Whole Prayer

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom Come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one”
Matthew 6:9-13.

Jesus said this is how we are to pray. This prayer has been the model for all Christians everywhere ever since. Many of us learned this prayer as children. That’s when I learned it. I had to memorize and recite it in front of my class in elementary school. For years, this prayer has risen from my subconscious. It has been difficult to break the habit of saying it from rote memory. I’ve made a conscious, intentional effort recently to break it down; spending time reading, studying, and praying each part.

I picked up a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer for this purpose, which has been a helpful resource in a number of ways. But one specific lesson hit me with such force in its significance that I decided I needed to make it the topic of this post.

The commentator looked first at the general pattern of the prayer, noting that first God must be given His proper place. He emphasized the first three lines are “the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of God’s Kingdom, and the doing of God’s will”[1]. Only after we’ve given God His rightful place, can we turn to our own needs and requests. He calls the second part of the prayer, “the most comprehensive prayer that men were ever taught to pray”. The next three lines are our petitions to God. He identifies them as covering “our present need, past sin, and future welfare and goodness”, and equates each part to a specific part of the Triune God – the One to whom we pray. Each petition is broken down like this: 

Petition

Part of Life

Presented to God

Give us this day our daily bread

 

Our present need

God the Father, the Creator and Sustainer of life.

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors

 

Our past sin

God the Son, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind and of us.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Our future welfare and goodness

God the Holy Spirit, the Guide, the Helper, and the Protector of life.

In these three short petitions, we take our life: past, present, and future, and lay it before God. As Barclay says it, we take “the whole of life to the whole of God”.

This has helped me significantly to grow in my prayer relationship to God. It has helped me think not only on each specific part of my requests, but also to the specific truths about the person of God to whom I am addressing them. So powerful! The pattern of the Lord’s Prayer is the pattern for all prayer for all time. All of us to all of God.  Jesus gave us so much more in His teaching than the droning repetition of familiar words. He has given us wisdom and perfection in prayer. He has taught us the whole of prayer; how to pray wholly, and be wholly His.

Jesus, “Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory Forever! Amen.” 


 

[1] The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer for Everyman, William Barclay