Praying The Lord’s Prayer During Lent and Beyond

Paul Dumbrille

    Without doubt, the prayer that Christians know the best is what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It appears twice in Scripture, with slight differences, in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. This article uses the NRSV translation of the Matthew version. The Prayer is contained within the Sermon on the Mount, and in the lead-in to it, Jesus says, “Pray then this way”. What follows outlines Jesus’ approach to prayer – that is how to pray, not necessarily what we should pray for. The central themes Jesus articulates here are threefold: Praise, Petitions, and Thanksgiving. It focuses succinctly on two agendas – God’s and ours – and it places priority on the Kingdom message and doing God’s will. Perhaps during Lent, we can use the Lord’s Prayer to broaden how we pray, not just what we pray for.

Our Father in Heaven,

    This clearly identifies to whom the prayer is addressed: God, who is our Parent. We are all children of God. Pray with simplicity, as a child would, for peace and fellowship with people throughout the world.

Hallowed be your name.

    Here the word “name” stands for God. The ancient English word “hallowed” means “holy.” This phrase in contemporary English might be better said as, “Holy are you, O God.” We are to recognize the utter difference between humanity and God: only God is holy. Pray with humility to recognize what is false and ask for guidance to reject it. Pray with love for those who teach and guide us to recognize truth, and what is holy.

    The prayer then continues with five petitions.

Your Kingdom come.

    This recognizes the priority that Jesus places on the message that he is ushering in a new Kingdom, in which love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation are paramount. Pray with conviction for a stronger faith to live as God would have us live, and that this message will spread throughout the world.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

    What Jesus means by “God’s will” is indicated throughout the Sermon on the Mount. It encompasses a call to excellence in living: showing mercy; being hungry for righteousness; eager for spiritual nourishment; and striving to make peace among people and parties in conflict. The sphere of our actions is “on earth.” Jesus asks us to recognize that we have a role to play, working in conjunction with God, to help establish his Kingdom. It is not a prayer that leaves everything up to God, but rather represents a partnership arrangement. Pray with trust for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in understanding what God wants us to realize, what actions are required in our own lives to serve others, and what is needed to bring peace and love, growing God’s Kingdom.

Give us this day our daily bread.

    This segment of the prayer turns to the human agenda. It includes all the essentials that are required to get through the day. Pray with expectation for your needs and the needs of others for: spiritual growth; emotional development; intellectual maturity; and physical requirements. Pray with thanksgiving for all the blessings we receive.

Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.

    Debts/debtors, in this context, is otherwise translated as sins or trespasses. Whichever word is used, it tells us that there is much that we need to do to be part of God’s Kingdom, and to recognize that we fail short in our tasks, as others will also fail. Pray with humility for forgiveness from God when we, and others, have fallen short and have shown prejudice, unkindness. selfishness, and hate.

And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

    This is a plea for help with avoiding despair, desperation, despondency, and-all the things that remove us from vibrant participation in God’s Kingdom, and deprive us of the ability to think not only of ourselves, but also of others. Pray with confidence for God’s presence when you are tested, when you are tempted to do wrong or fail to do the right thing. Pray with certainty to receive God’s strength when tempted to follow ways that dishonour God.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.

    Matthew ends the prayer without this ending. However, we usually finish by acknowledging God’s power and purpose. Pray with anticipation, acknowledging that what we ask for is God’s to give, and asking for guidance about what we can give. Ask for God’s help when we are in doubt, and lose trust in God’s Divine Presence in all things.

    Amen. We usually end our prayers with the word that in Hebrew means “So be it; truly”.

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