From the Rector…
This past Sunday we heard Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. In Matthew we get a much more familiar version of The Lord’s Prayer, but Luke’s version seems to be more of an outline form. He gives his disciples particular words and phrases to use in praying but he also gives them something even more helpful—a template to pray by.
In the Jewish custom of the day (that continues into the present with certain observing Jews), prayers were said at certain times of the day. This included a particular prayer called “Eighteen”. It had eighteen petitions and was said throughout the day. When Jesus’ disciples requested their master to teach them to pray, they would have already known this Jewish prayer and the language and phrases included. Jesus simplifies and reframes the prayer—focusing it into the basic elements that become a template of prayer. That template includes:
– recognizing God’s reign;
– the allowance of provisions;
– forgiveness of sin; and
– deliverance from those things that draw us away from God.
In the first century work of the Twelve Apostles called The Didache, the apostles encourage Christian disciples to pray The Lord’s Prayer three times a day. By the third century, the early church fathers had incorporated the prayer into the various liturgies of the church. You have probably noticed that the use of the The Lord’s Prayer is included in every liturgy in The Book of Common Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is sufficient in every setting and need. Our prayer life can only be deepened and enriched by praying in the way Jesus has taught us. Using the template of The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful way to personalize your prayer life and offer intercession for those in need in particular ways.
Children should be taught the prayer from the earliest of ages. When baptizing babies, I often encourage parents and godparents to be accountable for making sure the child knows the prayer and pray it with them regularly. Children’s Church focuses on making sure that the children know the prayer and are encouraged to pray it with the congregation at the Liturgy of the Table.
I have heard complaints of over-exposure to the prayer because it is prayed so often. I’m not sure we can be over-exposed to prayer though I do think we can lose our intentionality and gloss over certain written prayers—repeating them in a rote manner that loses focus on meaning or the possibilities of transformation. The Lords Prayer is one of those that done wrong can become rote and done rite can become transformative.
Prayer is not a passive activity. It requires active imagination and emphasis. Be thoughtful in your prayers even if they are already written down for you. Pray as the Lord has taught us—not simply in the saying of the words but in the opening of our hearts and the strength of our faith.
Light and Life,