Restoring the Lord’s Prayer
By Sara Maynard
Prayer is a vital part of our walk with God, no matter our age, spiritual maturity, or denomination. George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, declared that “prayer is the blood of the soul!” How right he is, it’s truly essential for spiritual life. Yet, working out how to pray is often much more of a challenge than agreeing with these inspirational words. For this, the Church has long turned to the Lord’s Prayer for guidance, but still for many, this hasn’t been fully satisfying.
Perhaps you’re like me, or like I used to be, knowing the Lord’s Prayer off by heart but aside from the “your kingdom come” part, finding it rather flat when I prayed it. The memorized words could be prayed on auto pilot, but they didn’t seem to connect with my heart or passion. I rationalized that Jesus didn’t actually mean “pray like this” he meant rather, “pray sort of like this” or “use this as a sample for what prayer could look like”. After all, isn’t prayer such a personal thing, that no one should put words in your mouth?
Then five and a half years ago, the Lord interrupted my presumptions about what He meant, and actually asked me to pray the prayer he gave us. He asked me to pray it deeply, spending perhaps an hour praying through the words and phrases, and to do it daily. Right in that moment, as I received his instructions, my heart sank. I had never truly experienced the glory of the Lord’s Prayer, so assumed being obedient to praying it daily would be a joyless burden. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! Instead of being a burden, this unique call to his prayer was to be one of the greatest gifts He’s ever given me.
The Lord’s Prayer has become sacramental for me, or in other words, a means, or vehicle, of extraordinary grace.
I could write on this prayer for many pages, and in fact I did so in my book The Prayer of All Prayers, but let me restrain myself and just share a few thoughts that might provoke you to dive back into this prayer if it hasn’t been central in your prayer life.
Let it expand – To find life in praying the Lord’s Prayer let it become the framework that you pour your life and needs and burdens into. Let the petitions in their divinely ordered sequence, become the signposts that you walk past as you journey through this prayer.
Apply it – Make it personal to the rawest places of your life and your family, don’t just glide through it at a surface level. Let it expose the stubborn places where unforgiveness has felt justified and thus accommodated in your heart. Let the prayer for His will to be done give you space to pray through areas and reasons why you’re struggling to trust the goodness of His will. Let Him Father you in these places. Let your praying this prayer include lament, praise, thanksgiving, and of course intercession. Respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as He guides you to pray it for many others that He will bring to mind.
Keep at it – Purpose to pray it regularly, daily is best. Consider setting aside 20 or 30 minutes for this practice initially, then watch it grow. Allow the prayer to stabilize your emotions and corral your distracted thoughts in this strange time of Covid. It is a time when many of us are exhausted from technology and uncertainty, overwhelmed emotionally, and finding it hard to pray. Let the Lord’s Prayer carry you along in its strong, deep current. Let it be a means of grace.
I think at times if Jesus was standing right here with me, and I requested of him – like those disciples in Luke 11:1 who had just witnessed him in prayer – “Lord, disciple me in prayer like John discipled his followers… teach me to pray as you do…”
What do I suppose His response would be?
What do you suppose His response would be if you asked Him to disciple you to pray like He prays?
Well, after having led and taught prayer and intercession at a national level for 20 years, I’m pretty sure I know how He would respond to this request. Jesus would smile, His eyes would light up with a look of delight, and He would say, “of course!” He would then say: “pray then this way”, and He would give me the Lord’s Prayer, a beautiful means of grace to teach me, under the guidance of the Spirit, to pray with the same type of faith, and surrender, and intimacy and authority that He does.
If prayer has become dry and burdensome for you, or if you feel stuck in the undertow of emotions that Covid has released, or even if you are just hungry to be closer to Jesus, let Him restore the Lord’s Prayer to the centre of your prayer life. Join the millions who pray it deeply and daily.
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.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.