The Lord’s Prayer: An Overview

Scriptures: Matthew 6:9-13; Colossians 4:2-6

This morning we are beginning a series on the Lord’s Prayer. As we begin this series, we must look at the topic of prayer. For most Christians this is one of the most challenging areas of spiritual discipline. I know it is in my own spiritual life. That is, deliberate set-aside times of prayer.

It is one thing to read Scripture, because we get sort of an instant benefit of knowledge and insight, but prayer is one of those things that requires faith. We are praying to someone we cannot see and expecting an answer we cannot control. And like every other thing which requires faith, prayer runs contrary to the natural man and to the world in which we live and thus is not only often neglected but is difficult to do.

F.B. Meyer, the author of a great little book called The Secret of Guidance, said, “The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”

Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of the Victorian era, said of prayer in the church, “If the spirit of prayer is not with the people, the minister may preach like an angel but cannot expect success. There may be in that church wealth, talent, labor and many outreach efforts, but the Lord is not there. Prayer is as sure evidence of the presence of God as the rising of the thermometer is evidence of an increase in temperature. If God is near a church, it must pray. If He is not, one of the obvious signs of His absence will be lethargy in prayer.”

It’s not only in our church, the Christian church, that that’s important. Prayer was important to the life of the Jews, and the disciples. So important, in fact, that the Jews had prewritten prayers for all through the day. I think it was something like eighteen different prayers, that they would say throughout the day.

It was so important to them, that the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray to God in this new faith and understanding – so that they could get it right. Of course, knowing what to say, and knowing what you pray are two different things…

[What follows is “A conversation with the Lord,” adapted from a skit by Andy Lund]

Woman comes out in a house coat and slippers, settles wearily in a seat at a table.

Woman: Man, what a day! Well, I guess I should get ready for bed. I brushed my teeth, and now to say my prayers… Let’s see: “Our Father which art in heaven……..”

Voice of God (unseen): “Yes?

Woman: Don’t interrupt me. I’m praying.

God: But you called me.

Woman: Called you? I didn’t call you. I’m praying. “Our Father which art in heaven…….

God: There, you did it again.

Woman: Did what?

God: Called me. You said, “Our Father which are in heaven.” Here I am….what’s on your mind?

Woman: But I didn’t mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord’s Prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting a duty done.

God: Hmmm… OK. Start over.

Woman: Our Father, who art in heaven…

God: Am I?

Woman: Am I what?

God: Your Father. “Daddy”, if you want the best translation.

Woman: You? Really? I don’t know if I am comfortable with that; it seems kind of… well… personal.

God: That’s what I want. I want you to think of me in a personal way. Think of me as your father your mother as you heavenly parent one who loves and cares about you more than anyone on earth. Share with me your greatest joys and your deepest fears. You can even tell me the things everyone else thinks is boring.

Woman: Well, “Dad”, bed-time’s coming quick. Shall I continue?

God: Sure.

Woman: “Hallowed be thy name……”

God: Hold it. What do you mean by that?

Woman: By what?

God: By “hallowed be thy name?”

Woman: (Smugly): Hallowed means holy. May your name be holy. It means I shouldn’t take your name in vain, so I should say “Oh my gosh” instead of “Oh my God” or “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

God: Well I’m glad to see you learned something in Sunday School. What does it really mean?

Woman: I… I guess I don’t know, completely.

God: It means that everything you do should be done in my name, and should be done with reverence. When you talk about going to church and you give off the image of being a Christian, you cannot gossip and put people down, especially in the same sentence.

Woman: I do that a lot, huh?

God: Yes, you are very good at that. Continue with your prayer.

Woman: I guess you are right. Let’s see: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God: Do you really mean that?

Woman: Sure, why not?

God: What are you doing about it?

Woman: Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.

God: Have I got control of you?

Woman: Well, I go to church.

God: That isn’t what I asked you. What about your bad temper? You’ve really got a problem there, you know. And then there’s the way you spend your money, all on yourself. And what about the kind of books you read?

Woman: Stop picking on me! I’m just as good as some of the rest of those people at church.

God: Excuse me. I thought you were praying for my will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.

Woman: Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I probably could name some others.

God: So could I.

Woman: I haven’t thought about it very much until now, but I really would like to cut out some of those things. I would like to, you know, be really free.

God: Good! Now we’re getting somewhere. We’ll work together, you and I. Some victories can be truly won. I’m proud of you.

Woman: Look, Lord, I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does…”Give us this day our daily bread.”

God: You need to cut out the bread. You’re overweight as it is.

Woman: Hey, wait a minute! What is this, “Criticize me day?” Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden you break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.

God: Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed by it, you know. That’s what I’m trying to get across to you. You called me, and here I am. It’s too late to stop now. Keep praying, I’m interested in the next part of your prayer…..(pause). Well, go on.

Woman: I’m scared to.

God: Scared? Of what?

Woman: I know what you’ll say.

God: Try me and see.

Woman: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

God: What about Alice?

Woman: See? I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why, Lord, she’s told lies about me, spread stories about my family. She never paid back the debt she owes me. I swear I will get even with her.

God: What about your prayer?

Woman: (Defiantly) I didn’t mean it.

God: Well at least you are honest. But it’s not much fun carrying that load of bitterness around inside, is it?

Woman: No. But, I’ll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I got some plans for that neighbor. She’ll wish she had never moved into this neighborhood.

God: You won’t feel any better. You’ll feel worse. Revenge isn’t sweet. Think of how unhappy you already are. But I can change all that.

Woman: You can? How?

God: Forgive Alice . Then I’ll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Alice’s problem and not yours. You will have settled your heart.

Woman: Oh, you’re right. You always are. And more than I want to revenge Alice, I want to be right with You….(pause)…(sigh)…All right. I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She’s bound to be awfully miserable, now that I think about it. Anybody who goes around doing the things she does to others has to be out of it. Some way, somehow, show her the right way. There now!

God: Wonderful! How do you feel?

Woman: Hmmmmm. Well, not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, I feel pretty great! You know, I don’t think I’ll have to go to bed tonight uptight for the first time since I can remember. Maybe I won’t be so tired from now on because I’m not getting enough rest.

God: You’re not through with your prayer. Go on.

Woman: Oh, all right. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

God: Good! Good! I’ll do that. Just don’t put yourself in a place where you will be tempted, that’s your part.

Woman: What do you mean by that?

God: Don’t turn on the TV when you know there are chores that need to be done and kids need help with their homework. Also, about the time you spend chatting or texting with your friends, if you can’t influence the conversation to positive things, perhaps you should re-think the value of those friendships.

Another thing, your neighbors and friends shouldn’t be your standard for “keeping up”. And please don’t use me for an escape hatch.

Woman: Um, I don’t understand the last part.

God: Sure you do. You’ve done it a lot of times. You get caught in a bad situation. You get into trouble and then you come running to me. “Lord, help me out of this mess and I promise you I’ll never do it again.” You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?

Woman: (looks down at feet) Yes, and I am ashamed, Lord. Really I am.

God: Which bargains are you remembering?

Woman: Well, there was the night that my husband was gone to a conference and the children and I were home. The wind was blowing so hard I thought the roof would go any minute and the tornado warnings were out. I remember praying, “Oh, God, if you would spare us, I’ll never skip my devotions again.”

God: The tornado was ten seconds away from landing on your roof when you called me. I protected you, but you didn’t keep your promise, did you?

Woman: I’m sorry Lord, really I am. Up until now I thought that if I just prayed the Lord’s Prayer every day, then I could do what I liked. I didn’t expect anything to happen like it did.

God: (sigh) Go ahead and finish your prayer.

Woman: “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”….Amen.

God: Do you know what the kingdom is? The one you are praying about?

Woman: I have a feeling I don’t…

God: Those who first heard the prayer knew that this was another way of saying my rule. So you are saying for mine is the right to rule you (and everyone else), and all the power, and the glory forever. I am the Creator.

Woman: Wow. That is heavy stuff. I never really thought about it that way.

God: Do you know what would bring me glory? You know what would really make me happy?

Woman: No, but I’d like to know. I want to know how to please you. I can see what a mess I’ve made of my life. And I can see how great it would be to really be one of your followers.

God: You just answered the question.

Woman: I did?

God: Yes. The thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I see that happening between us. You’ve gotten some of those old sins exposed and out of the way now. You are realizing that without forgiveness, you continue on the same vicious cycle in life instead of being able to grow and be happy. But better yet, you are seeing how much prayer can actually change you when you mean what you say. I never asked for big, empty words – just like my Son, Jesus told you. When you pray from the heart, there is no telling what we can do together.

Woman: Lord, let’s see what we can make of me, OK?

God: Yes, let’s see.

[End of skit]

So we will explore the prayer Jesus taught His disciples. And I have to say, it really should be called The Disciple’s Prayer versus the Lord’s Prayer. As I once heard one preacher say, if you really want to see the Lord’s prayer, look at John, chapters 13 through 17, particularly chapter 17. That’s what Jesus did when he was praying to the Father.

Regardless of whether you call it the Disciple’s or the Lord’s Prayer, we want you, as we explore this prayer, to read it daily, to pray it daily, and then – follow through on it, daily. Look at each phrase, even as they did today in the skit, and begin to explore what it means to you. And may God bless your understanding and response, that you might give God praise and bring Him glory.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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