Summary: Matthew 6:7-15 The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer. It’s one of the best known prayers ever. One of the best known passages of the Bible. Many of you – perhaps most of you - can recite it off by heart. Even if you can’t, you’ve probably heard it or heard of it. In many churches – both Protestant and Catholic - the Lord’s Prayer is recited in every service. I grew up in the Catholic Church and the Lord’s Prayer, which we called the “Our Father,” was recited or sung in every service. And it’s not just churches that recite the Lord’s Prayer. Did you know that in the Australian Parliament - yes the big one down in Canberra - every day that parliament sits, they commence with the Lord’s Prayer! The Lord’s Prayer. It’s big. It’s popular. It’s common. The Lord’s Prayer is big, popular and famous, but it is also very misunderstood.
The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew is in chapter 6:9-13 and we usually take it right out of it’s context. Now even before we even look at the contents of the Lord’s Prayer, to really understand the Lord’s Prayer, we need to look at what Jesus says about this prayer in the verses leading up to it. Remember that last Sunday we looked at the beginning of Jesus’ teaching on prayer.
Matthew 66 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
That is, Jesus is telling us to pray privately, by ourselves, to God. Now last week we talked about public prayer being okay. But in this instance, Jesus is giving instruction on private prayer. And as part of Jesus’ instruction to us on private prayer, He gives us the Lord’s Prayer. That is, the Lord’s Prayer is in the main meant as a private prayer! It wasn’t designed as a prayer to be prayed each week in church or to open parliament with. Jesus gave us the Lord’s prayer as that prayer we pray when we go into that private place, and pray to our Father who is in secret. Does that mean we should never pray the Lord’s Prayer in public? Well, I’ll answer that later, but we need to understand the primary use of the Lord’s Prayer is a private prayer. Let’s continue with Jesus’ teaching about prayer
Matthew 67 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
What does this mean – this heaping up of empty phrases, or as the NIV puts, it, “Babbling like pagans” and the NKJV, “vain repetitions.” What does it mean? Well the Greek word here means to say the same thing over and over again. As though by saying something enough, regardless of whether you are thinking about it or not, that just repeating yourself will make God hear you. And many pagan prayers are like that. The Buddhists of Tibet and Mongolia use prayer wheels. They stick prayers on wheels and then spin them so they can say as many prayers as possible in the shortest amount of time, as though that will make their gods here them better! But we can do it too. Now I grew up in the Catholic church and we were encouraged to get rosary beads and pray through the rosary. Who knows what rosary beads are? Rosary beads – it’s this thing with beads, and you move your fingers along it, and for every small bead you pray a “Hail Mary” and every 10th bead there is a big bead, and when you’re on that you pray an “Our Father” – the Lord’s prayer. Now most people who prayed through the rosary didn’t really think about what they were praying. For most it was a mindless repetition of prayers, and ironically one of the prayers of the rosary was the Lord’s Prayer - the very prayer that Jesus is saying shouldn’t be a mindless repetition. But even without rosary beads, many – not all of course, but many who recite the Lord’s prayer in a church service, or as Parliament opens, don’t really think about what they are reciting. For many when they recite the Lord’s Prayer it is a mindlesss repetition, precisely the thing Jesus tells us not to do when He says in verse:
Matthew 6 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Okay so Jesus says don’t be like them. Don’t pray mindless repetitive prayers. So how then should we pray? Jesus tells us in verse 9:
Matthew 69 Pray then like this: and then He gives us the Lord’s prayer.