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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Should We Pray the Lord's Prayer?

I grew up repeating the Lord's Prayer in church. I didn't think about what I was saying. I just repeated it like everyone else. (I also repeated the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds without thinking.) I don't think I should have treated it in this way but I didn't know the significance of a lot of things when I was a kid. I knew the price of everything but not the value.

Movies commonly have people repeating the Lord's Prayer when the characters believe they are about to die. This may be the only religious thing a person can remember. I don't know if saying the Lord's Prayer at that moment in a real situation would really help. Maybe it just soothes the nerves.

The Lord's Prayer was a teaching moment which Jesus used on His disciples. They had asked Him to teach them to pray. He told them this is the way to do so. Let's take a look at what He was teaching.

The disciples wanted Jesus to teach them just like John the Baptist had taught his disciples. This praying was not about special words to be used. The disciples wanted to pray but either didn't think their prayers were effective or didn't know how to pray.

I suppose these disciples had heard others pray. I understand that the Pharisees liked to stand on the street corners and pray eloquently to be praised by those who heard them. They had heard Jesus pray and realized that it was much more personal and not concerned with the way that it sounded. They wanted to pray like Him.

The word for prayer is not the word typically used for specific prayers. It would be an attitude of receiving a blessing. It was a word that gave the atmosphere of the prayer that was being said. They weren't looking for Jesus to give them a prayer that they would simply repeat over and over. They were looking for the framing of their prayers

One Sunday I was called by a hospital to come be with a man whose wife was about to die. I left right after the morning worship and met him in a waiting room. The man had been told that she had thirty more minutes. I asked if he would like to pray and he did but he told me that he didn't know how to pray. I told him to tell God what was on his heart. He bowed his head and said, "God I don't know what to say. I know I am being very selfish and this is a selfish prayer, but I want my wife to live. I promise we will be in church if you will just make her live." Though I had never met the man before I knew that he had been honest and humble before the Lord. Two weeks later he brought his wife to church with him. God heard him. Even though he didn't say the words, he prayed in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer.

I find the Lord's prayer frames my prayers so that I am humble and honest with Him. I can think of these words Jesus said and know that I must ask along the same lines. I can even repeat the Lord's Prayer and realize that I have asked in the spirit of everything that I need. I am asking for God's blessing when I pray. I am asking for His presence, forgiveness, provision, protection and wisdom.

However, the Lord's Prayer doesn't have the same meaning if I am not paying attention to what it says. I cannot disregard my sins or the poor, mistreat others, worship meaninglessly, deny God's word, lack belief, request things that will hurt me nor be full of pride and get anything at all out of saying the Lord's Prayer. I lack the spirit of what that prayer means when I try to pray this way.

Yet, I still believe that people should pray the Lord's Prayer. It will change the way all other requests are made if you pray it with reverence and honesty.

Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” 

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.



2 comments:

Anthony Chia said...

Your entry reminded me of my own 2009 3-part series on “Jesus’ teachings on prayers”, and I re-read my own writings.

Using the text of Luke, I talked about Jesus taught on the followings:
How to pray for oneself (essentially, using the Lord’s Prayer) [Luke 11:2-4], how to pray for another [Luke 11:5-10], and how to pray for the Holy Spirit to be given [Luke 11:11-13]. Readers are encouraged to read them. Here is the link to 1st part - http://high-expressions.blogspot.sg/2009/06/jesus-teachings-on-prayers-luke-111-11.html

Specific to the Lord’s Prayer, as a frame, these postures are seen, and we are to be like-postured:

1. First we address God.
For Jesus, naturally He addressed God as the Father. I believe we can pray to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, or collectively, God. You can even use your own endearing terms like Abba and Father God.

2. Second, we honour God with our greetings.
Jesus said, “hallowed be your name”. I use “blessed be your name or blessed be the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. You may also want to thank Him for his work in the previous day/your life.

3. Third, we acknowledge God’s desires, before ours.
So I would follow Jesus’ words on this, “your kingdom comes, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

4. Now we petition for our needs.
We find that Jesus was trying to teach us to look at a day at a time, asking for what we need for the day. Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about tomorrow”, we just need to address this day. We are to address each day as it comes.

I am quite sure many of us do not follow this. Almost all of us, and that include me, failed in this, it is not whether or not we failed but how badly we failed. God tells us not to worry (Mathew 6:34), yet almost all of us still do it. To worry is not trusting God. Another reason why we are “covering more than we should”, I believe is that we do not pray daily. We should stop finding excuses for our failure to come before God each day.

