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Sep
24

The Lord’s Prayer: Part 1

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How would you define prayer? Perhaps the simplest way to understand prayer is to view it as communication with God. I prefer the word communication because it involves both the sending and receiving of messages. Yes, prayer is talking to God, but it also includes listening to God.

So what is the goal of prayer? The goal of prayer is communion with God. Communion is the end achieved by the means of communication. Done well, communication will draw two people together. This is why relationship experts encourage couples to talk with one another. The more communication there is, the closer the two come together. If the two continue to come together they begin to share a common language and understanding. Their hearts intertwine and become one and they find union.

So think of prayer as communication with God, that leads to communion with God, which results in
union with God. Notice that the commonality of the three words is the “uni,” or the oneness. That’s what we hope to achieve when we pray. Rather than considering the goal of prayer as asking for stuff with the hope of receiving it, we should think of prayer’s goal in terms of the alignment of our hearts with God’s heart.

In Luke 11:1-4, Jesus offers some helpful advice on undertaking our practice of prayer. Here are five simple lessons.

First, prayer is a learned activity. “Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just a John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
The disciples must have been impressed by what they saw and heard from Jesus’ prayer life. So impressed that this is the only thing the Bible records that Jesus asked him to teach them. The disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray,” not “Lord, teach us a prayer.” Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer to serve as a blueprint for us to develop a rich and balanced prayer life. The Lord’s Prayer is the framework upon which we offer our prayers not unlike the alphabet serves to create words, sentences and stories.

Second, we learn to pray by praying. I remember taking a driver’s education course in high school. We watched movies, read manuals and listened to lectures. But the day eventually came when we were required to climb behind the steering wheel and actually drive a car. Prayer is like that. We can read books or listen to inspiring speakers talk about prayer, but the bottom line is that we only learn to pray by actually praying.

Third, we pray on the basis of relationship. The Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God as “Father.” The Greek word for father is pater, as in paternity. The Aramaic word for father is abba, which would be the equivalent to papa. In America we would use the word daddy. The point here is that we do not pray to a distant, impersonal deity. We pray to a close, personal God with whom we have a relationship. Understanding the nearness of our relationship with God gives prayer a different dimension.

Fourth, Jesus taught that we are to pray God’s agenda first. We are to pray for God’s name to be kept holy, for his Kingdom to come and his will to be done before we pray anything else. Why? It is because God’s agenda shapes our agenda. If we pray our agenda first, it will be shaped by what we want instead of what we need. When our hearts find union with God and his agenda, then we can more appropriately ask for our daily needs to be met, find forgiveness through confession and protection against temptation.

Finally, what we pray for ourselves we are to pray for others. The pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer are all plural, not singular. Yes, we are to pray for ourselves. But prayer is incomplete if it is not offered on behalf of those around us.

Categories : Prayer

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