However, the title is a misnomer. It was not really a literal prayer that Jesus said rather, it was a teaching tool He passed on to His when they inquired about the supplications a disciple should bring before God, the Father. Many recite this prayer on a daily basis; others once a week. Its recitation is a treasured Christian tradition. It’s even popular now to bash the repetition of it and remove it from worship altogether, but if Jesus taught us to say it, is that the right thing to do? However, when we do say it, do we really listen to the words and mean what we say? And what was Jesus teaching us about prayer when He used this prayer as a model for His disciples?
So, if I could be so bold as to rename it (as others before me have suggested), The Disciple's Prayer can be divided into 2 sections. The first contains 2 declarations about God and His glory. The second contains 4 requests that have to do with our daily necessities. In other words, God is first given His supreme place in our lives, and then we turn our attention to our needs and desires. Sadly, we often approach God with a list of things we'd like Him to attend to without first acknowledging Him above all else. William Barclay wrote, "Prayer must never be an attempt to bend the will of God to our desires; instead prayer ought to always to be an attempt to submit our wills to the will of God."
A quick walk through this prayer reveals first that it can be both an individual or corporate prayer. That is, when Jesus says, "When you pray," He uses the plural form of you, which can mean the community of believers (first the disciples, and now the church) or you in the singular (as in each individual disciple, or each believer as in you and I). Secondly, we are to declare the great truths about God. He is Father. His Name is holy. And we desire to see the fulfillment of His kingdom. Thirdly, in asking for our daily bread, we recognize that God is the Provider of it, not ourselves. Fourth, forgiveness has two sides; a side that gives and a side that receives. The Disciple's Prayer includes both a request for forgiveness and a call for forgiveness. And lastly, God is recognized as our Protector in that only He can keep us from succumbing to the temptations thrown our way by Satan (1 Pet. 5:8). The prayer emphasizes the desire to follow God and not to be overwhelmed or destroyed by sin.
Another commentator wrote, "It was the regular custom for a Rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer which they might habitually use. John (the Baptist) had done that for his disciples, and now Jesus' disciples came asking Him to do the same for them. Luke's version is shorter than Matthew's, but it will teach us all we need to know about how to pray and what to pray for." The "Disciple's Prayer" is one of the most thorough passages in all of Scripture dealing with the great subject of prayer. It is a passage that should be studied time and again. When we say it together as a congregation, or if we say it on our own, let's keep in mind that Jesus Himself gave us these words to pray. Although many centuries have come since the initial 12 disciples asked Him to teach "us" to pray, the lesson He gave to them is also meant for us today. Let's not say them lightly.
Think about your prayer life this week. How often to you converse with God? How deeply? Do you listen for His response? Is your prayer life composed of a list of requests or do you include other aspects, such as praise and confession, into your prayers? One of the beautiful things about prayer is that it is profoundly individual. There is no "one size fits all" formula that everyone must do in order for it to be done right. I know people who have a quiet time every morning and prayer for an hour straight. I also know others who pray while they commute, clean the house, or take a walk. As you pray this week you may want to begin your prayer time with “The Disciples’ Prayer”. However, or wherever, you pray, take time this week to listen to God's response. He hears and He answers.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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