Some call it the Lord’s Prayer, the Model Prayer, the Disciples’ Prayer, but whatever you want to call the short five-verse petition from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that no other recorded prayer contains as much concise truth and instruction on building a relationship with the Father as is contained in the sixty-six words that begin with, “Our Father which art in heaven…” Mere recitation takes a little under twenty seconds but application of the principles and theology contained can easily stretch to twenty years, even a lifetime. It is not a prayer to be read or said but to be processed and lived. Jesus decried the Pharisees’ lifeless form of praying by rote and ritual as being “vain repetition”. We have all recited or repeated the words of this prayer, but its very purpose is to free us from being repetitive. “After this manner therefore pray…” This isn’t repeat after me, instead the prayer contains the basic elements that constitute thorough and healthy prayer. A gifted parrot could be taught to “say” a prayer, “Polly want a cracker?”, but it could never be taught to “pray” a prayer because prayer is more than recitation; it is heart-work, artwork, emotion, pleas for help, seeking, and beseeching, dialogue, relationship and transaction.
Arthur Wellesley commented that “the Lord’s Prayer contains the sum total of religion and morals”. Frederick Maurice adds, “The Lord’s Prayer may be committed to memory quickly, but it is slowly learnt by heart”. Luther pressed the head of every family to teach it to their children. Tertullian called the Lord’s Prayer “an abridgment of the entire Gospel” because it contains the essence of all that Jesus taught. It is a whole library in a few lines, an ocean of wisdom in a few droplets, a whole college-curricula in a short paragraph. Rowan Williams, once Archbishop of Canterbury stated, “If somebody said, give me a summary of the Christian faith on the back of an envelope, the best thing to do would be to write our Lord’s prayer”. I’ve studied it for thirty years and it breathes fresh inspiration each time I read or recite it.
I want you to learn to pray—because everything in life depends on it. Prayer is the lever that lifts the load. It is the currency with which we purchase in the spiritual kingdom, the ignition key that fires the engines of success.
In this mini-book you will find thirty-one helpful hints for getting started on a dynamic prayer-life. The whole book can be read quickly but I recommend you go back and become thoroughly acquainted with each prayer element discussed. For easier memorization each point begins with a capital “P”—“P” for prayer. There are thirty-one days in a month, some months less. We read that Joshua slew thirty-one kings in his quest of Canaan (Joshua 12:24). In prayer we can win a major battle every day of the month. But to do so we must master the basics, asking, believing, being consistent, remaining humble, repentant and forgiving and saturating our conversations with heaven with praise.
Christ is the Teacher on prayer, but He is also the lesson. After a lone disciple watched Jesus open the heavens in supplication he pled, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1) What followed was a synopsis of the earlier teaching from Matthew. Note, he didn’t ask, “Lord, teach us to preach” or “Lord show us how to run the show”. He observed that prayer was the hub of Christ’s life and all other issues were only spokes of the wheel. It is interesting that just one of the Twelve saw the essential value of Christ’s prayer ministry. You would think all would notice the obvious, but so it is today, worshipers are many but volunteers for prayer are few. Leonard Ravenhill preached the same, that today’s church has many singers but few clingers, lots of fashion but little passion, many organizers but few agonizers, lots of fears but few tears. I might add, many interfere but few intercede.
Let’s scale the mount with the sandal-shod Son of God and learn the “how to” of prayer, then return to the lowlands and display the power that is given in service to people needing love. Public ministry is the result of personal maturity and personal maturity comes from private intimacy. The Spirit bids us come, the heart says, here am I.
“When you said, Seek my face; my heart said unto you, Thy face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)