Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lord, teach us to pray. . .

While reading a piece by John Kleinig, I was struck by something I had not payed all that much attention to before.  Dr. Kleinig said the obvious.  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them His prayer, that is, the prayer He prays.  How profound that insight is!  Jesus is not simply giving us a form or even a methodology but has invited us to join our voices with His in praying as He prays.  This is one way in which we manifest our lives in Christ by baptism and faith.  We speak with Christ in one voice the prayer that He prays that has now become our own prayer.

There was a time when the faithful prayed the Our Father many times a day.  Even with the loss of the rosary, Luther urged us to pray the Our Father, the Creed, the Commandments, and his own meager contribution of the morning and evening prayers at the start of the day and at the end of the day.  Today it is highly possible and perhaps even likely that the faithful pray the Our Father only once a day or even less.  That does not mean we pray but that we pray either in our own words or the prayers of others more than we pray the prayer our Savior gave us.  I worry about this.

The presumption that prayers of the heart, extemporaneous prayers, are some how qualitatively better than prayers we learn from others or even the prayer our Savior taught us is rather arrogant.  Jesus is not giving us not simply the right to pray but inviting us to pray as He prays -- a gift even greater than the simple access to the Father.  Have we forgotten this?  Do we pay attention to this?  Does it even matter to us?

Some months ago after we had used Divine Service 3, a member left upset because the pastor had sung the Our Father we had deprived this individual of the prayer.  While this is not true and the history of this liturgy from The Lutheran Hymnal always had the pastor speak or pray the Our Father with the congregation responding with the doxology, it was telling.  On one hand I reminded the individual that this had been the practice of the church as they grew up but on the other hand I felt sympathy.  The Our Father, prayed together with many voices on one set of words that the Lord taught us, is an amazing thing.  Perhaps this person got it -- the people of God are not praying a prayer meant to be an example for our prayers but rather being invited to pray as Jesus Himself prays, saying, Our Father who art in heaven. . . 

We have gone through a period of time in which book prayers, even including the Our Father, have been laid aside as if they were not prayer at all -- at least not in the way the spontaneous outpouring of the heart is prayer.  It is never a good thing for the people of God to presume their own words count more than the words Jesus taught us -- words that He is even now still praying for us and even with us.  So Kleinig's reminder is timely, indeed.  We do not need new prayer books or new methods of prayer to rejuvenate our lives of prayer but simply the reminder of the gift Christ has given us when His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray and He allowed them to know and pray with Him as He Himself prays, saying. . .

Lord, teach us to pray this way always.  Amen.

9 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

"a member left upset because the pastor had sung the Our Father we had deprived this individual of the prayer."

Not mentioned was who made the decision to establish this adiaphoron or ceremony in the Divine Service for the congregation.

John J. Flanagan said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I say the Lord's Prayer every day, often more than once. I also find it is good to pray during the day, when walking about, working, thinking, as a way to continually be "in touch" with Our Lord. Reading the Bible daily is uplifting. Being a follower of Jesus should be our main identity, and our other roles support that identity. When we read the Bible often, and pray frequently, we will find a peace of mind that makes one overjoyed about being a Christian. Although we sin, the Holy Spirit guards our souls in practicing the believer's way of life. Soli Deo Gloria.

Pr. Jim Wagner said...

WOW! I never thought about it just like this. So helpful. But then Kleinig is nearly always helpful, as are you, Pr. Peters.
I pray the prayer in the morning and evening, but this makes me think it ought to be used even more often, not less.
BTW, in my younger days, before the LBW, I also chanted the Lord’s Prayer, and insofar as I remember no one in the congregation complained or thought it unusual in an ALC - Danish heritage congregation.

Unknown said...

I would be very interested to know how Dr. Kleinig explains the sinless Son of God praying, "and forgive us our trespasses."
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

George,
Consider the vicarious atonement. Indeed, when Jesus prays it, the Father has nothing to forgive. Also, He can pray "forgive us" because He has sinful brothers and sisters, while He is without sin, He prays with "us" and for "us." Don't see an theological dilemma.

Unknown said...



Die Botschaft hör ich wohl, allein mir fehlt der Glaube. Inasmuch as our Lord Himself forgave sin, I find this argument difficult to believe. Following the rule of Occam’s razor, I find it to be more reasonable that our Lord meant this prayer for His Disciples, not for Himself. I think it is likely that, if our Lord prayed this prayer, He would have told His Disciples that He did. It is, no doubt, a pious sentiment, but I feel that sometimes people drive the “equality with the human Jesus” a little too far. I also think that our Lord took His conversations with His and our Father too seriously to allow any ambiguity in them.

Since I now had to read Dr. Kleinig’s “The Gift of Prayer,” I took notes of these words in his conclusion, “So God provides us with His Holy Spirit, not just once but again and again, whenever we pray. The Spirit is the Spirit of prayer, for He is not just received by faith in prayer, but also prompts us when we pray.”

There is no support in Scripture for the notion that anyone receives the Spirit more than once; in other words, not “again and again.” Also, nowhere does Scripture tell us that we receive the Holy Spirit other than in Baptism.

If he can be so obviously wrong in his conclusion, it makes it more likely that he is wrong in his initial assertion.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

I learned to say the Lord's Prayer two ways. With "our trespasses" in my dad's MSL church that we attended most of the time and "our debts" while in Mom's Reformed Church when visiting her large, extended family. Its also a good prayer to say at the dentist when it hurts.

Unknown said...

Anonymous: There is no doubt that the vast majority of Christians believe, and rightly so, that the Lord's Prayer is the best and most important prayer for any of us. Just because I do not think that our Lord prayed it (since Scripture has no specific teaching on this matter, we are free to believe as we chose, provided it does not violate any other portion of Scripture), that does not mean that I wish to diminish it in any way.
I learned it in German from my mother, and I repeated it over and over again while sitting in a basement in Vienna with bombs raining down on us every day for many month.
I have had similar thoughts as you, when I sat in the dentist's chair.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

John 20
22 And when he [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them [the disciples] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2
4 And they [the disciples] were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 4
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…