How do we pray?
Let us learn that God expects us to approach boldly in prayer.
We will examine the Our Father or Lord's Prayer, a group prayer and an audacious prayer.
When Yous Pray
In Luke 11:1-13 when one of Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray, the first words from Jesus were, “When ye (or y’all or yous) pray...” Modern English has lost the word ye and in its absence is the confusing word you which is the same for singular and plural. Some dialects maintain a plural in y’all or yous and other regional variants. Some believe that the use of the plural you before the Our Father indicates that it is to be said as a group prayer and that certainly is a reasonable conclusion. Perhaps that is one reason why the first words are “Our Father” rather than “my Father”. Perhaps if we understood how unifying the prayer is supposed to be we would not see occasional silly arguments over which version of the prayer to use.
Why do we say Our Father?
The Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-13) begins with two important words. Our, we, us is found throughout this the most perfect of all prayers. When we call God ours, he is not our God alone. Some people are offended by calling God a father, because they had an abusive earthly father and so substitute the word mother or prefer a gender-neutral word like parent, but there have been abusive mothers too and Jesus did not use parent but father. God does not describe himself with the metaphor of father to cause offense. He knows that no human parent is perfect. He wants us to understand perfect fatherhood through him. In Greek father means one who “imparts life.” In the Bible it does not refer to a “universal fatherhood” towards humanity, but to those in "intimate connection and relationship" with him.
Why do we say Hallowed be Your Name?
The Ten Commandments say it in the negative, You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. That includes OMG. The Our Father says it in the positive, hallowed be your name (Luke 11:1-13). Do we approach God’s name with reverence? Do we talk about him as someone that we love? Hallowed means "to make holy, consecrate, sanctify; to dedicate, separate." Do we get mad when our name is insulted? Why do we not glorify his name instead of ours? Do we use God’s name as holy, treating it with great respect and adoration? Do we begin our prayers by praising God and praying that his name be glorified? Do we promote our religion, our denomination, our theology or God’s name? All churches are polluted by sin. God is not. Let us glorify his name.
Why are we debtors?
There is a saying that we do forgive, but we want justice. When we miss the mark, which is what the word sin in Luke’s version of the Our Fathermeans (Luke 11:1-13), then we have not lived up to life’s highest expectations. We have missed the mark. Our sins are an unfulfilled obligation to others and to God, an injustice that needs to be set right, a debt that we owe. When we forgive we release others, not only of their having missed the mark but also of the debt of justice that is owed to us. We give up the right to justice. For instance, if someone has unjustly swindled us out of something valuable, forgiveness means we give up the right to that thing. Because we do, we can rightly ask God to forgive our debts.
What does temptation mean?
In Luke 11:1-13 we are encouraged to pray "lead us not into temptation." What does that mean? The Greek word is peirasmos and can mean either trial or temptation. Temptation is also enticement to do wrong. Why should we pray that? We live in a world where there are many enticements to miss the mark of a successful life. We want to stay faithful to God and have no other gods or idols of materialism. We are surrounded by those who misuse God’s name. We can be seduced into working without rest building bricks for corporate pharaohs. We can be tempted to dishonor our parents. We can be tempted in a moment of anger to kill. We can be enticed to be unfaithful to a spouse. We can be tempted to steal, lie and covet what is not ours.
The audacious Lord’s prayer
We often see the Our Father (Luke 11:1-13) as a pious prayer, a begging prayer, but it is not. It is a bold and audacious prayer. We can see that intent in the parable of the midnight visitor which follows. Here we see two men in typical male trash-talk style yelling at each other through a locked door. This is not a religious sounding conversation, but a guy who wants to just go to sleep and his neighbor yelling to borrow three loaves of bread with shameless persistence. It is an audacious request and that is the type of prayer that Luke is portraying as the Lord’s prayer. We too brazenly ask that God gives us bread, our daily needs. We boldly ask that God brings his kingdom, forgives us and does not allow wrong things to entice us.
The million dollar prayer
Jesus taught that if we ask, it will be given (Luke 11:1-13). What if I ask for a million dollars? The context of that promise was our collective prayers. Despite its many weaknesses, one good thing about the King James Bible is the use of ye. Modern English has dropped using a different plural foryou, except in colloquial English words like y’all. So we could translate verse 11 as, “So I say to y’all, Y’all ask and it will be given to y’all; y’all seek and y’all will find; y’all knock and the door will be opened to y’all.” The promise is to expect answers when we all pray together. So, what about the million dollar prayer? God may not say yes in this life, but in eternity we will all be so much more than mere millionaires.
Let us not be afraid to pray boldly to God. He wants us to approach him audaciously in prayer.