Thinking about Prayer – Part 2

If you have not read Part 1 of this sequence, and you want to, please click here. However, while that would be good, this post will stand on its own, so if you are the kind of person who is easily distracted, then while I’ve got you, please just keep reading!

If you were not aware that the Lord’s Prayer is found in two gospels, then you definitely need to begin by reading the two different versions. I always suggest that those who are Christians say a short but serious prayer to God, asking the Holy Spirit to guide them as they read the Word.

Matthew 6:9-13

King James Version (KJV)

9After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11Give us this day our daily bread.

12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

~

Luke 11:1-4

King James Version (KJV)

1And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

3Give us day by day our daily bread.

4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

~

As you will have noticed, each gives a slightly different account – and here are some of the differences:

  • Different endings; the ‘praise ending’ in Matthew is not found in Luke. This is a very significant issue on several different levels.
  • Matthew uses ‘debt’ whereas Luke uses ‘sins.’ This is a crucial distinction, which we will explore in Part 6!
  • Two different statements about the daily bread:
    • Luke 11:3 – “Give us day by day our daily bread.”
    • Matthew 6:11 – “Give us this day our daily bread.”

How very interesting!

Matthew’s account has six petitions; Luke’s has only five. The symmetry in Matthew is quite striking: three God-centred petitions, followed by three man-centred petitions. However, the Luke account leaves one of those petitions out – which is very interesting. Let’s look closely:

MATTHEW:

  • God’s Name should be hallowed
  • God’s kingdom should come
  • God’s will may be done

  • Provision of bread
  • Pardon for sins
  • Protection from both temptation and the tempter himself

LUKE: makes no mention of God’s will.

~

What is not commonly known is that whereas the way in which we 21st-century Christians think about God as a ‘father’ with relative ease (not everyone has known a father or father-figure, and not everyone has had good experiences of a father figure), this opening address to God (the ‘invocation’) – “Our Father” would in fact have been very startling to both the disciples and everyone else; in Judaism, calling God ‘Father’ was something one did not do under any circumstances. One did not even say the name of God, it was too sacred – and especially the name “Yahweh!” Even now, contemporary Orthodox Judaism continues the practice of writing the Hebrew alliteration of God as YHWH – so that the very name of God is not desecrated. This is serious stuff that most modern Christians have completely failed to get their heads around – because no one has told them about it!

And right there, we have the single biggest difference in the God-concept of Judaism and Christianity: for Christians who accept that Jesus was God, we understand that Jesus helped us to understand that God is serious about us knowing Him and being in a relationship with Him.

In short – God is a relational God. If you never really cottoned onto this before now, can you see why prayer is SO important? If you are a Christian, it is not optional!

The Lord’s Prayer offers model answers to the series of questions that God puts to us to shape our conversation with Him.

Q: Whom do you take Me for and what am I to you? A: Our Father in heaven.

Q: That being so, what is it that you really want? A: the hallowing of Your Name; the coming of Your Kingdom; to see Your will known and done.

Q: So what are you asking for right now as a means to that end? A: provision, pardon and protection.

Then the ‘Praise Ending’ wraps things up:

Q: How can you be so bold and confident in asking for these things? A: Because we know You can do it and when You do it, it will bring You the glory!

 Eugene Peterson says, “The Bible is the only book that reads us as we read it.” We have a great example of that here. Prayer is an activity that leads many to believe that when they try to do it there is no-one listening – and that our FEELINGS tell us the truth. We need to understand that God is in fact questioning us in the way described in the Lord’s prayer, requiring us to tell Him honestly to tell Him honestly a) how we think of Him; b) what we want from Him; c) why.

As God’s adopted children (John 1:12): a) we are loved; b) we are heirs; we have His Spirit with us; we must honour our Father by serving His interests; we must love our brothers.

As such, we give: a) thanks for grace; praise for God’s paternity; and c) we take joy in our status as children of God. These things should be prominent in Christian prayer.

So, what about the musical element in all this? Here is a quote from one of my favourite authors:

“As a part of religious service singing is as much an act of worship as is prayer. Indeed, many a song is prayer.”

We all need to continue to learn how to pray. However, if you are in music and worship ministry, you have to understand that without a prayer life that seriously works, your ministry is just not ever going to be effective, and God will be unable to do with you what He could have done if only you had been willing to follow Jesus’ example!

In Part 3 we will look at the one thing that hurts our ability to pray more than anything else. Something which we all know about but too often try to ignore…

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