Matthew 6: 9 – 13
This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Having worked our way through the Beatitudes let’s take a stroll through the so called Lord’s Prayer and why there is a question mark in the heading above.
I was once covering for a neighbouring minister who was going away on holiday, but a day or two before he left he rang me to say an old faithful member of his congregation had died and he was sorry he would not be able to take the funeral but would like to discuss it before leaving. I popped over the few miles to his Manse and he started to tell me a lot about the person and his long standing association with the church.
He then asked if I had any thoughts about what Readings I might use, I said honestly that I was not sure but given he was a sheep farmer for most of his working life Psalm 23 was a strong contender. My colleague nodded “Oh yes” he agreed “He has certainly earned that Psalm” – a statement that puzzled me but not as much as when he continued “I think he should also have The Lord’s Prayer too – he was a good Christian”.
The minister took his well-earned holiday and the funeral went well. On his return I visited the minister to bring him up to speed with what had been going on during his absence. As we chatted I managed to turn the conversation to his comments about Psalm 23 and The Lord’s Prayer. He smiled as he told me he thought the 23rd was so powerful and holy that only certain people should be given the honour of having it read at their funeral. I did not agree, not least as it made the minister look judgemental, but what about the Lord’s Prayer?
With that he smiled and said he was one of that generation lucky enough to be taught by amongst others Willie Barclay, and he had had a huge influence on his life and ministry. One of Barclay’s points apparently was that the Lord’s Prayer is misnamed. It is not the Lord’s Prayer but the Disciples’ Prayer!
Barclay’s point was that Jesus gave the prayer to his disciples in response to a request from them to be taught how to pray. The prayer is very powerful and as we shall hopefully see encapsulates everything Jesus had been saying about how we can and should relate to God the Father. It is above all a believer’s prayer, without the commitment of a firm faith behind it the recitation of the prayer is meaningless. That was my colleagues point; it is a prayer that can only be truly meaningful to a disciple, someone who has accepted Jesus into their hearts and decided to follow God through all of the world. So far as he was concerned the uncommitted recital of the words by a congregation at a funeral was just another thing to be done at the service whereas it should make all who say it stop and think about the words and what they mean to them each individually.
I drove home unconvinced that the mass recitation of the prayer was meaningless, but ever since I have often thought of it as our prayer, the Disciples’ prayer.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, help us to pray. We become tongue tied in sight of your glory and power, and fail to say what we mean, so we are grateful you see into our hearts and know us so well that words are often not needed. We try to be disciples, keep us on the road to you.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,