Lord, Teach Us How To Pray ­­– by Milton Hook

Nov 4, 2015 6391

Mother and Son Praying Together

Mother and Son Praying Together

When we recite the Lord’s Prayer we forget that it is the Lord’s prayer. It is inappropriate for most of us to pray it today, especially those of us in affluent circumstances.

Why would we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” when we already have a freezer full of food and enough money in the bank to refill it scores of times? It seems to be insulting that we should do an Oliver Twist and go to God begging for more when we have plenty.

We need to interpret the Lord’s Prayer in its original setting. Jesus and His closest disciples were going from village to village with their begging bowls in their hands. They had no income, no jobs, no homes, no pensions, no bank balances to draw on. They were entirely dependent on others for their food, clothing, overnight accommodation and temporary shelter from inclement weather. They had very little to call their own. It was, therefore, entirely appropriate for Jesus and His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Our prayers need to be meaningful.

Thankfulness for what we have received could be a major feature of our prayers. The Lord’s Prayer contains no thanks. That is because both versions in the Gospels are probably only excerpts or an abbreviation of what Jesus actually advised.

Jesus never specifically recommended silent prayer yet it can be a rich spiritual experience provided one’s focus is Christ and the Scriptures. I attended a Taize service recently at a local convent. Bible readings and chants were interspersed with quiet periods for silent meditations. One period was devoted to thinking about others in need of special prayer and candles were lit for them. We should not underestimate the power of silent prayer.

I suffer many cringe moments during public prayer. I often hear a rehearsal of lines that have become meaningless with repetition. Sometimes there is flippancy, even downright impertinence. Other times it degenerates into a pre-sermon or a lengthy summary of the sermon. There is everything to gain by taking time beforehand to jot down some key thoughts that will make the prayer significant for other worshippers. Asking someone to pray without preparation rarely results in something uplifting or inspirational.

Private prayer is a very personal act of worship. It cannot be prescriptive. One form does not fit all. It is the individual’s response to the vicissitudes of the moment. One’s own vocabulary and emotions shape it. One’s own timetable governs its length and frequency. One’s own belief structure will seed its content.

“Lord, teach us to pray” remains a relevant request today.

Milton Hook, June 2015

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