A study of the stories of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament shows that generally speaking, the disciples asked very little of Jesus. But there was a time when apparently they had witnessed some Pharisees (who were highly educated teachers of the Old Testament) praying long and flowery prayers, as was their custom. Remember that in terms of training and Biblical understanding, the disciples were the exact opposite of the Pharisees—having come to follow Jesus from careers as fishermen, tax collectors, etc. And so the request the disciples make to Jesus is a simple one—“Teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
If they were expecting a long theological treatise on the practice of prayer, they got anything but. Instead Jesus gave them a few lines of what he considered to be the “ideal” prayer, and the rest is history. What has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer” says as much about what we believe about God and what God can do for us and through us as any passage of scripture or creed. Stewardship, forgiveness, temptation, heaven, holiness, the Kingdom—all of these issues and more are contained in this brief, “unflowery” prayer.
All of these years later, the danger for us is one of over-familiarity. I often wonder if we really fully grasp the prayer’s meaning when we pray it as a community every Sunday. So to address this issue, during the season of Lent, we will be focusing on the Lord’s Prayer a line or two at a time in our Sunday worship services. It’s my hope that by doing so, we will all come to a better (or even new) appreciation of this timeless answer of our great Teacher as to how we are to pray.
We are also offering a companion book to read during Lent if you want to know more about the Lord’s Prayer. Pray Like Jesus: Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer is a brand new book by the UM pastor and writer/blogger Don Underwood. You can pick up a copy in the church office for $10 to either read on your own, or join the Wednesday morning men’s group (that meets at Flap Jack at 6:00 a.m.), the Thursday morning study group (that meets at Bob Evans at 7:30 a.m.), or the Sunday morning adult class that meets at 11:00 a.m. if you would like to be a part of a group discussion of the book and the prayer.
In the meantime, begin to ponder what the Lord’s Prayer means to you. As you pray the familiar words, alone or in community, know that if your desire is to have a well-rounded prayer life, you could do no better than to pray this great prayer.