Conversations from the Heart - Free Sample
Praying tomorrow into today
Reading: Matthew 6:9-13
Our series begins with the Lord’s Prayer, so called, not because it’s a prayer that Jesus Himself prayed, but because it’s a prayer that He taught His disciples to pray. In all the Gospels it’s the only recorded example of a prayer that Jesus taught. The other passages in this series are examples of actual prayers Jesus prayed. At only 57 words in the original Greek version, the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer jam-packed with the richness of relationship with God as heavenly Father.
The Lord’s Prayer is also recorded in Luke 11:2-4 in the context of Jesus’ disciples asking Him, “Teach us to pray.” You may like to read the prayer in Luke’s version also, but the focus of this reflection is Matthew’s account. Predominantly Jewish in origin, Matthew’s first audience may well have noted strong parallels between the wording of the Lord’s Prayer and the great Jewish prayer, used in synagogue services, known as the Kaddish:
Magnified and sanctified be His great name in the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time, and say Amen. Let His name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Was Jesus reaching into His own Jewish treasury of prayer to teach His own disciples how to pray?
The Lord’s Prayer is so rich we could spend a whole series on it, but the emphasis of this series is practical ideas to resource our own prayers. So here are three lessons to encourage our prayers from this most favourite of prayers.
Make prayer communal
The context of the Lord’s Prayer is communal. This is not a liturgy for private prayer; it’s a prayer designed for communal use. All the pronouns in the prayer are plural:
“Our Father in heaven . . . our daily bread . . . our sins . . . as we forgive . . . lead us . . . deliver us . . .”
It’s no wonder this prayer has become the most used prayer in Christian liturgy. So, the first lesson of this series is to encourage you to participate in more communal prayer. If your church has a prayer meeting, make every effort to attend it. If your church doesn’t have a prayer meeting, why not talk to your minister about starting one? If you are part of a small group at church, think of ways to increase the prayer you do together. Some people benefit from being in a prayer triplet. These are simply different ideas. The key thing is not to neglect corporate prayer. I believe communal prayer is the clearest measure of the health of a church, because a church that prays together, particularly beyond its usual worship services, demonstrates its dependence on God and shows its unity.
Pray for the rule of God to be established on earth
The Lord’s Prayer is the communal prayer of those who recognise that the world is not what it should be and who long for it to be changed for the better.
Matthew structures Jesus’ prayer in an important way. If we write the prayer literally according to the order of the original Greek words, after, “Our Father in heaven,” it reads:
Be hallowed the name of you
Come the kingdom of you
Be accomplished the will of you
As in heaven, so upon the earth.
Each use of the word “of you” (sou in the Greek) is in an emphatic sense, pointing to God’s name, kingdom and will.
What kind of prayer is this? We are praying that God’s reign, which will one day be complete and perfect, will show itself in present situations. We pray for the future to break into the here and now. So, when you pray for a situation, think of the aspects of God’s future reign that would transform the situation and then ask for that in-breaking. For instance, “Lord, let the justice of your perfect rule break into my friend’s life, where they have been treated unfairly. Bring them your hope and vindication.”
Jesus models this kind of praying Himself in the next part of the prayer, “Give us today our daily bread.” The word translated “daily” is a fascinating word in the Greek (epiousious). Until the first part of the 20th century this was the only occurrence of the word in all extant Greek literature. Some early Church leaders thought Matthew may have invented the word himself! Because its use could not be compared with any other occurrences, the word was hard to translate. But then a papyrus document was discovered which contained epiousious. Incredibly, the document was a shopping list, and the adjective implied that the items were required for tomorrow.
What is Jesus teaching us to pray? “Give us today our bread for tomorrow.” Here we have the prayer that embraces the Now and Then of God’s kingdom. We pray the blessing of my tomorrow into my today.
Pray that we would grow, not fall, because of our struggles
“Lead us not into temptation,” doesn’t mean we are praying to never experience a testing time. Jesus underwent testing Himself, so we cannot pray to be exempt from something Jesus experienced. What we pray in this part of the prayer is that, when we go through struggles, we would not be crushed, but will grow through it. It might feel convenient to pray we are spared all temptations and adversity. But testing is good (see Deuteronomy 8). Prayer during a time of testing is about asking, “Lord, what are you wanting to do with me in this testing? What are you showing me?” This kind of prayer saves us from the passivity where we believe we are helpless. In your pivotal life circumstances, choose to pray that you will grow and learn, so that you emerge from those situations stronger and more deeply trusting in our heavenly Father.
What a great prayer Jesus taught us to pray! Use it corporately, use it to pray your tomorrows into today and use it to pray for your growth in testing times.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
Now and forever.