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Teach Us How To Pray

By Marvin A. McMickle

Matthew 6:5-13

There may be no more familiar prayer in the entire world than the Lord's Prayer. It does not seem to matter where you go in the world; if you were to invite people to repeat those words with you the vast majority of people could say them. We may not know many other portions of scripture, and we may not know any other prayer or passage well enough to say from memory, but most of us could work our way through the Lord's Prayer. There might be some division over one part of that prayer, and that would involve whether to say forgive us our trespasses, or forgive us our debts or perhaps forgive us our sins.

The Luke version of the prayer found in Luke 11, which is the version preferred by Roman Catholics, differs from the Matthew version, because it does not include the last three lines about the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. However, with those few differences set aside, most people in this country and in many places around the world could repeat the words of the Lord's Prayer. It is a prayer that many of us learned in our childhood and continue to repeat over and over again for the rest of our lives.

What concerns me this morning is whether or not repeating the prayer is all that we are doing. Has the Lord's Prayer become like the Pledge of Allegiance or the words of the national anthem; words that we speak without really listening to or considering what we are saying? I believe that the words of the Lord's Prayer are among the most revolutionary words ever spoken. When you stop to consider what those words actually say, and if you should decided to live out your life in accordance with what those words actually say, your whole life would begin to move in an entirely different direction.

Consider this prayer in a clause-by-clause analysis. Our father who art in heaven. In this first line we are reminded that no matter what we may face in this world, we have someone to turn to who is big enough, and wise enough and strong enough to help us face and conquer anything. We have a father in heaven that is watching over us and guiding and directing our steps. We have a father in heaven who reminds us that there is a power and a purpose at work in the world beyond our narrow personal and national goals. This prayer automatically causes us to lift up our eyes and lift up our heads and lift up our hearts beyond the problems we face in this world, to a God who urges us to say that "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal."

If we have a father in heaven, then the next clause in the prayer directs us on what our relationship to that father ought to be; hallowed be thy name. We need to understand the holiness of God, which includes his majesty, his power, his wisdom, his timelessness and his unchanging nature and character all at the same time. God is holy, meaning that God is unlike us in every way possible. You and I are limited creatures who are tied down by time, space and knowledge. We can only be in one place at a time, and there are a multitude of things about which we can only answer by saying I don't know.

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