Over the next few weeks, I've committed to praying and reflecting on the Lord's Prayer that is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I'll be sharing my thoughts and key takeaways with you from this time in the hope that you too will study the prayer, its context, and how it applies to your own life and leadership.
This then is how you should pray: "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." - Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
Setting The Stage
The first part of my reflection time was spent reading the chapters in Matthew and Luke prior to Jesus giving his famous instructions on how to pray. I like knowing the context and setting for any verse or group of verses I study in the Bible, because I believe it helps me to fully understand the meaning behind the verse.
Too often I find myself emotionally drawn to a verse that I believe says one thing to me but when read in the context of the overall letter or book of the Bible I later find out meant something completely different. Here are some notes that I took today while reading the chapters leading up to the delivery of the Lord's Prayer:
- Jesus' popularity is growing rapidly.
- Primarily he is becoming known as both a teacher and healer.
- The crowd following him is getting so big that it is difficult to find time alone with his disciples.
- Jesus' teachings are focused primarily on transforming the way people approach life, leadership, and service towards one another.
- The religious leaders of the day are becoming more and more a target of his teaching, which appears to leave people wondering who or what should be the example they follow in their faith.
- Jesus' Sermon on the Mount clearly articulates his vision for life in relationship with God including the importance of prayer.
Preparing Your Heart For Prayer
Jesus' life on earth revealed a new way of living, leading and serving. His actions and instructions provide people with an example that is often contrary to everything else going on around them.
During the time of Jesus many people made praying a spectacle, an act or show, something they wanted everyone to hear and see. For some reason they felt that this type of display made them more righteous or revered.
Jesus turns this type of thinking on its head when he challenges everyone to "not be like the hypocrites" that pray on the corners, talking loudly, so everyone can see them. Instead, Jesus encourages his followers to keep their prayer life private and personal.
Private in that it is not to be done for show but rather in the quite of your home and room if possible. Take away the distractions that surround you. Remove yourself from others and the pressure to say just the right thing.
Personal in that you should focus on the desires of your heart and remember that you are praying to your Father in heaven, not some idol or distant unrelateable God.
It is in this setting and with these initial instructions that Jesus sets up the answer to the question, "Lord, how then shall we pray?" Tomorrow we will look at the first part of the Lord's Prayer.
- When, where, and how do you pray?
- What sort of things do you pray about?
- Do you pray for the people you love, lead, and serve each day?
Make it a great day!