There are many different models for prayer in Scripture. We have the persistent widow of Luke 18, the Psalms of David, prayers for provision, protection, healing and wisdom and many more. Perhaps the most familiar model for prayer in all of Scripture, however is the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:7-13. Many of us can recite the prayer by heart, but our familiarity with this prayer presents a unique challenge. It is all too easy to speak it without really praying it!
If you’ve ever blown through the Lord’s Prayer without thinking about what it’s saying, then the guidance Jesus provides in Matthew 6:8 is all the more important. He warns us against praying like Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases” thinking that empty words or vain repetition of prayer will produce the outcome they’ desire. Jesus says, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
That’s interesting. Jesus reminds us that God alreadyknows what we need. Therefore the purpose of this prayer isn’t for us to communicate important information to God. Instead, it serves to orient us rightly to Him. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer consciously and intentionally, it actually helps to reposition us and form us into God’s people…building us together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). So, how precisely does God form us through this prayer?
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
In the context of intimate relationship, God reminds us that we are to revere Him. We are to seek His kingdom as it manifests fully on the earth. We are to put off the many idols that confront or tempt us during the day and acknowledge the true ordering of reality … under God and anticipating the realization of His purposes.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” (6:11)
God reminds us that He sustains us each day both physically and spiritually. As we speak this prayer we are being prepared in advance to receive good gifts with the right spirit: nourishing food and drink, His presence with us, the wisdom of Scripture and expressions of love from the community of believers. He is the source of our sustenance and every good thing we experience flows from His hands. His provision promotes a grateful heart.
“… and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (6:12)
We are a people in nearly constant need of reconciliation, with God and with others. With this prayer, God offers the means to be in right relationship with him. In short, we must extend the same grace we yearn for to those we believe have harmed us. As we do so, we follow the path of Christ in forgiving even those who may be undeserving. Through forgiveness and being forgiven, we open the door to restored relationships with God and with our neighbor.
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (6:13)
We need to be led by God. We are easily distracted and prone to fall into temptation as we are confronted by tests and trials. We also have an enemy of our souls who is waiting to destroy us. We need God to daily shine His light on our path so that like “Christian” in the Pilgrim’s Progresswe might find our way through the temptations, trials, and genuine dangers that challenge us each day.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and our worthy Lord and Savior. We see that so clearly as he pours out his heart to God on our behalf in John 17. Jesus asks God to keep us unified, protected from the enemy and sent into the world. The model for prayer that Jesus gives us in Matthew 6 is exactly what weneed. As a community of Christ-followers we need the daily reminder to be recalled to recognize and worship God. We need to be nourished, reconciled to God and one another, and then led by Him so that we might remain in his pasture and focused on his mission until the day he returns.
Take a moment to pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly and with intentionality.
Which of the four areas noted above resonates with you and your situation? How might you need to be formed in the course of the coming day? Meditate on that portion of scripture and listen for God’s voice.
Dan joined the Cornerstone team in November 2018 as the Pastor of Missions. His focus is on empowering the church family to step beyond the boundaries of CCLB to declare the Good News, so that the Body of Christ might be established where it would not otherwise occur. In addition, Dan provides oversight for Cornerstone’s Care ministries.