“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” --Matthew 6:9-13
In the ancient world there were many deities to which people would pray. Long complicated prayers were often the norm in an attempt to pacify or persuade some god or goddess to be favorable to them. The problem was that no one knew which deity one might need to pacify on any given day, so the prayers were often repeated over and over again and contained “magic words” used to please the gods.
Prayer today can be seen in two categories. For some it is simply shouting off into the distance to a God who is far away, with the hope that he may arbitrarily act on behalf of the seeker. For others prayer is a powerful experience of the love of God. His presence is palpable and his love surrounds us. For most Christians, the experience is somewhere in the middle.
The Lord’s Prayer is not meant to be recited as some sort of magic prayer, but rather it provides the framework for all our prayers to God. A few things to notice:
First, the prayer is deeply meaningful. It addresses God as Father; it shows that God is involved in our world, and in our lives in a deep and meaningful way. We can speak to God in our normal human language and he listens to us.
Second, God is not some man made idol, or something unknown or inanimate. He is the living God who dwells in heaven. The prayer is not meant to focus on ourselves and our needs, but rather the work of God in this world that we are a part of: “Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Third, we can pray for the things we need on a daily basis, but not only for ourselves, but also for that of the whole world. We pray for our daily bread, but we must also remember to pray for those who are without, those who are in greater need than we are.
Finally, we pray for forgiveness. Many religions assume that evil deeds done on this earth result in eternal consequences. We believe in a God who can and does forgive, and we are to ask for that forgiveness. As we ask for this forgiveness, we are to remember that we should be in the habit of forgiving others so that God can forgive us.