Lenten Reader | Day 7


One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

-Luke 11:1-4
Elizabeth Bennett taught us to recite The Lord’s Prayer in the early 1950’s in Sunday school at Kingston Methodist Episcopal Church. She kindly, but firmly, quelled our fidgeting, required us to fold our mischievous little hands, to bow our heads, to close our eyes, and to repeat with her the words: “Our father which art in heaven…”

Even though that country village church was not “high church,” for 50 years I dutifully recited The Lord’s Prayer aloud during each service. I certainly never asked anyone to teach me that prayer or how to pray it. The words and the rather hushed, piety-laden, stilted recitation of them just became a part of me.

Only lately have I learned that a better title would be The Disciples’ Prayer. Jesus' disciples had seen “up close and personal” how often and effectively Jesus had prayed. They sensibly asked Him for a prayer lesson – not a preaching seminar or a healing class – sensing if they could pray as Jesus prayed, all other concerns and desires would fall into proper place.

Jesus forsook sweet Elizabeth Bennett’s method: "Repeat after me.” Instead, He suggested a pattern. He communicated with words but didn’t offer them as magical incantations. He taught that the tune was more important than the lyrics; the attitude more relevant than the language.
Essentially, He advised the guys to approach God with:

*AWE--- “You’re God. I’m not.”
*SUBMISSION---“You rule…both this world and my life.”
*DEPENDENCE---“I count on you, not myself.”
*CONFIDENCE---“I know you love me and wouldn't lead me astray.”

Now, repeating verbatim The Disciples’ Prayer or other rote, memorized prayers is not wrong. However, mindlessly reciting such words will not impress God. Mrs. Bennett did not err in teaching me this prayer. My church did not mislead me by giving me the weekly opportunity to say its words aloud. But for years I goofed by not asking my Savior to teach me to pray and by not coming to him with an attitude of awe, submission, dependence, and confidence.

If we approach God boldly with this tune and attitude, Jesus himself assures us that all our concerns and desires will fall into proper place.

-Dick Delong