The Lord’s Prayer – do we pray it or no?

There are two main approaches to the Lord’s Prayer (LP).

  • The Lord’s Prayer was meant to be prayed verbatim.
  • The Lord’s Prayer was not meant to be prayed verbatim, but rather serves as a model prayer.

Most of the church for 2000 years has opted for the first, while also affirming that it is also a valid application to use it as a pattern; some evangelicals accept only the second. Let’s explore the options:

  1. How not to pray
  2. The intent of the Lord’s Prayer
  3. The use of the Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church

1. How not to pray, according to Matthew 6

The Lord compares his teaching with two very different alternatives. First, he tells his disciples not to pray as “hypocrites” – in this case, he describes Jewish men who wish to be seen by other people (Matt 6:5-6). The problem was not that they stood to pray in the synagogue or Temple (Luke 18:9); that was common practice. Nor that they prayed in public; that too was the norm. The problem was their motivation, to be seen praying with extravagant piety. If they wanted to give the litmus test to their own motivations, they might try praying in private and see if they are still so earnest.

"Don't pray like the pagans do!"

“Don’t pray like the pagans do!”

The second warning has to do with “pagans.” They pray with “many words” and with “babbling.” This clause is poorly interpreted by some. Jesus is not saying, “Don’t pray like they do in the synagogue, because they use set prayers.” Rather he points to pagans who use magical formulas to gain the attention of their gods, like the one shown in the picture. In paganism, the more words the better, and the practitioner would crank out prayer after prayer of nonsense sentences. (more…)

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The Lord’s Supper: one invitation you don’t want to miss [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

In the Catholic church, the celebration of mass is the high point of the week’s services, and the worship service is often simply called the mass. Some Protestant worship services, too, focus on the sacrament, notably in Episcopalian or Anglican churches.

In reacting against Rome have we evangelicals drifted away from the Bible and pushed communion into a dim corner? In traditional European or North American churches, communion has a role, but it is overshadowed by other vital activities such as worship and preaching. Some celebrate communion monthly, some quarterly, some annually, some not at all. (more…)

How I have devotions

Part of my traditional New England upbringing was to learn to maintain boundaries between private issues, family matters, and public information. When I asked my parents what they were talking about, at times I heard, “Well, it doesn’t concern you.” Nothing gruff, like “it’s none of your business,” no “you wouldn’t understand.” Just, “if you needed to know, we’d tell you.” It’s the polar opposite to the tell-all autobiography, the Kardashian, Povichian culture in which we daily bathe. That probably explains my reticence about sharing the details of my private devotional life.

Nevertheless, I’ve been learning that to teach others to pray is one must provide an example. Much of what I know about prayer has been by listening to older believers as they approach God (this teaching method is sometimes called mimesis). So, if I blog or teach, I’m not just to communicate “doctrine” but also demonstrate prayer. (more…)

How to Teach your Church to Pray: Don’t tell them, show them!

The Twelve learned to pray by asking, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1 NIV). For that they received the Lord’s Prayer, which functions as Jesus intended, whether used as a model or prayed verbatim. In general the North American church fails to teach its people to pray. For some evangelicals the training begins and ends with, “Forget about formal prayers you may have learned. Prayer is talking to God, so just talk to him like you would talk to another person.”

This boggles the mind, when one considers that it is difficult to pray regularly; that it is difficult to pray well, that is, following biblical priorities; that it is difficult to pray with persistence. (more…)