Friday, April 3, 2020

The Lord's Prayer . . . digging in!

Bobservations Column
By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the last few Bobservations, the underlying encouragement has been to pray; “pray without ceasing.” And many do pray the traditional prayers of their denomination. Among Christians, the most commonly held prayer is The Lord’s Prayer. It is given to us in Matthew 6:9 and in Luke 11:2. These days I will recite this traditional prayer if it’s included in whatever rite of the church I am attending. It is a beautiful prayer, for sure.

In my opinion however, this prayer that the Lord left with us was not meant to be memorized and recited. With all due respect to the broad Christian beliefs that might be reading this, I urge our gentle, sincere readers to compare the two versions of the prayer as recorded in the two Gospels. The two versions are unquestionably similar, but they definitely are not exact. This begs the question, “Which did Jesus teach?”

They are both true, but not necessarily in the way we may have been led to think and believe. If both Matthew and Luke heard Jesus teach them these words, then why the discrepancy in wording? Even a cursory review of the passages will lead you to the same question I am posing today.

Jesus spoke the words that we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” in response to a request from the Apostles: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Their request was “how,” not “what.” Recorded in the Gospels are two versions of the same thing. What do I mean by that? I’ll compare it to two people who hear the same thing, but understand it in slightly different ways. Though the words are not precisely exact between the two Gospel accounts, the intent is!

Jesus’ intent was to teach them to pray. Clearly then, between Matthew and Luke, their own words come forward, their own speech patterns, and their own dialects, perhaps. We therefore a have a single “pattern” for prayer, taught to us all by Jesus. The first line of the prayer, begins the pattern “Our Father, who art in heaven.” It is an acknowledgement of the Father of us all, sitting in His glorious kingdom, watching over all things on Earth. “Hallowed be Thy name.” God’s name is to be glorified* and acknowledged in our lives, as we offer praise from our hearts and lips. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” This is a statement of faith, relinquishing our will and adopting His for all the world, and ourselves as well. I encourage every reader to continue through “The Lord’s Prayer,” and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you personally how we are to pray.

The analysis of the written passages clearly identify a specific pattern and order for prayer. This is what the Lord wanted to teach the Apostle, and by their words, teach all of us! It is a beautiful pattern revealing humility in the heart of the pray-er, sincerity of heart, empathy for a situation, and compassion towards others. These are a few of the several components of any legitimate prayer. Now before you label me a heretic, I am going to encourage every reader to look at one more prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is found in John 17. In fact, it is the entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel. There we find Jesus praying to His Father in heaven; we find Jesus’ humility, and recognition of His own submission to His Father Jehovah, as the Old Testament refers to Him. In this “Lord’s Prayer,” you will find all the facets of Jesus’ teaching the Apostles to pray, but in Jesus’ own words (translated though they may be). Our beloved Christ Jesus has not only taught how to pray, but given us an example, by letting us eavesdrop on His very words as He prays to His Father, interceding for the Apostle, and if you read verse 20 accurately, you will find that Jesus prayed for you and for me, and every Believer!

The intimacy of this prayer is unquestionable. And, it reveals the intimacy that the Father and the Son together want to have with us through the Holy Spirit; that we all may be as one with Him, as He is one with the Father. I encourage all in these days of work shut-downs, school closings, and fretting about the Corona virus, to put prayer’s components together in your own words, not just memorized recitations. The above is a wonderful study to undertake: approach it prayerfully, openly, and in humility as God’s Word speaks to your heart. Come away from it with a sense of awe, and peace, because God wants to hear from us!

 “And he spake a parable unto them to the end, 
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” 
- Luke 18:1

*Compare this with Psalm 138:1,2

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