Several years ago I wrote a 6-week study on The Lord's Prayer.
I wish I could say that it was divinely inspired.
That I felt a particular calling to write this particular study at that particular time to the specific group of women I taught that spring.
The truth, however, is that I was more inspired by the practical demands of the situation than the Holy Spirit of the Lord who ordained the whole thing anyway.
The last-minute coming together of details had me on the edge of my seat.
There are times when the Lord works in the least convenient way possible, demanding that we drop everything and make a complete about-face to follow Him in a particular situation.
Fortunately for me, He can also be quite sympathetic to the many practicalities of our everyday lives and graciously meet us even when we're flying by the seat of our pants.
I'm grateful for His ability to work His way into even our least inspired choices. The truth is I chose to write the study on The Lord's Prayer not because I was particularly interested in it, (sounds horrible, I know) but because it was...short.
And I was in a time crunch.
I needed a segment of Scripture that I could grab hold of, completely unravel, write a full 6-week study on, and brilliantly teach--and I needed it quickly. At a mere 5 verses long, The Lord's Prayer fit the bill.
I was confident that no matter how theologically deep the prayer might be, I could study, write, and teach the heck out of those 5 little verses, even given the limited amount of time I had to get the thing done. (I'm still learning the distinction between hubris and humility as you might have gathered.)
Here is the lesson the Lord taught me while writing that study:
When you set your heart on studying God's Word, you can bet your last dollar that He'll pull you in deep.
And the terrible fight you put up trying to keep your head above water doesn't hinder the One who separated the sea from the shore.
Instead of me unraveling The Lord's Prayer that spring, it unraveled me.
And He will do the same for you.
As the years have passed and I've invested an increasing amount of time studying the Scriptures, I've learned that this is one of the things God's Word is designed to do. It completely unravels you.
It takes you apart one bit at a time, and then mercifully mends you back together into a whole new thing.
This short, unassuming prayer that Jesus gives us in the Gospels is no exception.
We'll dive into the specifics of the prayer in forthcoming posts, but first, I offer a truth that will position us properly toward the whole act of prayer right from the get-go.
The truth about prayer
Prayer isn't something we do for God. Prayer is something He has done for us.
A shallow reading of Scripture might lead you to a different conclusion. After all, God tells us to pray. In fact, He repeatedly commands it. I can see how this might lead one to the faulty understanding that He needs it from us.
pray without ceasing. Thessalonians 5:17
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… 1 Timothy 2:1
Yes, God calls us to prayer. But we must not hastily assume that He does so because of some great need He has to hear from us.
Pause for a moment and consider:
What do you possess that He lacks?
Can you offer anything that He needs?
Don’t get me wrong, our prayers, our worship, our acts of service, and outpourings of love--- they please Him, yes.
But does He need them to keep functioning as God? No.
He remains the all-mighty God of Heaven and Earth whether or not we ever bow our knee or raise our voice in adoration of Him.
So that must mean that prayer is not something we do for His benefit, but rather something He has done for ours.
Take a look at the circumstances leading up to Jesus' teaching of The Lord’s Prayer:
"Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray..." Luke 11:1
Did you catch that? Jesus gave His disciples this lesson on prayer because they asked for it.
Scripture doesn't give us much more insight into what led up to this disciple's request, and this is where the wheels of my imagination start to fill in the gaps. Perhaps after years of following Jesus around so closely, the disciples saw something in His prayer life that was lacking in theirs.
A vitality. An urgency. An all-consuming outpouring. A faith-filled communing.
"Lord, teach us to pray..."
Teach us to pray like that.
The disciples had been walking with Jesus for years by this point, so I think it's safe to assume that they were praying men. But there was only one Man who could pray the way Jesus prayed, and they wanted in on it.
Lord, teach us to pray like that.
So mark this down in the margin of Luke 11:1—
Jesus gave this prayer in response to His disciples very great need for it.
He mirrors the Father, who gifted us with the entire practice of prayer because of our great need for it.
Prayer is a means through which God answers our deepest need. Our need for Him.
When God created us as relational beings He grafted the need for intimacy with our Creator into our DNA as surely as He created us to yearn for water when thirsty.
God designed us to commune with him. Daily. Deeply. Dependently. Prayer is the way we get to do that.
It’s not a chore or a burden or one more thing on our daily list of Christian to-do’s. Prayer is a gift.
At no point during the course of this series on The Lord's Prayer will I tell you that you need to pray at a specific time of day, or while kneeling (or sitting or standing for that matter), or for so many minutes a day or hours a week, or by using particular words and phrases.
But right here at the very beginning, I will tell you this one thing with absolute certainty: The health of your prayer life is inextricably tied to the health of your relationship with God.
With a God who speaks to us and wired within us a need to speak to Him.
Like that first disciple, we too, must know enough to know what to ask for.
Lord, teach us to pray.
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