There are different views about what “daily bread” mean in the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever the view, the daily bread is a need, not a want, although I am not saying you cannot tell God what you would like to have [a want].

I also do not see anything wrong with the straightforward interpretation of daily bread as our basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. In Mathew 6, God asks that we do not worry about what we will eat and what we will wear, but do you know that our asking for just the daily portion is an acknowledgement on our part that God is provider. Even as we are gathering, we must always remember it is God who gives us the capacity to gather (Deu 8:17-18). If you want to interpret daily bread to mean more, like it should include His word, wisdom, “presence”, etc, I think it is fine, so long as the list represent your “needs” and not “wishes”.

5. Ask for forgiveness.
I view God’s forgiveness as a need just as I need food. We need food for physical life, forgiveness for eternal life.

Jesus is telling us that we need to ask God for forgiveness daily (in fact every time we have sinned). Brethrens, be careful not to believe the preaching or teachings about God loving us so much that He will forgive us (Christians) whether or not we ask for forgiveness, or such things as there is not even the need for repentance since God loves us (Christians), or that we belittle the Blood of Christ when we repeatedly ask Him to forgive us.

If you are still not convinced that repentance is required, consider what was the mission of John the Baptist (Mathew 3:2); what were Jesus’ very first sermons about (Mathews 4:17); what Jesus said to the adulterous woman who was spared the stoning (John 8:11); and how Jesus taught about forgiveness (Luke 17:3b-4).

cont...

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

6. Forgive others when we want God’s forgiveness.
It is NOT we do nothing; I can name a few things you have to do: First you have to ask, that is what Jesus said, the other is repentance, which has been touched on, above. Another is the forgiveness of others. In Mathew 6:15 it is clearly stated you need to forgive in order to receive forgiveness from God (The Lord’s Prayer is also found here – Mathew 6:9-13).

From the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Mathew 18:23-35), it is clear that if you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you. It is that serious, this is what verse 35 says, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”(Mathew 18:35 KJV). [The lord of the unmerciful servant delivered the servant to the tormentors].

So if you do not forgive, you are wicked and what will happen to you who will not forgive. God does not forgive you either. In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant above, what happened to the wicked servant? He was given over to the tormentors, i.e. he ended up being tormented (afflicted with acute and more or less protracted suffering). Think for a moment, what happens to people who end up in hell. Yes, they get tormented. See the parallel?!

And people can be tormented in their current living from their own reluctance to forgive, and from being consumed by resentment and bitterness. Without going into detailed explanation, a man reaps what he sows (Galations 6:7c). Also, Romans 2:9a says, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil”. God does not cause you to be tormented. You suffer the consequence of your sin (refusal to forgive). We do find people, including Christians tormented for years but not able to receive breakthroughs, until the issues of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness are addressed properly in their lives.

Because of failure in this area, some get demonized, saddled with sicknesses that do not seem to have any cures (sickness does not go away or keep recurring), aches and pains all over, emotional instabilities, and loss of effectiveness in living normal lives.

7. The 3rd part of the 4-part verse 4, “And lead us not into temptation” is one of those difficult verses to understand.
It is difficult to interpret it on face-value because there is another verse in the Bible that put it very clearly that God does not tempt people. James 1: 13-14 -
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Then why did Jesus ask us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. Yes, God does chasten us and test us, and the Bible explains why God does the chastening and testing. In short, it is to help us to grow and to be refined. So, it cannot be that Jesus is asking us to ask God not to chasten or test us. Also, 1 Cor 10:13 says that we will not be tested beyond what we could bear and God will provide a way out. There is no need to pray for avoidance.

I want to submit to you that this part of the verse may simply mean “Help us not to sin”. If you look at 1st 2 parts and the 4th part of verse 4, it would look like it makes sense – in 1st 2 parts we ask God for forgiveness as we forgive others (people sinned against us, we forgive so as to NOT sin [to NOT forgive, is sin], and we ask God for forgiveness for our own sins), then we ask God to help us not to sin, and deliver us from the evil one (4th part).

8. Lastly, we ask God to deliver us from the evil one.
The evil one here can be simply evil men or principalities of darkness (Satan and evil spirits). The latter often perpetuates their evil schemes or plans through evil men. I often plead with God to hold onto me, not to let go of my hand even if I slip and fall, even as I want to “hold the hand that holds the world”.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions