What is prayer and
how do I start?
How did Jesus teach us to pray?
'When the disciples asked Jesus
to teach them how to pray,
he gave them a simple formula.
"When you pray, this is what you say"
He then told them that prayer that
we know as the Lord's Prayer.'
This is interesting.
Jesus didn't exhort them to
spend hours in meditation.
Nor did he expect them to always be able
to express prayer in their own words.
Of course, he longed that they would grow
in the same intimate relationship with God
that we see in his own life and ministry.
But his first priority was to give them
a prayer that would be the foundation
and the heart of all prayer.
So, the Lord's Prayer teaches us
all we need to know about prayer.
Here is a short and simple way of
beginning to understand this.
Our Father in heaven
To say Our Father means to recognise
that the heart of prayer is
relationship with God.
God is like a loving parent.
When we pray we come into relationship
with the one who loves us unconditionally.
Even if other human relationships,
even our own parents,
have let us down, God will not.
Also, God is not "my father",
but "our father".
The Lord's Prayer doesn't just bring us
into relationship with God,
it brings us into relationship
with each other.
By saying this prayer,
we acknowledge our solidarity with
all those who are our
sisters and brothers.
Hallowed be your name
To say hallowed be your name
means that we give God thanks and praise,
acknowledging our dependence on God.
We recognise that God is the source of
everything and that nothing exists -
not even the next breath
we are about to take -
We adore God, not because God needs adoration,
but because God has shown us his love
in Jesus Christ and brought us into
this living relationship.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
To say your kingdom come,
your will be done,
means that we surrender our will to God's will.
We seek God's purposes for God's world.
Some people imagine that somehow praying might
change God's mind on something.
It's as if they're thinking:
if we could just get enough signatures
on the prayer petition,
maybe God would change his mind.
But the purpose of prayer is not
that we might change God's mind,
but that God might change ours.
On earth as in heaven
We seek God's kingdom -
that is God's reign of justice and peace -
on earth as in heaven.
We seek to align our will
with the will of God.
Even Jesus had to learn this in his
earthly life and ministry.
We see this when he battled with
the devil in the wilderness.
We see it most poignantly in
the garden of Gethsemane when
he prayed that, if it were possible,
God might take the cup away from him.
But after much struggle and anguish,
Jesus arrives at a point where
he can completely accept and receive
God's will for his life.
Give us today our daily bread
To pray give us today our daily bread
means asking God to show us what
"enough" looks like.
We ask God to give us today what we need
for today and to save us from craving
more than our share.
This goes against the grain
of the way we usually live our lives.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us
If we come to God with penitent hearts,
being honest about our failings
and our need of God's grace,
God is always ready to forgive.
When we say forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us
we are acknowledging our need of God,
and we are asking God
not just to be merciful to us,
but to enable us to be merciful to others.
We have all had the experience of
going to bed and thinking
"why did I say that?", or
"why did I do the other?"
When this happens,
we are recognising our sinfulness
even if we don't actually use the word.
We are acknowledging that we fall short of
our own standards.
However, even reflecting very briefly
on the life and teaching of Jesus,
shows us that we also fall short
of God's standards.
This is the reality of sin.
We are not the people we are meant to be.
We are not even the people we want to be.
We are certainly not the people
God intended us to be.
But God, who is loving and merciful,
the lover who comes into our presence
to tell us we are loved,
is always ready to forgive.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
When we say lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
we are acknowledging both our human
frailty and our human destiny.
One day we will all die.
At that point - the time of trial -
we are asking God to deliver us
from the snares of evil,
from the terrible temptation
to still put self first,
and to bring us, through Jesus,
into everlasting life.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever and ever
So the Lord's Prayer ends with
this final affirmation of God's
sovereignty over all things
and for all time.
This word - the word that ends all prayers -
means "I agree".
"so be it".
It is a way of giving our own
affirmation and seal of approval
and commitment to the words we say.
This is especially important for
the Lord's Prayer.
It is a radically beautiful
and life-changing prayer.
We should say it as if we mean it.
We should expect it to change us.
Don't say Amen
at the end unless you are ready
for such a revolution!
"We do not complain of what
God does not give us;
rather we thank God for
what he does give us daily."
What does it mean
that God rules over everything?
How might this affect your life?
When might you pray
the Lord's Prayer tomorrow?
Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples
to be persistent in prayer
give us patience and courage
never to lose hope,
but always to bring
our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Common Worship Rites on the Way)
The material by Stephen Cottrell is taken from
the illustrated Church House Publishing book
and eBook Prayer:
Where to Start and How to Keep Going.
The text is © Stephen Cottrell 2020
and includes material adapted from How to Pray,
which is © Stephen Cottrell 1998, 2003, 2010
and is used here with permission of
the author and publishers.
Prayers from Common Worship volumes
and New Patterns for Worship are
copyright ©The Archbishops' Council
2000-2008 and 2002 respectively and are
published by Church House Publishing.
Used here with permission.
All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are from the
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995
by the Division of Christian Education
of the National Council of
the Churches of Christ in the USA.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Illustrations are by www.penguinboy.net
Copyright ©2021. The Church of England. All rights reserved.