Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father

It is interesting how the Lord’s Prayer begins. We might expect the prayer to begin, “Dear Lord” or simply “Father in Heaven” but it does not begin that way. It begins with “Our”. This is a prayer that we pray together or in a representative fashion. Granted, it is the model prayer and ought to be used that way. It was the answer for how to pray, so we should use this model in our own private prayers as well. However, the Lord taught us how to pray. He told us to pray in this manner and then began the prayer in the first person plural.

This must be reconciled with what immediately precedes this instruction. The Pharisees prayed in public in order to receive the approbation of men. Men were impressed by their prayers and Jesus tells us that they had their reward, namely, the esteem of men. He warns them not to pray like that. He teaches them to seek the favor of God in privacy and God will reward them openly. We make the mistake of assuming this privacy is seclusion, aloneness. He does not say that. In fact, by the prayer that He gives, He makes it impossible. We are to pray together in secret.

This does not rule out individual private prayer. This should be an important part of our daily routine. At the same time, it points to our need to gather as praying groups. This would include family prayer, prayer groups, bible studies and prayer at the Lord’s Service of public worship. The preeminent problem with the Pharisees is not that they prayed in public but how they prayed. Their prayer was for men rather than for God. May we learn to pray before our Father in heaven and seek His favor here on earth. This will keep us from ostentatious display so that we might receive our reward from heaven and not from men.

In Mathew 6 and Luke 11, the Lord gives some practical teaching on what things to pray for and how to pray.

We ought to pray in faith, believing. God knows our needs before we pray them. He has already promised to provide our daily needs of food, clothing and shelter. However, He still enjoins us to ask for these things. However, we should not ask without faith. In Matthew, the Lord tells us to pray these things but without any care for what we will wear or eat.

We ought to pray persistently. The Lord will answer if we continue to pray in His will. Part of the purpose of prayer is to figure this out. Some things are clearly the Lord’s will and we know this from the Scripture’s themselves. It is God’s will for the gospel to overspread the earth. It is God’s will to feed His saints daily. It is God’s will for the saints to forgive those who have wronged them. We must pray these things until they happen.

We ought not to pray frivolously. The Lord knows what we need before we ask. Our prayers should not be a frantic reaction of our present circumstances. They should be a calm response to the favor of God. We don’t spend our time pleading for basic necessities and personal pleasures. The Lord knows what we need along these lines. It is enough to simply acknowledge that they come from the Lord and ask Him to provide. Give us this day our daily bread.

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