When you say your prayers, say, (BBE)
So Jesus told them, “Pray in this way: (CEV)
When you pray, say this: (GW)
When you pray, say: (NASB)
This is how you should pray: (NLT)(Luke 11:2)
I have clipped for you the variations across the versions above. It is interesting that Jesus is giving the disciples the actual words to say. That is because that is what they asked for.
The double accusative in Greek
- to pray — infers that the disciples were asking for the words to pray. Not the way to pray but the actual words to say. That is, teach us what we should say when we pray. Tell us the words to use. Give us a pattern to use for praying. Give us a model prayer. The present infinitive [proseuchesthai] refers to any and all praying that the disciples might be engaged in. The experts are divided as to whether this means a prayer to pray for all occasions, or an example of the kind of words to pray and what to cover.
Interestingly, Jesus appears to answer both possibilities. Effectively, here are some words to use in a general, all encompassing prayer, for all occasions, and it will act as an example of how to go about it and what to pray. The question comes from one disciple but the answer is directed to all of them.
This may cause lots of debate. What does this say about the difference between praying freely from the heart and / or using prepared prayers like one may find in a prayer book? Is Jesus inferring with these words, that whenever we pray we should use the Lord’s Prayer? That our only prayer should be the Lord’s Prayer? No, I think that would be ridiculous. It would reduce our praying to a set formula which would be unchanging. I must admit my bias in that case. I am one who does not like prayers from the prayer book. I want my prayers to come from my heart and not somebody else’s heart.
While saying that I realize there are people who value the Prayer Book. I am sure the principle is, to each his own. Go with what works for you. I guess my feelings toward it all are coloured by an experience of the past, where at a combined service of churches in a town, a particular minister (who shall remain nameless) was asked to pray impromptu. There was a long silence before a rather stilted prayer at the level a young child would pray, was offered. There were reasons which I won’t go into in this Gem. But the sad fact is, that after years of being a minister of the Lord in a church, there was no growth. The man could not even take the normal kinds of prayers offered in the book and generalize them. That to me, indicates something sadly lacking at a fundamental level.
I am sure Jesus did not give the Lord’s Prayer intending that to be the only prayer we prayed. Or that we only spoke to God from the words on a page that someone else has crafted. To me that is counter productive to the very purpose of prayer. In essence prayer is talking to God. I wonder how our spouse or our girlfriend / boyfriend would feel, if each time we communicate with them we read a passage from the book to them as our way to communication with them. I suspect it would get a bit old a bit quick. You see no hint in Scripture of Jesus using a book to speak to His Father in Heaven. However I would hasten to add, He did use the Word of God (in His case the Old Testament) to frame His prayers. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are stuck for prayers, pray the prayers of the Bible back to Father God. There are many prayers throughout Scripture which can be used. (See Gem 635)
My advice to you would be if you use a common prayer book or written prayers frequently, not to allow the prayer book to be your mainstay in your communication with God. Or maybe I should say, don’t use the prayers from that daily devotional book you use, to be the sum total of your prayer life. The relationship between God and you is worth more than that. Let the prayer book be the catalyst to you praying deeper prayers from your own heartfelt thoughts.
But yes it is true, it seems that one of the disciples asked for an example of the words to pray. Or maybe taking it to extremes, an example that could be a focused prayer that could fit all circumstances and would give a framework, around which to model prayer. Well, that is what we have in the Lord’s Prayer. We will pull it apart over the next gems and look at the segments of it in detail. There are some people who only pray the Lord’s Prayer because that is the only one they know. I have news for you and it is all good. You were destined for more than that. Prayer is meant to be intimate communication with God. And guess what, by definition, prayer is two-way. You talk to Him and He will talk to you. Sound exciting? It is!
A non-Christian has no right to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Of course many do and that is fine. I am just saying they have no right to pray it. I will explain in the next Gem.Ian Vail
The third petition of the Lord’s Prayer is repeated daily by millions who have not the slightest intention of letting anyone’s will be done but their own.Aldous Huxley
In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.John Bunyan
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.Martin Luther