Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

5 Reasons to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

praying_man

“This, then, is how you should pray…”

Concerning the praying of the Lord’s Prayer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Daily the disciples receive this certainty anew from their communion with Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of all their petitions. In him God’s name is hallowed; in him God’s kingdom comes; in him God’s will is done. For his sake the bodily life of the disciples is preserved; for his sake they receive forgiveness for their sins. In his power they are protected from temptation; in his power they are saved unto eternal life. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever in communion with the Father. The disciples are certain of this” (Bonhoeffer, Discipleship 158).

For the most part, Churches of Christ have not traditionally prayed the Lord’s Prayer corporately (though the early church, it appears, did). While there has been and continues to be argument against this practice, I believe this prayer given to Jesus’ disciples is one that can and should be prayed regularly, both alone and together in the church’s assembly. I respectfully submit the following “5 Reasons to Pray the Lord’s Prayer” for your consideration.

1.       Praying the Lord’s Prayer draws us into and distinguishes us as the community of God’s faithful people.

This is a thoroughly communal prayer and one that can only be prayed by those who call upon God as “Father.” I have always found it intriguing that in the context of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew, we have been taught to “go into our closet, close the door, and pray to your Father.” This would seem to nullify the communal essence of the Lord’s Prayer. Yet, upon praying the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,” one is thrust out of oneself and into the community of God’s faithful people, whether in the presence of the community or alone behind closed doors. This communal nature continues throughout the prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This is, indeed, a thoroughly communal prayer for God’s faithful people!

2.       Praying the Lord’s Prayer draws us into the community of God’s faithful people…past, present, and future.

As this “our” is proclaimed throughout the prayer, the community is also drawn out of its present self and into a host of the gathered faithful from generations past, while anticipating and speaking to the faithful church of tomorrow. From the opening call to the closing doxology, God’s community of yesterday, today, and tomorrow unite in response to God’s calling out a people in his Son. Together, as we assemble in humble devotion at the foot of the cross, we hear his gracious voice calling out from heaven, “My children,” and together as one in humble confession we cry, “Our Father.”

3.       Praying the Lord’s Prayer gives us words when we lack words.

What do we pray when words seem absent? In the midst of fear…suffering…death? I recently heard a story of a church member who was adamant that the Lord’s Prayer is not for us to pray but rather an example prayer for us to imitate. This had gone on for quite some time until this member found themselves on the operating table preparing for surgery. In the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, and at a complete loss for words, this person opened their mouth and, much to their surprise, the only thing that came out was, “Our Father who art in heaven….” Finally it made sense! The Lord’s Prayer offers us faithful words and creates some bit of order when all around us is chaos.

4.       Praying the Lord’s Prayer frequently gives us words to remember.

With the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of the world around us, which the church has in many ways adopted (particularly in its worship practices), I often wonder what my generation is going to remember when we begin to age and lose our memory. My wife used to work with Alzheimer’s residents in a memory care unit of an assisted living community. It never ceased to amaze me that, though many of these people could not remember their family, where they were, or even their own name, the things they could remember were church hymns and Bible passages, particularly the Lord’s Prayer, that they had repeated throughout their lifetime. These things were embedded in their mind and brought them to life! In a culture that encourages one to be in constant search for the next life-altering fad, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to slow down and offers us something to remember when our memory is gone. In this, we see the mercy of God.

5.       Praying the Lord’s Prayer gives us a sense of reorientation and mission.

After Isaiah witnesses and enters into the presence of the holy God (Is. 6), he is then led from confession to cleansing to commission. Upon our recognition of the holiness of our Father, perhaps we too find ourselves caught up in Isaiah’s, “Here am I. Send me!” This prayer, for God’s faithful, is not simply a confession but a call; not merely a proclamation, but a sending forth to serve. And it creates a shift in our eyes from the Father to the Father’s world, as we realign and reorient ourselves to join Christ in his suffering for the sake of the world, for the renewal of creation! In the Lord’s Prayer, we find, not just one petition after another, but a call to take up the mission of Christ!

This prayer, the prayer of our Lord, has been prayed by the church since the early centuries; thus, it is not only the Lord’s Prayer but can also be our prayer. These words that Jesus prayed so long ago are graciously given that they may, indeed, become our words today. May we, the body of Christ, take them up in faith.

Matt Porter is married to his wonderful wife, Lauren. He is a graduate of Austin Graduate School of Theology and is currently employed as Austin Grad’s Director of Recruiting. He also serves as worship minister for the University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin, TX.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lord’s Prayer, Austin Graduate School of Theology will be offering a course this summer on Learning to Pray (and Teach) the Lord’s Prayer. You can find out more information on their website www.austingrad.edu

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