and we must never forget that He is altogether unlike us. He is worthy of all praise.
3. It expresses a desire to see God’s Sovereign plan come to fruition. If we truly understand God to be intimate and holy, we will inevitably desire for His perfect plan to unfold. We will desire His kingdom to be established and His will to be done all over the universe.
4. It expresses dependence of God. to ask for our daily bread is to ask for what we need. Only God provides what we need, and He provides all we need and more. It is foolish to forget that, and this prayer can keep us from ever neglecting the fact that every breath we take comes by the very will of God.
5. It expresses sorrow for sin We need the forgiveness that only God can provide. Through Christ He has forgiven us of every sin, even before we commit it, but without sorrow for our remaining sinfulness, we risk proving ourselves to be unsaved.
6. It expresses hatred for sin along with sorrow over sin, the Christian should desire to be free of all sin. In fact, we should desire that sin be destroyed completely. It will in God’s timing, but for now, we strive to see sin crushed in our hearts by the power of Jesus working in us.
7. It is Scripture The Lord’s prayer is worth praying because it is breathed out by the Holy Spirit. We cannot pray better than Jesus Himself prayed. Nor can we pray better than David or Paul. We must make a habit of praying Scripture regularly. It will nourish our souls better than any amount of our own words ever could.
So, with all these benefits, and many more, what are the precautions we should take?
1. Repetition does not equal holiness The very thing that Jesus teaches against in this prayer is what many have succumb to by continually repeating it. Jesus prayed this prayer as an example of how to avoid empty phrases and meaningless repetition, so the regular recitation of the Lord’s prayer must come with a deep sense of reverence and worship. Without the proper heart attitude, this prayer will become a single empty phrase. The fact that it is Scripture should cause us to approach it with more reverence, not less.
2. These are not magic words Simply parroting Jesus’ words does not make you more worshipful, not does it ensure that you receive any special power from the Lord. What Jesus meant to teach His disciples was mainly HOW to pray, not WHAT to pray. These words are divinely inspired instructions for how we should seek to pray, with God-centered, God-dependent, sin-hating hearts.
3. Don’t forget who you’re praying to When we stand together with the congregation on Sunday and recite these words, we can easily just say them into the air, but Jesus intended that they be said with all sincerity and reverence to the God of the universe Himself. Do not forget in your prayers that God is there and will hear the prayer of the one who is righteous, that is, the one who has been made righteous because of Jesus.