This month, we are unpacking the Lord’s Prayer a phrase at a time to discover the deeper meanings hidden in Jesus’ familiar words. If you haven’t picked up your free copy of the prayer guide e-book we are using, you can get yours here.
A BETTER WAY TO PRAY
Like many Christians, I have the Lord’s Prayer memorized so when I rattle it off as written, my brain tends to put my mouth on autopilot and check out. It has become almost impossible for me to actually think about what I’m saying if I don’t pause and linger on each phrase.
My goal for this project is to move beyond mere “gimmie gimmie” prayers and experience a deeper communion with my Heavenly Father. Digging further into the Lord’s Prayer turned out to be the perfect way to do just that.
Notice Jesus said this is “how” we should pray, not “what” we should pray. He meant it to be a template for our prayers, rather than the exact words we speak. We must stretch ourselves to go beyond mere memorization and recitation.
BEGIN WITH PRAISE
The first half of the prayer is completely focused on God rather than self. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are halfway through the prayer before we even start to ask God for anything.
CONTINUE IN COMMUNITY
And when we do start lifting our requests to God, it is very interesting to note the use of 1st person plural throughout the entire prayer. Jesus uses “us”, “we” & “our” in his prayer.
You will find no 1st person singular here. The words “I”, “me”, and “mine” are absent. Clearly, Jesus intended us to have a family, congregational and community focus rather than an individual one in our prayers. Notice these phrases.
“Our Father . . .”
“Give us . . .”
“Forgive us . . .”
“As we forgive . . .”
“Lead us . . .”
“Deliver us . . .”
The model for our requests is “give us” not “give me”. There is an emphasis of community in God’s provision. This prayer does not reek of selfish ambition that merely I would have enough and be satisfied and be filled. It speaks to our lack as a worldwide community of people who need God and need one another.
There is more than enough provision at the Lord’s table for everyone if we are willing to share our abundance. No one needs to go hungry—spiritually or physically. No one needs to be left out. God wants all to be invited in and partake of His lavish generosity (2 Peter 3:9, Luke 14:23).
However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.
~ Deuteronomy 15:4-5
We are also a great community of sinners. I can seek forgiveness and mercy for others whether they are asking for it or not. Like Jesus, we whisper, “Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.” They don’t know know how wrong it is, how bad it hurts, how much grief it causes.
Of course, we can’t confess any sins but our own. It’s not our place to confess the sins of another and that’s not the point anyway. However, most of our sinning does occur in the context of our relationships. People don’t sin in a vacuum. Our failures always impact the people around us. The thought that we are only hurting ourselves is a lie.
Another way we can pray “forgive us” is in confessing national sins (or the failures of any group we are a part of for that matter). We can follow Jeremiah’s example here who, though a righteous lover of God Himself, lived amongst a people set on turning away from God. He confessed the sins of people as though they were his own and pleaded for God’s mercy.
Although our sins testify against us, do something, LORD, for the sake of your name. For we have often rebelled; we have sinned against you.
~ Jeremiah 14:7
We have plenty of opportunities to do likewise in our day. Rather than pointing the finger and telling “them” to get their act together, let’s engage in community repentance for the sins of our land whether we ourselves participated in them or not.
END IN PRAISE
Following the community petitions of the middle section of the The Lord’s Prayer, we finish in praise again. “For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.”
So, coming back to my original goal of taking the focus off myself in my prayer time, you can see how this prayer model sets us up perfectly for doing just that. We start and end with praising God and in the middle, we focus on “us” instead of “me”.
Jesus said it all hangs on this–to love God and to love people. And in the prayer He taught us to pray, He demonstrates how to do just that.
How are you going to regularly pray with a community focus?
But wait, there’s more! See all the free printables to add to your prayer guide here.