The Disciples’ Prayer
Well, you might think the title of tonight’s post is a little deceiving, but it’s not, really…. You see, I am referring to what most of us know as the Lord’s Prayer. But the truth of the matter is that we have all grown up referring to this well known memorized prayer as the Lord’s Prayer when in fact, Jesus never prayed it! That’s right – He gave it to his disciples as a model of prayer for THEM to follow. So how do we know this? Well, for starters, Matthew, the tax collector turned disciple lets us know in the Gospel that he wrote – the first book of the New Testament. In the 6th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples about how they should practice their faith.
It was common practice in those days, especially by the Pharisees, to make a big deal out of giving alms to the poor and making sure that you were seen doing good deeds. In fact, the Pharisees would stand in the street and blow horns announcing their intent to give to the poor. Of course, the poor people would flock to receive gifts, but so would all those who were curious about what was going on. Jesus let his disciples know that this was inconsistent with how God wanted us to act – that our giving should be more discreet.
Jesus went on to tell the disciples that they should also think about their prayers; and not babble like the pagans did. Then, He gave them a model of prayer to follow, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. Now most of us memorized this when we were very young, and the only difference is that some of us learned to use the word “trespasses” while others learned to say “debts.” Even today, when the prayer is said in public, you can almost feel the hesitation in the room to see which word the leader will use in the prayer. It’s that powerful.
But there are several indications that point to the fact that this was not how Jesus prayed. For starters, He tell us, “this is how YOU should pray….. Our father…” That’s because we are all adopted sons and daughters while Jesus Himself is the only natural Son of God. In other words, His relationship with the Father is different than our relationship with the Father. We are all sons and daughters, but Jesus is the real deal – part of the Godhead. So we really don’t know how Jesus started His prayers, but it most certainly wasn’t with “Our Father…”
But there is another interesting line in the prayer that lets us know that Jesus didn’t pray this prayer. In fact, you know the line well – “Forgive us our trespasses (or debts)…” Whichever word you use, it means the same thing – sin. That’s right – forgive us our sins… Since Jesus was sinless, He never would have prayed this line. There was nothing for the Father to forgive in Him – that was the whole point of Jesus. He was crucified for our sins, and that makes it possible for us to be re-united with God in heaven. Hopefully, this all makes sense to you, because we never think about the realities of the prayer and how it was given to the disciples, and to us.
Of course, you know that the verse for tonight is the very prayer I have been speaking about. Personally, I like “trespasses” better than “debts”, so I have used that version, but whatever way you learned it, please remember that it is for us, from Jesus Himself. From Matthew 6:9-13, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.’
By the way, that last line appears in some of the early manuscripts, but not all of them. So some churches, most notably the Catholic churches, tend to exclude it. That’s why, in general, when the prayer is prayed in unison, the longer version is usually used, so as to not embarrass those who continue with the last line when the rest of the congregation has finished without including the final sentence.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that Jesus wants to have a personal prayer relationship with you. He wants to hear from you and to have you confess to Him what is on your mind – after all, he already knows, including what is in your heart. My prayer is that you will be drawn closer to Jesus, and to His Father, throughout all the days of your life. And by the way, when you are too tired to even know what to pray about, the Holy Spirit takes over for you and prays on your behalf. Did you know that? I’d love to go into more detail about that – in fact, I think I feel another post coming on…. but that’s for another day… In the meantime, have a great day in the Lord; grace and peace…