When’s the last time you said, “Our Father”?
Posted: June 2, 2005
I’ve been a Christian for 27 years now, but only recently have I begun to realize the significance of the disciples’ question: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
We’ve all heard others pray, in some form or fashion, and wondered to ourselves, “to whom or what is that person praying to talk that way?” Sometimes, in our honest moments, we admit to ourselves that our own prayers fall short of the simple form Jesus taught in response to that request.
One of my seminary professors taught me much about prayer, both in spiritual formation classes and by his personal example. This professor once said something that convicted me: “Most prayer services today are too concerned about keeping sick saints out of heaven.” I once heard that a Japanese student visiting the U.S. learned the medical term “hysterectomy” at a prayer service when she heard it in a prayer request.
When I started my current pastorate, I initiated a novel idea for a Southern Baptist church: leading the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) each week in the Sunday morning worship service and at the closing of our Wednesday night prayer service. As far as I know, we are the only non-liturgical congregation in our area that recites the Lord’s Prayer on a weekly basis.
Why would we do this? Actually, there are several reasons why I believe every church should use the Lord’s Prayer regularly in worship.
Every Christian needs to know how to pray. When’s the last time someone told you, “I don’t know how to pray”? Anyone who knows the Lord’s Prayer, knows how to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer focuses solely on God. We’ve all heard (or worse, prayed) some rather selfish prayers. There’s no room in the Lord’s Prayer for the selfish requests so indemic in most prayers today. Everything in the Lord’s Prayer focuses on the person of God and what is important to Him. As Christians who have confessed Jesus as Lord, we must place His will, not ours, foremost in our thoughts, our actions, and our prayers.
The Lord’s Prayer is scriptural. It’s amazing that most churches claim to believe and teach the Bible, yet their worship services have no public reading of Scripture beyond the verses on which the minister preaches. As another professor once said, “When you’re reading Scripture, you know the people are hearing the word of the Lord.” The people hear the word of the Lord when they recite the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is common to all Christians. Whenever we visit a church of another tradition, and that church includes the Lord’s Prayer in the liturgy, we’re reminded of our bond with believers from every race, nation, and tradition. Although the form of the prayer may vary in some traditions, every Christian that knows the basics of the Lord’s Prayer can participate in some way.
Personally, I’ve said the Lord’s Prayer at least daily for many years, and each time I say it, it means more to me. It makes me realize the privilege of my relationship with God: “Our Father.” It leads me to confess that I live for His glory and His pleasure: “Hallowed be Thy Name.”
The Lord’s Prayer reminds me that God will return to establish His rule on earth: “Thy kingdom come.” I’m reminded that I must join myself to the will of my Lord: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer without recognizing that the salvation lifestyle means total, complete, instant submission to the desires of Almighty God.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” There is no other phrase in this prayer that speaks of our material needs. There is no mention of finer homes, faster cars, more powerful computers (or even that new G5!). Jesus teaches us to pray only for the needs of the day. Our Lord, after all, knows what we need.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” None of us is innocent; we trespass against others and our God. We cannot cry for forgiveness from God and simultaneously hold a grudge against others. Those who have been forgiven are required to forgive.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” So many people believe our society is getting worse. I’ve only recently realized that the world is not getting worse; depravity has characterized this world since the Fall. The Church is the only glimmer of hope in the world. Yet, even those redeemed from sin must still face temptation. We cannot overcome temptation alone without the help of God.
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and ever.” There is no greater confession of the omnipotence of our God. Our God reigns! Nothing is too great for Him! His glory — His honor — exceeds anything we can offer. In the eternity to come, we will see God’s glory in all its splendor and beauty.
Yet, this God cares enough about His creation to redeem us through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, who even now intercedes on our behalf. He chooses to share His glory with us for eternity. He chooses to draw sinful humanity to Himself and then to justify, sanctify, and — in time — glorify us.
This prayer accomplishes far more than most of the prayers we pray each day. Jesus wasted no words in His model prayer.
As I mentioned, I know of no other non-liturgical church that regularly recites the Lord’s Prayer. I hope this situation changes. When Jesus had to teach His disciples the most important exercise of the Christian life, He gave them these words:
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil;
For Thine is the kingdom,
And the power and the glory,
Forever and ever.