I came to faith in a charismatic evangelical church, and so anything approaching liturgy felt formal and lifeless to me. So when I first started attending a more traditional Church, I didn’t find reciting the Lord’s Prayer very helpful. Of course I held this prayer in high regard, but I’d come to the conclusion that is was a framework for prayer rather than something to be repeated verbatim.
I’ve been struggling a lot with prayer over the last few years. Like much of my theology, I thought I’d got it all sewn up, and then reality got in the way! Why are some prayers seemingly answered and other not? Or to put it more crudely, why does God give some people a parking space, and let others die slow and painful deaths?
When I get an answer to that, I’ll let you know. But in the meantime, how do we pray when answers are at best seemingly random and at worst completely absent.
I think part of the problem is that I’d grown up with the idea that coming to faith meant inviting God into my life. I’m increasingly seeing, though, that the faith journey is, in fact, an invitation into God’s life.
So when I look back at the way I used to pray, I think there was a measure of me trying to take control. Prayer was very often me telling God what he needed to do in a particular situation. I had a vision for the world and my life and prayer was trying to bring God on board with that vision!
The Lord’s Prayer is not primarily about me though, it’s primarily about God. It’s about God’s will being done (the renewal of all things), and our lives being caught up in that.
This still begs the question, of course, what is God’s will in a particular situation? More often than not, I don’t know. And so I’m starting to wonder if perhaps we are just meant to recite the Lord’s Prayer. As Jesus told the disciples just before teaching them this prayer, long, eloquent prayers aren’t going to improve your chances of getting an answer! So perhaps prayer is simply acknowledging that God knows us and our situation better than we do, and although our desire is to see his will done, we recognise that we are broken and vulnerable to temptation.
Of course, prayer is an expression of our relationship with God, and so we naturally want to bring all our concerns to him, however trivial. But when we’re struggling to make sense of a situation, and God seems absent, perhaps it’s enough to simply find a quiet space, take a few deep breaths and pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”