9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13 ESV)
Perhaps with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most recited and remembered portions of Scripture. Wall hangings in many homes display it, children memorize it, and gifted singers regale audiences when they sing it.
However, rightly understood this familiar text is not so much the Lord’s Prayer as it is the prayer of the Lord’s disciples. Additionally, it is not to be unconsciously repeated. Rather, it is to be a guide for prayer. Jesus instructed His disciples about the proper order and contents of biblical prayer. “In matters of faith and practice, it is equally important to know how not to do something as it is to know how to do it. Jesus understood that when He taught His disciples to pray,” states one commentator.
Like learning an instrument or some other skill, we desire and need people to teach us how to do something. This is what Jesus did when He said, “Pray then like this.” Luke records Jesus’ disciples saying to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1-4). The times Jesus spent in prayer were often intense (Luke 22:39-46). The disciples must have observed this. Jesus then taught His disciples the skill and discipline of prayer.
In church history, those times of special renewal involved the heightened devotional life of the people of God. This was most likely because of a moving by the Holy Spirit. One way this was done was by immersing oneself in the Psalms. In effect, the Psalms are prayers by the Old Testament saints.
Jesus’ instructions for prayer follow in the immediate aftermath of His teaching on avoiding empty phrases and empty repetition when praying. It is ironic that today’s text is often recited but the words are rarely understood as to their content. Believers, and non-believers, know the words but do not comprehend the meaning of the words.
Additionally, Jesus taught His disciples how “not” to pray. Believers in Christ are not to pray in a hypocritical way. A hypocrite was an actor in the first century Greek theater. An actor played a role that had no impact in their lives. Jesus did not want prayer to be a sham or a fake. This was how the Pharisees prayed.
It is a dangerous thing when believers publically pray. It is easy to be swept up in the moment and to inadvertently seek to impress people with our gifted speech. However, the purpose of prayer is not to be seen by others. Prayer is to be something intensely private.
How then are believers to pray in private? That is what Jesus’ instructions are all about. Prayer is a means to the goal of godliness. That is the ultimate purpose of prayer; to be godlier in our relationship with God, in Christ and by the Holy Spirit.
Have a blessed day in Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!