“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him. ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ ” [Luke 11:1 NKJV]
Through the example of John, the Baptizer, and Jesus, the disciples are engaged to take a deeper look at prayer. They were acquainted with the motions of prayer; the Pharisees made a great show in the temple with their long prayers (Matthew 23:14).
“Woe … Pharisees … For you … for a pretense make long prayers.” [Matthew 23:14 NKJV]
Prayers to God are recorded throughout the Old Testament. Here are a few examples:
- Samson prays for a last vengeance on the Philistines.
“Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” [Judges 16:28 NKJV]
- Hannah prays for a son.
“Then she made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’” [1 Samuel 1:11 NKJV]
- Daniel prays for Israel while in they are in exile.
“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer … And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity… by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. … O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face … because of the unfaithfulness … committed against You. … Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant … O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see … O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake …Your people are called by Your name.” [Daniel 9:3-5, 7, 17-19 NKJV]
Even many of the Psalms themselves are prayers to God for salvation, mercy, deliverance. So though the disciples are very much acquainted with prayer, they are now stirred to desire the truth of prayer that is beyond the visible eye. They want to know the heart of prayer. So we hear their cry:
“Lord, teach us to pray.” [Luke 11:1]
Jesus responds to their heart cry:
“In this manner, therefore pray:” [Matthew 6:9a].
What follows is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. It is a brief prayer that Jesus sets before His disciples so that it may be remembered and recalled as a manner for prayer. We might also call it a pattern by which we may pray. It is not intended to be repeated blindly only by rote. Jesus rebuked this a couple of verses before:
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” [Matthew 6:7]
So, how are we to pray this prayer again and again without it being a vain repetition? How is the Lord teaching us to pray with it? He is giving a pattern, a manner in which to pray. He is giving us a beautiful structure to teach us how to pray. Each sentence is elegantly constructed with a truth about prayer. These truths form a “table of contents” or an “index” for the content of our prayers: a pattern of prayer.
When we pray let not these words of “The Lord’s Prayer” be in vain repetition. Let our hearts savor the beauty and truth of each of its words.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Next time: Lord, Teach us to Pray (Part 2)