One day, while Jesus was finishing his alone time with God, a bunch of us started to gather to bug him and ask a billion questions. As we gathered at Bob’s house, one of us looked at Jesus and asked, “How do you pray?” Jesus looked at him and said, “What do you mean, how do I pray? I mean, I just talk with God, it’s that simple.”
I thought to myself, ‘Simple, did he just say it was simple?’ if it was so simple everyone would do it. My thought right after that, was that Jesus wanted to play some kind of mind game on us, he liked doing that kind of thing. Just then, Sue asked, “Well, what he meant to say was can you teach us to pray? You know, like John taught his follower, can you do the same for us?”
Jesus replied, “Sure, that’s simple.” As he looked at me and gave a wink (mind games, I’m telling you, mind games)
So, Jesus grabbed a beer out of the cooler and found a comfy spot on the couch, “Let me share with you how I see it” Jesus said as he cracked open the beer while shuffling around on the couch looking for that one sweat spot where he could relax, you know the one spot where you are comfortable enough to kick back and chat, while still have plenty of room to grab your beer when you want. You see, Jesus knew this was going to come as a shock to what we thought prayer was all about, so finding that sweet spot was pretty important.
Being in the zone, Jesus started, “The first point you need to know is don’t just repeat the words of others, you have to make the prayer your own – you need to own it. Along the same lines, don’t write down what you’re going to say or memorize it, you really need to speak from the heart. Let your prayers have meaning, let it speak to your needs, your desire, and center on your relationship with God.” As Jesus was talking, you could’ve heard a pin drop. Jesus wanted to give his followers a chance to ask questions about what he just said, so he took a swig of beer and waited a bit. But no one said anything; we just sat there, waiting and listening. Seeing that no one was ready to comment, Jesus continued.
“The second point I want to make is that you need to remember, and this one is so important, don’t act like some weird televangelist with all those clicks, moans and empty words. With all the money they make fleecing others, do you really think God cares about their clicks, moans or empty words? You have to remember that most of their prayers are designed to simply get others to send them money so they can buy big house, cars and planes. Trust me, they got all their going to get.” With that, Jesus could see by the expressions on our faces that the processors were starting.
Jesus leaned forward and added, “Next, let your prayer be a pray between you and God, you don’t need an audience, you don’t need crowds, all you need is you, your heart and the ear of God. If you make it a show, what value does that have? You have to keep in mind that prayer is not you telling God what is happening, God already knows what’s going on. Pray is more like you sharing with God how you’re seeing things, so God can guide you as you need.”
With that, Jesus sat back and waited for us to say something, anything. But all we could do was look at each other as if we were deer standing in the street in the middle of the night and the car was heading our way. As we were processing all that Jesus shared, someone from the back of the room said, “I get all that, and I love it. But can you share an example of how to pray? Can you break down some steps? What should a prayer look like?”
Jesus thought for a moment and said, “Sure, I can do that. But you have to promise me that you will not simply repeat my words, keep in mind that your prayer needs to come from you.”
He thought for a moment, you could see the expression on his face change as if he was going to go so much deeper than before, “Let me share with you what a good prayer might look like – As I said before, the most important thing is to go directly to God. Praise God; share your love for your God. Realize that God is the creator of everything, so bring honor to God as you speak. Say something like, ‘Oh my God who is all, You are center of all and creator of all, my heart shares the blessings of your love.’ Also, you must then realize that whatever you desire, no matter what you are praying for, it must fit God’s plan for this world; so, say something like, ‘My heart desires to do as you command, your will is my desire and I seek to live in your kingdom here among others.’ When you go to God remember that you desire your needs, and wants, to fit into God’s plan. Also, thank God for all God has given you, whatever it is and ask God to help you with issues that may come your way over time; you could say something like. ‘Thank you for giving me all I have and all I desire.’”
As Jesus was finishing his views of prayer, he added something that shocked his followers, “Here is the part that may seem a bit weird to you, but share that you are working to forgive others every wrong they have done to you. You could say something like, ‘I seek to forgive all the wrongs others have done to me, give me strength so that I can forgive others and please Lord, and forgive me the wrongs I have done to others.’ You see, what you need to remember is that the way God works is like this, if you are unwilling to forgive the bad things others have done to you; God has no desire to forgive the bad things you have done to others. You can see this as a ‘catch 22′ in that you need to forgive, before you can be forgiven.”
Based on Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:5-14, this may not be how it happened, but it is how I see it.
Does your perspective change at all with the knowledge the Lord’s Prayer is striking similar to formal (aka memorized) prayers that the Jews were well familiar with? Yes, there were differences, but the use of the language is at least partially an affirmation of formal, communal prayers. (And on that note, the tense of the language is clear that this is not an individuals private prayer, but the prayer of a people together). Curious if that changes anything?