What lessons can we learn from "The Lord's Prayer"?

Musings on the model prayer Jesus gave us: "Lord, teach us to pray"

Luke 11:1-13

11 1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread
. 4 Forgive us our sins,
   for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.'"

5 Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.' 7 And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, 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!"

Week 10 (March)

The Lord's prayer, or the Our Father as it is sometimes called, is more -- much more -- than something to be memorized for points in vacation Bible school. Jesus gave it to His disciples when they realized how inadequate their prayer lives were in comparison to His.

For us, these few short phrases recorded by both Matthew and Luke are a gold mine of spiritual truth. Among other things, Jesus in this prayer says absolutely nothing about a special "prayer language." When Jesus' disciples came to Him asking to be taught to pray, Jesus did not give them a lesson in unknown tongues. He did not say, "begin repeating over and over again some word of praise."   [ more on tongues-speaking ]

What did Jesus hold up to His followers as the perfect type of prayer? His response is a model of simplicity, brevity, and directness. It is clear from the passage in Luke that God wants us to communicate with Him in words that most naturally express our feelings: This model prayer -- the Lord's Prayer, we call it -- is clear and concise. There is no staccato, hollow repetition, nor any unintelligible syllables.

It is clear from Jesus' teaching that He doesn't want us to come thoughtlessly into God's presence. Any praying based on Jesus' model will include expressions of reverence to God. It will acknowledge the coming Kingdom.

Jesus taught us how to present to God our daily needs. And He models for us a prayer for forgiveness-both the receiving and the giving. He also shows us that we have the privilege of asking for divine guidance.

Then our Lord follows up this model prayer, with an emphasis on the need for perseverance in prayer.

He assures us that God is good to them that wait upon Him, that our prayers will be answered.

In all of this, there is no hint of a secret, heavenly language. Surely, if there was a better way to pray than the intelligent use of our own native language, Jesus would have told us.

One of the most delightful books on prayer I've ever seen is based on the premise that God wants us to pray in our own language and dialect. It is titled God Is No Stranger. I first saw a copy of it at the missionary editor's home in the mountains of Haiti.

The book is a collection of prayers by Haitian Christians, illustrated with black and white photographs of Haitian life. The prayers are colorful, simple, brief, and direct. They obviously flow right out of the daily lives of those believers. They are exactly the kind of prayers Jesus taught us to pray in Luke 11.

I have often heard the same kind of praying in Italy. Freed from the fetters of an over-ritualized religion, Italian evangelicals have a refreshing prayer life. Having realized that they don't have to drone on and on through memorized prayers, they pray right out of their hearts. That type of praying is the kind of natural expression which the Lord taught His disciples. [ Missionary stories from Italy ]

It's the kind of free, open communication with the Creator that our hearts long for. It is the type of relationship that He wants us to have with Him.

These devotional thoughts appeared in Standard, a take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by what is now The Foundry.

     -- Howard Culbertson

"God wants us to trust Him enough that we silence ourselves long enough to hear what He is trying to tell us." -- Kayla Curtis, Nazarene Bible College student

How to pray for missionaries

NextUse the fingers of your hand to remind you of how to pray for missionaries. [ read more ]

Other devotional articles:   Year-long series in Standard   Devotional reflections with illustrations from ham radio    Christmas   Come Ye Apart 1   Come Ye Apart 2   Come Ye Apart 3   Pre-trip for Short-term Mission teams: Waiting

ebook: Rookie Notebook: My first nine months as a missionary in Italy    10/40 window map and explanation   Missionaries needed   Seeking God's will?   An African martyr's commitment   Mission trip fundraising   Ways to ruin mission trips   Nazarene Missions International resources