The Prayer of Prayers
Prayer is difficult. Prayer doesn’t come easy. Thankfully, Jesus knows this, and like any good friend or mentor, Jesus steps in to help. When his disciples were finding prayer hard, Jesus taught them a way to pray that has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (not because Jesus prayed it himself, but because it’s the prayer he taught his disciples to pray). It’s a prayer that has been loved and memorized and studied and recited and prayed by thousands of people throughout the years. We've just started to study this prayer at our weekly church gatherings and we're learning that there's so much to it. Thomas Watson called it, “the prayer of prayers.” Here’s several reasons why:
This prayer is the simple prayer: The Lord’s prayer is only 10 lines long (depending on which version you use) and even if you pray it slow, it can be said in under a minute. Why the simplicity? It’s because Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray as needy children to their Heavenly Father. What is prayer? It’s spending time with your Father. As Paul Miller said, “Prayer is the real you encountering the real God.” After all, how do children speak to their parents? Short and right to the point. And the simplicity of this prayer is a great sign of Jesus’ mentorship. Jesus is managing how we pray, but he’s not micro-managing. He doesn’t mention anything about posture, place, clothing, or time. He provides a simple prayer that can be prayed thought for thought or word for word. It’s the simple prayer, because real prayer isn’t a formal business presentation; it’s children speaking with their father.
This prayer is the complete prayer: Don’t let the simplicity fool you. This prayer has got it all. If the Ten Commandments are the complete guide for life, these ten lines are the complete guide for prayer. Here’s how one Commentator put it, “The Lord’s prayer stretches from the father at the beginning to the devil at the end, from heaven to hell, and in between it embraces in six brief petitions everything important in life.” This prayer that involves adoration, petition, and confession acts like a complete skeleton that every type of prayer can fit onto. It captures the three main roles of God: our Father, our Ruler, and our Savior. And it captures the four main areas of need in our lives: physical (our daily bread), mental (overcoming thoughts of guilt and shame), relational (how we're treating others), and spiritual (protection from temptations and evil).
This prayer is the priority prayer: What Jesus is doing with this prayer is getting our priorities straight. That’s why it starts with Gods glory, rule and will before you ever get to your needs and requests. Your name, your kingdom, and your will come before give us, forgive us, and deliver us. The “yours” come before the “us’s” because this prayer picks your head up. This prayer helps us to first think rightly about God, because Jesus knows that our prayer life is a direct reflection of how we think about God. The key to prayer is not technique; it’s theology. The key is always starting with God.
This prayer is the kingdom prayer: In the Gospel of Matthew, this prayer comes in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon Jesus describes what life looks like when people are living under his liberating rule and reign. And the Lord’s prayer is at the exact center of the sermon. There are about 116 Greek lines before it and about 114 lines after it. This prayer is the centerpiece of Jesus’ sermon on the kingdom, because he’s teaching us that prayer is the only way of accessing the spiritual power necessary to even come close to living life his way.
This prayer is the family prayer: The Lord’s prayer doesn’t begin with “my father”, “a father” or even “the” Father. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “our Father.” This assumes that they’re praying together. This prayer is an act of rebellion against the isolation and individualism that can steal the joy and strength away from Christians who try to face the challenges of life on their own. We're in this together! That's why we're meant to pray together. Jesus knows that prayer is hard, but the Lord’s prayer comes to the rescue when our words and ideas run out.