The Lord’s Prayer is certainly the most famous prayer in the Bible, and possibly the most famous in the world. It is often held up as a pattern for Christian prayer: rightly so, for Jesus introduced it by telling His disciples, “This, then, is how you should pray.”
But something I’d not seen before, until preaching through the Sermon on the Mount these past nine months, is that the Lord’s Prayer is also more than a prayer. It is a picture of authentic Christian experience.
As David Cook says in his book The Unheeded Christ, “…if I could get alongside you when you were quite alone and you were praying to God, your praying would tell me what you truly believe. By the way you pray, you would be telling me your aspirations, your hopes and your fears… If the Sermon on the Mount is about the culture of God’s kingdom, then that culture will be most clearly reflected in the way Jesus teaches us to pray.”
The Lord’s Prayer is in central position in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus shows us what the flourishing life He sets before us looks like. In the immediate context of Jesus’ condemnation of people whose religion is all show, He shows us the real thing.
The true disciple of Jesus will know God as Father (which only comes through the access won by Jesus on the cross, and the regenerating work of His Spirit). The true disciple will be longing for God’s name to be honoured, above all. They will be asking for God’s will (not just ours!) to be done on earth as in heaven – and wanting that in their own life.
They will be expressing their humble dependence on God for their daily needs, not proudly thinking they can do life on their own. They will be aware of their sin, and need of forgiveness, and coming to God to seek it. As they see their own weakness, and the great spiritual battle in, they’ll be seeking God’s protection from temptation, and His deliverance from the Evil One.
So, then, the Lord’s Prayer is indeed a pattern for our prayers, but it is also a picture of the heart attitudes of the true disciple of Jesus. As such, it’s a good diagnostic: is this really us? Is it you? Does the Lord’s prayer reflect what matters most to you?
If so, then of course, we will indeed pray along these lines.
The Lord’s Prayer can also help us in another way. It’s so well-known; and in conversations with those who aren’t yet Christians, it would be a brilliant way to show what being a follower of Jesus is actually like.