An observation of prayer. We do prayer when we need something. We do prayer when we feel we have no control over events or situations. Sometimes we even pray when we are happy.
However, prayer in the case of Jesus and his teachings reorganizes our prayer life. During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches the crowds to pray. His prayer begins affirming relationship and loyalty to God the Father. This part of the prayer orients the person to the reality outside of themselves, the purpose of humanity, and hope of the world.
Next, a call to step outside of the “I” to the "us." From food to forgiveness, Jesus teaches his listeners to step out of their reality and be thinking of others. A call for us to rely on God as the Israelites did in the desert with Moses is equally a call for us to remember those who may not have bread. As those who have been reminded it is a gift of God, we are called to ask how to be a gift to others who do not have. Very quickly I believe this section of the prayer becomes a call to action.
Forgiveness in this prayer comes as a scientific law. Instead of every action having an equal or opposite reaction, forgiveness begets forgiveness. If you seek forgiveness, then you must be giving it. To experience God’s love and mercy as reality must then have real-world implications. To have experienced God’s freedom is then a call to liberate others.
Jesus’ teaching on prayer continues with a recognition of the state of the world and the path disciples of Jesus walk. Just because you follow Jesus does not mean life will be easy or materially better. The prayer invites its participants into the reality that life will be hard. The world and the powers that be will seek to strike us down and leave us open and defenseless. Jesus and this teaching of prayer reassure us that the living God will be with us.
Jesus’ teaching on prayer that has become known to Christendom as the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father Prayer,” has the potential to reorient lives radically. It can transform how we connect and treat one another.
I invite those who have never prayed this prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) to begin to pray it three times a day. When you wake up, eat lunch, and before you go to bed are times a recommend. I believe even after a week of this new habit you will find transformation happening in your life.
For those who have prayed this prayer longer then they can remember, I challenge you to come at the prayer with fresh eyes. To find new ways to learn from the prayer and how to transform your other prayers you may be saying throughout your days and weeks.