Summary: The bookstores are filled now with books written to help the common individual understand topics that can be complicated. In one of my recent visits to a local bookstore I noticed something I had not seen before.
The bookstores are filled now with books written to help the common individual understand topics that can be complicated. In one of my recent visits to a local bookstore I noticed something I had not seen before. On almost every topic you can imagine there was a book, the cover looked like this and there was one written for dozens and dozens of topics. They are called it the Dummies guide. There is also the Idiot’s guide. Each of the books are written by people who meet at least two criteria: they are experts in their chosen field and they are excellent teachers. They know how to take a subject that may be quite complicated and make it very simple. According to their websites there are hundreds of these kinds of books covering almost every topic you can imagine.
The disciples were learners. Jesus was the expert. Anything they needed to learn they could ask him. If you could ask Jesus to teach you about any topic what would it be? I might say Jesus teach me that walking on the water thing, I’m not a great swimmer or teach me how to raise someone from the dead. There are some people I miss. Or teach me how to feed a lot of people with very little food maybe we could take care of the hunger problem in the world.
The disciples came to Jesus and simply said, “Lord teach us to pray.” With all of the information that was available to them why would they do that? Simple. Because prayer can absolutely change everything.
The disciples seem to have waited a long time to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. We believe this was two years into his public ministry when they ask this. They have watched him praying in every circumstance of life. They had seen him taking time to be alone to pray. They now understood that everything Jesus did was completely guided by prayer. And perhaps as they watched him pray it made them realize how little they knew about prayer.
This prayer is given to us as something like a blueprint. Here is what I mean. The Lord’s prayer was given to show the disciples how to pray, how to go about praying but understand this: there is a difference between saying the Lord’s prayer and praying the Lord’s prayer. This prayer was given to show us how to pray not just the words we should use. So we have to stop and answer the question, did Jesus intend for us to repeat this prayer verbatim; Word for Word? I believe the answer to that question is no and there are several reasons why...
First of all this prayer is recorded twice in Scripture and the wording is different in each one. If Jesus was giving us a prayer to memorize and then recite it then the words would not be different. Also, notice that the disciples said teach us to pray, not teach us a prayer. Then Jesus warned us against repetitive prayers. In fact in Matthew he says, “and when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathens do.” Then finally, this prayer is repeated nowhere else in the New Testament. We have no record of believers using this prayer in any other passage in the Bible.
Now if you choose to recite the Lord’s prayer, that’s a good thing because you will be reciting Scripture but I don’t believe that was the intention of Jesus- I believe it goes much deeper. There were some things that were brand-new to them about praying this way.
1. They were learning to pray on the basis of a new relationship. Now there was a partnership. He says our father in heaven. Jesus is telling us that it is very important that we always begin our prayer with the awareness that God is actually our father. What Jesus is teaching here is actually radical. This had never been taught before.
The word that Jesus used for father…there was nothing formal about it. It was the common Aramaic word a child would use-it was Abba…it was like using the word daddy. Everyone used this word but no one used it in connection with God. In every prayer Jesus prayed, we have a record of Him using this term. He used it more than 60 times. No one in the entire history of Israel had ever prayed like Jesus prayed. I have said before that some of you may have a problem with this because your idea of the word father is negative. Your father may have been angry, even abusive. One way to move beyond this is to think of God as being everything you ever wished for in a father. Make a list if necessary.