1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” 2 And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 ‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4 ‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Luke 11:1-4 (NASB)
I find it interesting that the disciples came to Jesus and asked him to teach them how to pray. These guys were Jewish and even if they were not devout, they would have been familiar with prayer. There were daily prayers, prayers before meals, and special prayers for all of the different feasts and festivals. The probably had many prayers committed to memory. Why did they need Jesus to teach them how to pray?
The very first prayers I learned as I child were simple. I learned them before I was able to read. Even though I haven’t prayed them in years, I still know them by heart.
God is Great, God is Good;
Let us thank Him for our food.
By His hands we all are fed,
Give us Lord our Daily Bread.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Perhaps you remember praying those as well. I prayed the “God is great” prayer before meals almost up until I was a teenager. By that point I was rattling it off so quickly that it was obvious that the words meant nothing to me. I was just getting it out there so I could eat. I think some of us have actually take the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and done the same thing with it. Whether we are reciting the version found here in Luke or the slightly longer version in Matthew, we are just mouthing words without really thinking about what we’re saying.
It’s ironic that the very words Jesus used to teach about authentic prayer have been turned into just one more thing that we memorize and rattle off mindlessly. Now, I’m not saying that everyone does this but I would be willing to bet that many of us have prayed those words without even thinking about them. I know I have.
I finished reading a book called The Prayer of Jesus by Ken Hemphill. He says that when we pray with the wrong motives (and there are several) we are just talking until we’re blue in the face. I take that on a personal level because I know that I have done that. It is my hope that by preaching on the Lord’s Prayer, I (and those who hear) will take a look in the mirror. I think all of us could refocus on what it means to pray and listen to what Jesus has to say about it.
Grace and peace.