The Lord’s Prayer: Overview, Part 2
“‘Pray, then, in this way’” (Matthew 6:9).
Over the years people have had misunderstandings about the Lord’s Prayer (more accurately, the Disciples’ Prayer) that need correcting. First, Jesus’ words were not meant to be repeated as a formal prayer. The disciples had asked Him how to pray, not what to pray. And He hardly would have given them a prayer to recite after He had just warned against “meaningless repetition” (v. 7).
Second, people often don’t realize that Jesus’ teaching here is simply a skeleton or pattern for prayer. As believers, we are to flesh out the skeleton with our own words of worship, praise, and intercession as we come to the Father.
Third, people have seldom realized how versatile Jesus’ pattern for prayer is. Each phrase reflects the relationship between Creator and creature, and each one demonstrates an attitude and spirit of prayer. Similarly, we can variously outline it to show God’s glory versus our need, the threefold purpose of prayer (hallow His name, usher in His kingdom, and do His will), or to present our concerns from a past, present, and future standpoint.
We can see God’s overall purpose in prayer throughout the Lord’s Prayer. The primary focus is on God, which includes our adoration of Him, His worthiness, and His glory. From this model we see that prayer is not so much our asking to meet our own needs and wants, but our affirming God’s sovereignty, holiness, and majesty, and conforming our desires and purposes to His will.
What have people forfeited the most by viewing this prayer primarily as a rote, methodical, unthinking recitation before God? Does this argue against stating it in unison at church or in other religious gatherings? Or is there value in quoting it together—as long as our hearts are attuned to its meanings?