It is a particular shame that we have ruined the Lord’s Prayer. When the disciples came to Jesus to ask Him to teach them how to pray, He gave them something simple. But first, He told them not to pray like the hypocrites and the heathen. How did the hypocrites and the heathen pray? Well, they prayed so that others could hear them and they repeated the same words over and over without regard to what they were saying. Some of them thought they would get special blessings from many repetitions.
So Jesus said not to pray like that. But what did we do? We took the words, the example, He gave the disciples and we memorized it so we could say it together in church. We made the Lord’s Prayer a vain repetition. But it wasn’t meant to be that. It was meant to be an example. Jesus said: When you pray, pray like this.
Read the words of the Lord’s Prayer as given in the Message. See if it doesn’t feel a lot more like a friend talking with a friend:
Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge! You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.
What do you think? Would that pass the muster as an example of prayer today? It is almost random in structure, just like our thoughts. It is simple, just like we are. It is specific and general at the same time, just like our concerns. I think Jesus gave us an “off-the-cuff” prayer, not something for us to formalize and make the official prayer of our faith.
Sometimes an impromptu prayer is the very best kind.
What do you think?