Growing up in the church, I listened to many public prayers. It seemed men were required to use “holy” language. Every prayer had…
“Guide, guard, and direct us….” And we prayed for the preacher’s “ready recollection.”
On the opposite extreme is the charming immaturity of a child’s prayer at the dinner table. He prays for the knife, the fork, the spoon, the plate, and the Kool-Aid (and anything else he can see).
Then, there is the Lord’s Prayer. I am not referring to the one we can recite from memory found in Matthew 6.
I like Luke’s rendering of the scene.
It starts with a question from men who learned to pray from infancy. Growing up Jewish, the disciples prayed the shema at synagogue services. Parents and rabbis ingrained prescribed prayer into every Jewish child.
But these grown men, who attended synagogue every Sabbath, asked Jesus, “teach us to pray.”
So in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus teaches them to pray.
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”” (Luke 11:1–4, ESV)
I find the prayer simply profound. For someone who acknowledges God as Father, it recognizes we have only three needs to live our lives.
Daily bread sustains our bodies. If we have it each day, we have enough.
Forgiveness of sin provides a clean conscience and humble heart.
Protection from spiritual danger recognizes our own spiritual weakness.
Jesus said that God already knows what we need (Matthew 6:32). Do we know what we need? Or is prayer littered with wants, much like a child circling toys in the Christmas catalog? Can we separate our wish list from our needs? Jesus’ prayer sifts it down to the essentials.
So when you pray, what do you ask for? It doesn’t demand “churchy” language sprinkled in the right spots. Neither does it insist on large vocabularies or hours. It is something that challenges me.
It merely dictates we recognize our needs.
Enough to live.
Enough to be clean.
Enough to remain strong.
Can you pray a prayer like that?