1st in series on The Lord’s Prayer
After watching Jesus pray, one of the disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Why did he ask this question? Was he unsure how to pray? Was there something about the way Jesus prayed that made him question his own idea of prayer? Did he see Jesus tap into a realm of prayer that superseded the religious prayers they had been taught? Was it something about the way Jesus communicated with the Father? What was different about Jesus’ prayer?
Jesus responded to the disciple’s question by giving them a simple model for prayer.
5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:5-8)
In other words, keep it simple. “Don’t be like the hypocrites! Don’t pray to be noticed by others. You’re not praying to be heard by man. You are praying to be heard by the Father.” Prayer is not about eloquent words or even who hears you. Prayer is about intimacy with God and it’s not developed in front of large crowds. It’s not developed on Sunday mornings in church.
Intimacy with God is developed when you “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). Our motive in prayer is developing intimacy with Jesus in the secret places of our hearts. God wants a close, familiar, loving and personal relationship with each of us. He’s not interested in our carefully crafted “church prayers.” He wants our affection! He wants our love! He wants us to KNOW Him personally and trust Him with the deepest places in our hearts. He desires that our prayers flow from those deepest places straight to Him; flowing out of our love and affection for Him.
In the secret place, “ 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, 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:9-15)
I find it ironic that the Lord’s Prayer has turned into the very thing that Jesus said its not to be. Most of us know the words of this prayer by memory because we have said it many times as a rote congregational prayer. This prayer is so rich and I fear we have ceased to hear what Jesus is truly telling us because we have grown cold to its’ words. What do the words of this prayer actually mean? What was Jesus teaching us about prayer? I’m going to take this prayer and break it up over a series of blog posts. We will take what has grown to be a religious “church” prayer in our culture and see it for the intimate prayer it was intended to be.