It’s practically impossible to pray the Lord’s Prayer enough. And so here is another post on how to pray this Prayer of Prayers.
If you’ve seen the Give Us This Day from Matthew 6:5-15, then you have one extended meditation on the Lord’s Prayer that I offered there.
What I want to do today is to mention briefly some different ways that you could use the Lord’s Prayer. One of the challenges that we all have in praying the same thing repeatedly is to make the prayers new, and the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer we will all pray repeatedly in our lifetimes. The truth is, this is just as great a challenge for those who pray extemporaneously, who, when they pray publicly, sound remarkably repetitive Sunday after Sunday.
The challenge for all Christians, whether you come from a liturgical or non-liturgical church tradition, is to make the old new. This is true in every aspect of our life in Christ, from that very life itself which must be renewed every day and every moment, to our prayers, to our corporate worship, to our reading of the Word, to our relationships.
The problem is not with the repetition that God has made a part of life: it’s with us. We are consumers of novelties, especially in 21st century America, more than any other culture that has ever existed. As Christians, I find that many times we start shopping for God, ordering just those parts of God that we think will fit in with our lives.
We shop for churches this way. “I’d like a megachurch where I can blend in with everyone; have plenty of activities for my kids; a hip young youth minister who knows how to have fun and relates to the kids by becoming one of them; an order of enough praise choruses and enough voices so that I can feel close to God and actually feel the music in my bones; self-help sermons that tell me how to achieve success in life; hold the fire and brimstone, please; and a little Starbucks on the side!” (“I’ve written a humorous essay titled “Shopping for God,” in case you ever want to read it.)
Actually, I want to learn how to pray the prayer of the Lord, the one prayer He left for us with the commandment, “When you pray, pray this.”
But because I am boring and bored sometimes and need help, here are a few suggestions for praying the Lord’s Prayer in different ways.
1.Pray by paying attention to your breathing.
Say each phrase slowly and don’t be in a hurry to move on. It might be a good idea to briefly hold your breath after each inhalation and exhalation.
[inhale] Our Father,
[exhale] who art in heaven
[inhale and exhale] hallowed by Thy name
[inhale] Thy kingdom come,
[exhale] thy will be done
[inhale] on earth
[exhale] as it is in heaven.
[inhale] Give us this day
[exhale] our daily bread
[inhale] and forgive us our trespasses
[exhale] as we forgive those who trespass against us
[inhale] And lead us not into temptation
[exhale] but deliver us from evil
[inhale] For thine is the kingdom
[exhale] and the power
[inhale] and the glory
[exhale] forever and ever
[inhale and exhale] Amen.
2. Pray with the Lord’s Supper in mind.
“thy kingdom come” – Meditate on the Holy Communion as a visible reminder and actual participation in the kingdom of heaven.
“thy will be done” – Meditate on the fact that Christ commanded us to keep His Supper. Meditate on how by giving Himself to us and uniting Himself to us, Jesus gives us the grace to do the will of the Father.
“on earth as it is in heaven” – Remember that at the Holy Communion, we have entered the heavenly places, where we sing with all the angels and archangels and all the host of heaven. As Jesus and the angels perfectly do the will of the Father, we are asking through communion with Jesus to be able to obey and thereby manifest His kingdom.
“Give us this day our daily bread” – Jesus is always our daily bread, but especially so in His Supper, when He gives us the bread that comes down from heaven, His Body and His Blood.
“and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” – It is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, re-presented and re-applied in the Lord’s Supper, that our sins are forgiven. It is only by participating in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that we are forgiven our sins and made into those who are worthy to partake of Him. Only by being made one with Him can we be turned into people who will gladly forgive others.
“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” – Remember that it was on the night in which He was betrayed that He gave Himself in His Supper to His disciples. The one who was tempted in the Garden has overcome the Tempter and broken the power of evil by being our Sacrifice.
“for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” – The Holy Communion shows us not only the Kingdom of God but also His power and His glory.
“forever and ever. Amen.” – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The Lord’s Supper remembers the historical Last Supper of the past; re-presents Christ and His kingdom and Feast in the present; and imagines and hopes for and prophesies the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in the future and forever.
3. Pray the Lord’s Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and see it bear fruit!
“Our Father” – Remember that your Lord prayed passionately to the Father in the Garden, and He is interceding before the Father for you now.
“thy will be done” – Remember that Jesus prayed, not for His will, but that the will of the Father be done.
“on earth as it is in heaven” – As the Son fulfilled the will of the Father by coming down from heaven to earth, He also fulfilled the will of the Father while on earth. Now that He is in heaven, He has sent the Spirit to help you pray here on earth.
“Give us this day our daily bread” – “My bread is to do the will of the Father.” Pray with Jesus for divine strength to do the difficult thing that the Father has asked you to do. As He prayed, an angel came to minister to Him, and this, too, was His daily bread to strengthen Him to do the will of the Father. Jesus Christ Himself is your daily bread and offers all the sustenance you need to do the will of the Father with Him.
“and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Though Jesus Himself didn’t commit any trespasses, He was about to take them upon Himself and bear our pain and death and penalty.
“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” – Jesus was tempted to take the easy way out – in fact, He prayed 3 times for the Father to take the cup from Him. Jesus was tempted in the Garden, as was Adam, and as we will be, and yet was without sin.
There’s much more, but you see how the Lord’s Prayer might be prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
4. Slow down!
Try praying the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase, pausing after each one to mediate more deeply on it. Or spend your entire prayer time meditating on only one phrase, so that the next time you pray that phrase you have a cornucopia of fruit that you may select to focus on. Take a different phrase each day of week, until you have gone through the whole prayer. Come back a few months later and go through it again this way.
If you pray the Lord’s Prayer faithfully, passionately, and creatively over a lifetime, you will find that your entire spiritual life can be summed up in that one holiest of prayers. Day by day, week by week, if you pray slowly and deliberately, you will be planting seeds that will grow and produce their fruit in time.
The one new way you have learned today of understanding how God is your heavenly Father, for example, is something you can latch onto and keep remembering until it becomes a part of you. Over a lifetime of faithful praying, each phrase in the Lord’s Prayer will be found to hold unimaginable treasures, so that even if all of the Bibles and prayer books and devotional aids in the world were taken from you, you would have this master prayer, this Master’s Prayer, that connects your heart to that of the Lord forever.
Prayer and Resolution for the Day: Practice praying the Lord’s Prayer in one of the ways you’ve just read about.
Photo is licensed here: Christ Praying in the Garden – Reichenau St.Georg