Today Jesus teaches his disciples to pray.
It is a very different outlook on prayer from Paul who says, “Pray without ceasing.” Instead, for Jesus, brevity is best. Many have overlooked how he begins: “When you are praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
He then begins with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name….” It is simply, brief, to the point.
We just talked about the Lord’s Prayer this last week in the Pastor’s Bible Study. I briefly mentioned that if you have ever wondered why we Presbyterians say “debts…debtors” you can look to this text. Luke’s prayer, which we would view as an abridged version of the one we learned, uses the word for sin, or trespasses, whereas Matthew contains “debts”. It really is that simple. Just a preference of gospels.
Beyond the idea of brevity is another, perhaps more important concept. It appears that prayer is not for God, but for us. We do not pray to keep God informed, or to let God in on the desires of our hearts. God already knows them. We pray to keep ourselves focused – to mold our thoughts and our behaviors into God’s ways.
Just a simple address like, “Our Father” says mountains about Jesus’ theology. And to speak of daily bread and debts is even more telling. The prayer is not “Give us today our daily Cadillac” but daily bread. “Rescue us from the evil one” not “rescue us from all the people who aren’t as pious as we are.”
The focus in on ourselves and the need for amendment.
It is powerful and stark, beautiful and easy to remember.
Because of all these reasons, it is now one of the most well-known, most used, arguably one of the most memorized prayers in the world. I hope you find yourself praying it anew!