The Lord’s Prayer (part 1)

“When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him.

Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

(Mat 6:5-13 WEB)

I want to talk about what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” for a while. We will begin this study a little before the actual prayer, because the lead up is important. There are two instances where this model prayer is recorded, once in Matthew, which I have quoted here, and once in Luke. This is not an example of the synoptic gospels repeating each other. Matthew’s version is during the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is teaching the public. Luke’s version records that Jesus was praying and when He finished His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. It was a private time. Interesting thing is that both “models” are almost identical. This tells me that this is an important thing for us to know.

In this study we will be focusing on the more familiar Sermon on the Mount version found in Matthew chapter 6.

Jesus began by saying, “When you pray.” He did not say anything like if or should you happen to pray. Jesus assumed that His followers would pray. He still assumes that today but we often fall short in that regard. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers urging them to pray more. In fact, he said to “pray without ceasing.” (1Thes. 5.17) So we need to be diligent in our prayer. We are not bothering God when we talk to Him. He’s our Father, and He’s a good Father who wants to hear from His children often.

Jesus then said that we shouldn’t use vain repetitions or a lot of meaningless words as some versions say. Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience at the time and he said that this was something the Gentiles, or non-Jews, did. Please keep in mind, there were no Christians at this time. So anyone other that a Jew was automatically a pagan. Someone who worshipped at least one idol. While some African tribes are known to have not worshipped a deity and some of the Asian philosophies claimed to not worship a deity (they actually did and still do) atheism was not a thing in the first century. Every one worshipped at least one major deity and most people proudly claimed many gods. This is who Jesus was talking about. These people believed that their gods made of wood or stone would hear them if they talked loud enough or if they repeated themselves enough.

This wasn’t something new to Roman controlled Judea. Elijah met with some Baal worshippers back in his day and saw the same thing. These pagans “ took the bull which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, “Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice, and nobody answered. They leaped about the altar which was made. At noon, Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud; for he is a god. Either he is deep in thought, or he has gone somewhere, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he sleeps and must be awakened.” They cried aloud, and cut themselves in their way with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. (1Kings 18.26-28)

Jesus doesn’t want us to think this way. God hears us no matter what. We don’t have to do anything special to get his attention.

Another thing that Jesus mentioned in this lesson was that we should go into the inner room and shut the door. I don’t think Jesus was trying to say that public prayer is wrong. He prayed in public, as did the disciples and the apostles. However, private, one on one conversation with the Father is vital to a believer’s spiritual well being. I believe this is what Jesus was to convey to his listeners. The religious leaders of that day loved to stand on the corner or in the market and pray publicly, and loudly! They wanted attention, and they got it. Jesus was saying do not do this! Praying is not something we do to draw attention to ourselves, it is conversation with out Father.

Now I know some of you are thinking that I’m saying not to bless the food before you eat in public. You can, or you can thank God in your mind. He hears silent prayer. If you feel you need to bow your head and say a quick prayer of thanks, that’s okay too. What is being taught here is not to make a spectacle of yourselves. Don’t pray just so that others will see you praying. That’s what the Pharisees did, and Jesus didn’t like it.

We’ll take a break here and pick up at this spot in the next lesson. I know, we haven’t even gotten into the actual prayer yet, but I said that the points Jesus made leading up to the prayer were important. And I’m sure that you can see that they are. Till next time.

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