Stepping Into the Lord’s Prayer

An invitation to connect with the life of Christ

by Robert Osborne

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ ” (Matthew 6:9-13).

At the core of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, we find the heart of His living in this prayer. In Jesus, our humanity is being restored to a talking relationship with God. This is a wonder and a grace.

Stepping Into the Lord’s PrayerPrayer always comes in a context. We pray from somewhere, from some state of mind or perception of need. To pray is to invite God into the place where we are, not only in our desperate moments but also in our “feeling-quite-well-thank-you” times.  Since it is both illusion and folly to live independently of God, prayer is the way we describe a vitally connected life. Along with the call of Jesus to live differently comes the invitation to live from a different centre. My belief is that if we are serious Jesus followers, we will need to penetrate His model prayer much more deeply than we have. We have all recited the Lord’s Prayer at some point, but have we learned to live inside of it?

The context of the Lord’s Prayer is the Lord’s life. We cannot forget that. One of our great Bible scholars, N. T. Wright, said that the more he studied this prayer, the more it became clear to him that it summed up very accurately, although in condensed form, what Jesus understood about His own life and purpose. This model prayer becomes then, in essence, a distillation of the Jesus way of living, a life oriented around the purpose and intention of God. The Lord’s Prayer should therefore be thought of as the very breath of Jesus, the essence of what He was about.[1]

Of course, it is entirely possible to repeat these words mindlessly, without any kind of connection to their meaning. But this does not mean repetition is bad—not at all. It simply means that unthinking repetition is bad. Instead, do this: try to step into this prayer as the breath of Jesus, the model form of the life of Jesus for yourself. Take the various phrases of the prayer and pray them slowly and with thought, finding ways to work out these words in your daily life. Notice the collective words, “our” and “us.” Notice the things this prayer names as truly important. Living inside this model prayer will be transformative, not only for yourself, but also for the world you inhabit—the people and issues you are wrapped up in.

This is one of my favourite C. S. Lewis quotes: “The prayer preceding all prayers is, ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’ ”[2] Far from being a mindless repetition of magical words, the Lord’s Prayer can remind us of the wonder of prayer, that we can really share life with God. In Jesus, God has come near to us, and in prayer, we experience and practise this nearness.

To find out what this means for you, take some time to ponder these questions:

  • What is your experience with prayer? As prayer is a struggle for nearly all of us, what are the hindrances for you?
  • Have you ever experienced a moment of real intimacy with God? What was that like and how did that change you?
  • Which part of the Lord’s Prayer challenges you most? Which part comforts you most?
  • How might you rephrase the various parts of the Lord’s Prayer in more contemporary language?

Here is a final challenge: try repeating the Lord’s Prayer every day for a week. For each day, take one phrase of the prayer to carry through your day. Think about it and muse on it before God. Find a way to express that prayer in concrete action. This is a wonderful way to get inside the prayer and to practise the Jesus life at its heart.

 

PrayAt the time of writing, Robert Osborne was pastor of spiritual formation at Westside King’s Church in Calgary, Alta.

This article appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2016 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com.

[1]. N. T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 2.

[2]. C. S. Lewis, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm (Glasgow, UK: William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd., 1974), 83.

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