“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:5-8
Giving Fresh Meaning to the Lord’s Prayer
Before I knew the Lord, I was fascinated by the ritual of church: the hymns, the recited refrains, the scripture references in bold in my bulletin, the doxology, and the Lord’s prayer. When I was very young, I would watch churchgoers lift their eyes from their bibles when the pastor asked them to begin reciting the Lord’s prayer - in the King James, of course! My eyes would scour the bulletin, looking for the words the congregation knew by heart. It felt like I was left out of a special club because I couldn’t utter those words from memory, that my lack of “spirituality” would be like the words faker or interloper painted on my forehead. It wasn’t until much later, when I finally heard a message about what the Lord’s prayer actually means, did these verses really capture my heart.
The Lord’s prayer is a guide to some of the most powerful, authentic prayer I’ve ever uttered:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” God, you’re awesome. You are holy, righteous, and so good. You know much better than me, so please do what you want here on earth.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Lord, you are my provider. You know me, my heart, and every thought that crosses my brain. You know the things I think I need. But Lord, I ask you now to provide me with my actual needs. The things I need to keep following you.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Phew. This is a big one. Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for the unkind thoughts I had about that lady at the grocery store. Forgive me for the words I spoke in anger to my daughter. Forgive me for the patterns of thinking that keep me prisoner to sin. Forgive me for not trusting you. Forgive me for not following you as you have commanded.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Father, protect me from my enemy, who lives, for when I’m weak, vulnerable, distracted, and powerless.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” All of these things I ask, Lord, because You deserve my very best. You are worthy of my very best.
Jesus gave us this prayer to combat artificial spirituality, to help us avoid empty phrases, to help us find words when we’re so broken we can’t find the words for ourselves. I know that I’m so grateful to have a reminder of what to say when the right words are hard to find.
Prayer: Lord, let my prayers, even when I don’t have the smartest, most spiritual words, be sweet to your ears. Help me grow in my relationship with You through these words, authentic words uttered in private.