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:

"'Father,
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

Does the Lord's Prayer express a desire that the Great Commission be fulfilled? The Lord's Prayer and World Evangelism

A prayer for the world's children

"He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." -- Mark 10:16

We pray for the children
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.
And we pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never "counted potatoes,"
Who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an X-rated world.
We pray for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who can't find any bread to steal,
Who don't have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food
Who like ghost stories
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church and scream into the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren't spoiled by anyone,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
We pray for children
Who want to be carried and for those who must,
For those who never give up and for those who don't get a second chance
For those we smother and for those who will grab the hand of anyone kind enough to offer it.

adapted from a prayer by Ina Hughes

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 18:3

Are you really feeding that starving child?

NextResponding to media appeals to help hungry children may be a waste of your money. more ]

How to pray for missionaries

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


Other devotional articles:   Year-long series in Standard    Devotional reflections built on illustrations from ham radio    Christmas     Come Ye Apart 1    Come Ye Apart 2    Come Ye Apart 3

Rookie Notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries in Italy     10/40 Window map and explanation     Seeking God's will?    African martyr's commitment     Mission trip fundraising    10 ways to ruin your mission trip   Nazarene Missions International resources