A couple of years ago, contrary to the anti-liturgy tradition of Baptists, my preacher husband began a Sunday morning practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer to close out a corporate prayer time. Like most of our congregation, I had known the Lord’s Prayer for as long as I could remember. But, reciting it together as a church body each Sunday has breathed life into a familiar old passage in ways I never could have anticipated.
A Prayer That Binds
When a congregation chooses to truly pay attention and seek the Lord together using the points of this prayer, a level of intimacy spreads throughout the church family. Don’t get me wrong – not everyone in our church prays in a heartfelt manner. In fact, it is very much a learning process, and many in our congregation simply repeat the words without much thought. But, in the voices of others, I can hear the same passion that I feel in my own heart. That passion both binds us together and drives us to learn powerful truths about prayer.
The Truth of Worship
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Matthew 5:9
This very simple opening statement lays the groundwork for true worship. God is so pure, so perfect, so set apart from all other beings in existence, that a special word had to be created to refer to this purity. “Holy” is the English version of that created word.
When we say that God’s name is hallowed, or holy, we recognize a purity that exists nowhere else. If we truly acknowledge God’s holiness, how can we pray in any attitude other than one of worship?
Unfortunately, we often narrow worship down to a musical style. But, when we truly contemplate the opening of the Lord’s Prayer, we see that worship is so much more than the songs we sing. It is an attitude of submission before a holy God. When our understanding is made right, true worship will follow, both in our individual hearts, and as a body of believers.
Submission in Action
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 5:10
If there was any doubt about our submission being synonymous with worship, that doubt is dissolved here. Unless I relegate these precious words to a subconscious recitation, I cannot speak this portion of the Lord’s Prayer without realizing that my stubborn will is not only irrelevant – it’s in the way!
When I pray, whether in the privacy of my own prayer closet or in a sanctuary full of fellow believers, for God’s will to be done right here on earth, I have to commit to surrender my will. I am, in essence, choosing to put myself aside and work hand in hand with my fellow believers. The submission of worship continues in this surrender of my will.
Removing the Burdens
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 5:11-12
Have you ever noticed how the daily bread and forgiveness phrases are crammed together? The more I study the Lord’s Prayer, the more I see their perfect unity. When I am burdened in life, it is most frequently by one of these two things: basic needs that I feel are not being met or broken fellowship with God or fellow believers due to sin. This is a joint petition to remove life’s greatest burdens.
It is powerful to be able to make these statements of petition – then immediately trust him with a perfect response. First, I trust him for my basic needs. I trust him so explicitly that I refuse to commit the sin of worry.
But it doesn’t stop there. I am also confessing that I have forgiven my debtors. Not that I will forgive after I finish praying, but that I have completed it. I have made a from-the-bottom-of-my-heart statement that no one owes me anything, including anything that might help cover my basic needs.
When I pray these words in unison with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am verbally agreeing with them that we owe each other nothing beyond mutual submission and service to our Savior. I can imagine no better way to release our heavy burdens!
Committing Our Focus
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 5:13
For the longest time, I thought this to be an odd thing to pray. After all, James reminds us that no one should “say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) So, of course our Father will not lead us into temptation.
Yet, as we close the prayer together, realities begin to sink in. Temptations begin to hit. And our real and present enemy prepares to bombard us and lay a blanket of impotence over our effectiveness as a body. In this simple phrase, we commit together to focus on the Lord’s will, his path, and his plan. We acknowledge that he is wise and perfect. And we surrender to do things his way, even when his way does not seem logical.
In this simple statement, we commit together to be warriors in our spiritual battle. (Eph 6:12)
Remaining in Worship – Together
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 5:13b (KJV)
Most of us who committed the Lord’s Prayer to memory in the King James Version remember this tag on the end of the prayer. Although not every translation includes this conclusion, is it not still a fitting end to corporate prayer?
With this conclusion, Jesus’ followers are reminded that we have committed, through these simple words, to remain surrendered to his will, his kingdom, and his purposes. And we’ve committed to do it together.
Oh the simple, unifying power and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer.