Summary: The Lords prayer is only a model of prayer, it is a guideline that we should use and modify, after all, we must communicate in the way that suits both ourselves and God. We need to speak to him in his language, using his logic.
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire Scotland, on the 25th July 2010; St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
“Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, and ” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
The Gospel message this morning was instantly recognisable as the Lords prayer, or the disciple’s prayer, as many modern Christian like to say, because it was the disciples who asked Jesus "how to pray". Now the disciples surely knew how to pray; after all as Jews themselves, they must have spent time in synagogues and temples.
And they had also been in the presence of Jesus for quite a time now; … witnessing first hand all the mighty works he had done; … and they were impressed by His wisdom, His power and His love; so … they were basically asking Him how they could pray, … and get similar results themselves.
And this makes me think that we too must ask Jesus to teach us how to pray; or do we assume that we know it all, or do we like some, like to portray, or imply the fact that we can where as they cannot?
The Christian life is fueled by prayer. It is made stronger by our intimate relationship with God each day; yet very few people ever show the same enthusiasm as the disciples when they asked him to "teach us how to pray"; … because these disciples knew that was where Jesus was getting his power.
When it comes to prayer, I think many people assume they already know all there is to know; for they know the Lord's Prayer off by heart; and for them that is all they need to know.
But the rote version of the Lord's Prayer is not THE answer to the disciple's question. It is only AN answer, a summary, a model as it were, of what our prayers might be like; and of what attitude our prayer should be uttered with.
The Lord's Prayer is only a model, but many people have turned it into an icon and an idol of prayer; and so have missed the point of what Jesus said to his disciples.
For a start you can think of it as a foundation.
When I went to school, (many many years ago), every pupil was taught the Lords Prayer, but it annoys me that it is not compulsory any more, if it is taught. It is not seen as politically correct. It my day, it was something for pupils to hold onto; as it will need it later on in life, and it will "come back to them when they are in times of trouble”. Remember, there are no atheists in foxholes, and the Lord’s Prayer turns into a great panic button.
The Lords prayer is also a formula on how pray; in fact you could write a book, a very large book about the Lords Prayer itself; with each verse as a new chapter. In fact, you could even write a book on each chapter as it is an enormous topic within the bible, and any sermon will struggle to do it justice.
But watch out, the Lord's Prayer can also be a perversion of prayer, something you do for a bit of religion; a set of words that might help in a fix; and as such … it misses the point of what prayer is all about.
The Lord's Prayer is a model of what prayer is for us as disciples; it is not meant for strangers; for people who do not know the Lord or believe in Jesus, although it would do them no harm if they learned it.
It is a form of prayer, a formula, not the prayer. It is neither the only prayer; nor all the prayers rolled into one. It is a model, an example of how we as followers of Jesus, might pray to God above. It is a model of intimacy.
God, as Jesus explained, is like the neighbour who is close enough to pester at the worst of times, and like a parent who wants only what's best for the child.
He is one to whom the Lord's Prayer is addressed, and that is how Jesus tells us how to address him; Our Father: with respect and a sense awe; and the more awe we have for Him the better.
God is the one we must spend time with, during times of thanksgiving, times of praise; times of help; time of seeking forgiveness; and times of praying for others. When it comes to prayer, all of us need some kind of instruction and some understanding; but more than that; we need the time and the desire to pray; and be intimate with God.