A question about the Lord's Prayer

As familiar as the Lord's Prayer passages are (Matt 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4) I was surprised by them last week.

I was thinking of Luke's version, where the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.

Teachings I have heard about prayer emphasize that it is a relationship with our heavenly Father, we shouldn't think there is a magic set of words or an approved vocabulary, but we should feel free to open our hearts to God.

But Jesus doesn't say this (at least not in so many words) when asked to teach them how to pray. He teaches them a prayer that can be learned by rote. Why?

It is true that if you think about the words, they lead into an awareness of relationship. But why did Jesus give a set of words rather than talk about relationship?

2 comments:

Dan said...

I think you've raised an interesting question.

I offer two responses:

1) I think that there is something to be said for reciting and meditating on prayers that we have learned by rote. While they aren't "magical," beautiful, well written prayers weave themselves into our individual and collective souls in a way that "free form" prayers never can. As a result, pre-formulated common prayers are able to deepen our relationships with God and our neighbours in valuable and unique ways.

2) Note that, in Luke, Jesus goes on to give a parable about receiving gifts--notably the Holy Spirit. I think this parable is part of Christ's answer: the Holy Spirit will eventually teach them how to pray, but, until then, they have some words to memorize.

o!susanna said...

A few years back, I was part of the teaching team for a ladies' study group. We looked at Matt5-8 & I spent lots of time reading and thinking about it. My conclusion was that the sermon is all about the 10 commandments. If so, the prayer summarizes the main points: God His name and image (#1-3), His kingdom (#4,5:honour and rest), His will (#6-10). Then our needs. Finally, our acknowledgement that the kingdom and it's attributes are God's alone.
It is then a reminder to us of the essentials of our faith: a spiritual multivitamin capsule, as it were.