'[The Lord's] prayer is a pattern for all Christian praying. Jesus is teaching that prayer will be acceptable when, and only when, the attitudes, thoughts, and desires expressed fit the pattern, That is to say: every prayer of ours should be a praying of the Lord’s Prayer in some shape or form. We never get beyond this prayer; not only is it the Lord’s first lesson in praying, it is all the other lessons too.' - J.I. Packer
With these impressive words to spur us on, we begin a series of devotions focused on the Lord's Prayer. My prayer is that through these meditations, your thoughts, attitudes and desires will be transformed to fit the pattern taught by our Lord.
By way of introduction, it is important for us to grasp three important points.
A God-taught Prayer
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:6-9 have historically been called the Lord’s Prayer, not because they are the words He Himself necessarily prayed, but because here we have our Lord telling us how He wants us to pray.
Have you ever asked the question, “How does God want me to pray to Him?” Jesus says, ‘Pray then like this…’ Question answered. This should give us remarkable confidence in prayer. Not only do we have God commanding us to pray to Him, we have God teaching us what to pray.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
To pray the prayer taught by the Lord is to pray according to His will. We can be certain God will hear our prayer.
A Framework not a Script
The following is a classic children’s prayer from the 18th Century:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,I pray the Lord my soul to keep;Should I die before I wake,I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
When I was a child, my parents helped me to pray by teaching me a simple prayer similar to this. Every night before I went to sleep, I would pray the prayer word for word. Very often we treat the Lord’s Prayer in a similar way. We memorise it, and repeat it verbatim without giving much thought to its content.
When Jesus says, “Pray then like this”, He intends the Lord’s Prayer to be a model for our prayers. He is providing us with a pattern or framework, not with a script. It is not necessarily wrong to pray it word for word as many churches are in the habit of doing. But it must be realised that such verbatim repetition falls well short of Jesus' intention. He means to teach us to pray, not just teach us a prayer.
A Priority of Values
The goal of reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer is not merely to learn a set formula for praying. The purpose is that in meditating upon it, we would be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we would begin to think as Jesus thought, and value as Jesus valued, and so begin to pray naturally and spontaneously as He prayed.