The Lord‘s Prayer: Getting Started
The Lord’s Prayer is possibly the most recited of all Christian prayers. The vast majority of Christians know it by memory yet it is very seldom used as fodder for spiritual formation and enrichment. This is a shame and something we will seek to rectify in the coming months. Each month we will provide questions and exercises designed to help you ponder and explore this prayer of Jesus. It is our hope that this prayer will become a prayer of your heart, a guide to your path and the inner longing of your spirit.
The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9 -13 in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as in Luke 11: 2 - 4. It is also known as the Pater Noster, which is Latin for ‘Our Father.’ The Lord’s Prayer is the most well-known prayer in the Christian religion and as such has been prayed by those in the Church ever since the Church’s inception. Because of our seemingly innate familiarity with this prayer we are often not challenged by the words, concepts and teachings concerning God, ourselves and others contained in this profoundly simple prayer.
This prayer is referred to as the Lord’s Prayer because it was given by Jesus in response to his disciples’ request to be taught how to pray. It is interesting that we have no record of Jesus actually having prayed this prayer.
As this prayer is traditionally prayed, it concludes with the words, “…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” This is known as the doxology and was not originally a part of this prayer, as testified to by the earliest manuscripts on which this passage was recorded. The doxology was added as a result of its use in the liturgy of the early Church. Although the traditional doxology is still prayed as we recite the Lord’s Prayer, it does not normally appear in today’s translations.
There are sixty-one words contained in the original English translation of the Lord’s Prayer, as written below:
Our Father in heaven,
May your name be honored.
May your kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
Give us our food for today,
And forgive us our sins,
just as we are forgiven those who sinned against us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
This is a very simple and straight forward prayer. It can be neatly divided into two parts: the first part focuses our attention on the person of God, while the second part deals with the flesh and blood reality involved in living life each day. But these observations merely scratch the surface of what is contained in the 61 words of this prayer, for this prayer brings us face-to-face with the radical communal nature of Christianity, the dual concepts of the transcendence and immanence of God, the authority of God in our lives, and our submission and level of desire for that authority. The earthly realities of hunger, temptation and evil are also delineated, as well as the reciprocal nature of forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer, from the first word ‘Our’ to the last phrase ‘deliver us from evil,’ challenges us to look at what we believe about God, life, and ourselves and to further explore how we live our life.
This prayer runs counter to much of western culture and western spirituality. It points to a God beyond knowing, a giving up of autonomy, and the dismantling of the individualistic and privatized spiritual life.
Beginning Your Journey with the Lord’s Prayer
As you enter into your own journey with God and the 61 words contained in this prayer, I strongly encourage you to openly and honestly present yourself to God and purpose to allow God to have God’s way with you today and in the days to come. I further encourage you to pause and carefully consider the words, concepts, truths or phrases that bring you a sense of discomfort and/or resistance. In the spiritual life it is often discomfort and resistance that become the doorways to divine and self-discovery and through that, personal transformation into Christ likeness.
Now, throughout the month of January slowly and deliberately read the Lord’s Prayer in it's entirety at each sitting. As you do this, take notice of any words you are drawn to or resistant towards. Take some time to journal about any insights, feelings and/or thoughts that arise. Also, once you have finished your time, endeavor to make the words that seem to grab hold of your heart and soul a source for reflection during the rest of your day. Seek to recall the words to your mind and ponder them again and again as you live life that day.
Possible format for time spent in the Lord’s Prayer:
Begin your time seeking to be still and present with God.
- Ask God to help guide and direct you through this time.
- Slowly read the Lord’s Prayer a couple of times, being aware of your feelings and thoughts.*
*Although you probably know the Lord’s Prayer by heart I encourage you to read it, for this can serve to slow you down, which is quite important. The goal is not to get through the Lord’s Prayer but to slow yourself down externally and internally. By doing so you are more likely to be present to God during this time and reading the Lord’s Prayer can help. If you choose to recite the prayer throughout the day (which is an excellent idea), also seek to do so slowly, allowing yourself to linger over each phrase – momentarily pausing in order to possibly hear the invitations and challenges of God. This pausing is a way of saying to God, “Your servant is listening.” (1 Sam 3:10)
Briefly journal about the feelings and thoughts that arise as you read through this prayer, paying particular attention to the words/phrases/concepts to which these feelings and thoughts are attached.
- Conclude your time with prayer, asking God to help you carry the words that generated particular feelings/thoughts with you and to ponder them throughout your day.
Questions for journaling time
When you have finished pondering the Lord’s Prayer, go back and reflect on your entire time and answer the following questions:
What thematic threads do you find as you read through the Lord’s Prayer?
As you worked your way through the Our Father, what were you drawn to? Why?
As you worked your way through the Our Father, what were you resistant toward? Why?
I would encourage you to seek to do this 3-4 days a week. Now having said that I must add that I am a big believer in ‘something is better than nothing’ and ‘beginning where you are,’ so if this is all new to you start with one day a week and build upon that. As you spend time in this marvelous prayer you will find you are drawn back to it time and time again. So give yourself the freedom to start small and grow into the 3-4 days a week format.
Next month we will focus our attention on the words, ‘Our Father.’
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