Most Sundays, The Lord’s Prayer can be heard echoing in dull monotone from churches around the US, as the faithful recite the well-known words in unison.
“Our father –
who art in heaven –
hallowed be thy name –
thy kingdom come…”
Many of us feel comforted or peaceful when we recite what are possibly Jesus’ most famous words, but I’m wondering: do you ever feel…challenged by The Lord’s prayer?
Because you should.
When you pray The Lord’s Prayer, do you feel like you’re saying something radical, making claims that no person in their right mind would make – running against the grain?
Because you should.
I believe Jesus not only believed the prayer was making “radical” claims, but that was his answer to the disciples when they asked, “Teach us HOW to pray.”
His answer was, “when you pray, say something radical.”
I believe those who heard Jesus’ teachings on prayer were uncomfortable with what he was saying, and that they might have thought, “Well, I could never pray that. That…that’s crazy.”
We don’t know much about how Jesus prayed. Good historical material about this aspect of his life is hard to find. In particular, we know that some of the prayers attributed to him are the compositions of the author, not the words of Jesus.
What we do have, however, is a formalized fragment commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. The way it has survived the ages in Luke is most likely very close to what Jesus said.
So, I would suggest that it is important to ask – “What does it mean?”
The prayer is framed in the words of a world to which many of us can’t relate. This prayer reflects the way most thought about God, people and nature long ago. How then do we make sense of it? How do we avoid the tendency to recite the prayer in such a mechanical way? How can it be understood within our contemporary landscape?
When we pray, what are we to say?
The disciples’ actual request was not, “teach us what to pray,” but rather, “teach us how to pray.” Do you hear the subtle difference?
They weren’t asking for a PREscription of what to say, but rather a DEscription of how to pray.
The disciples weren’t asking Jesus to prescribe the words of a prayer.
They were asking for guidance not a mandate.
What did Jesus answer? He said…”When you pray, say…”
Be sure to follow the remaining 5 articles to learn about the radicalness of his answer to them.
(1 of a 6 part series on The Lord’s Prayer – more to come tomorrow).
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