In Matthew’s Gospel, the “Lord’s Prayer,” is taught right in the middle of what has been called “The Sermon on the Mount.” In this context, Jesus is talking to a large crowd of people. However, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus taught a very similar prayer just to his disciples after this interaction in Luke 11:1…

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” – Luke 11:1

I have a bunch of thoughts about this! Where was the certain place that Jesus prayed? If we knew, wouldn’t everyone go there to pray? How long did they watch him pray? That must have been a little awkward. What did they see in the way that Jesus prayed that made them want to imitate him? I find it very comforting to know that they too were a bit confused by prayer… they didn’t know if they were doing it right and they just wanted Jesus to show them. I can relate to that feeling. But, notice what they want. They want Jesus to teach them “just as John taught his disciples.” That is interesting! Unfortunately, we don’t have a record of how John taught his disciples to pray, but we do know that it was common for Rabbis to teach specific prayers to their disciples. These prayers were meant to be memorized and repeated word for word by the disciples. A disciple’s virtue was measured by how well he could recite the rabbi’s prayers from memory, with the same cadence, and tone as the Rabbi. This is because typically Rabbis taught their disciples what to pray… not how to pray.

Jesus was different. He did not teach a formula just to be memorized and repeated. He doesn’t suggest that there is anything magic in the words that he uses. Instead, he is teaching us how to pray.

We can be confident of this because Jesus doesn’t repeat the same words in the two times that he teaches us the prayer. The prayers in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 are different, and that is good news! They are very similar, but they are not exact. This means that Jesus used this prayer as a template, not as a formula.

I’m guessing that many of you have memorized the Lord’s Prayer… it is one of the most commonly known passages in the Bible. That is a good thing, but instead of just praying the prayer as it is, try praying it like a template. Instead of saying, “Our Father, hallowed by your name…” What would you say? Put it in your words. Maybe we too can learn how to pray… not just what to pray.

Josh Rose
Discipleship Pastor

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