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Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then in this way:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’
Yesterday we were challenged to be open-hearted and open-handed in our generosity towards others. Today we are called to be open and honest in our prayer lives.
Over the years I have heard so many empty phrases offered in great solemnity … empty phrases masquerading as prayer. Too often we set aside Jesus’ very clear teaching on the subject of prayer. We wrap up the needs and dreams we want to lay before God in the empty phrases Jesus warns against as he gives us The Lord’s Prayer.
We struggle with the simplicity of The Lord’s Prayer, we behave as though we know better.
In The Lord’s Prayer Jesus gives us a model that encompasses much. It opens and closes with words of worship and adoration for God. As we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom we are expressing that which should be the hope of every Christian. In just six words (Give us today our daily bread) Jesus recognizes our worldly needs and dreams, but he also puts them into perspective. In many more words we are urged to seek, and give, forgiveness … we are encouraged to acknowledge all that we say, do and think that distances us from God, and we are reminded that we are just as fallible as those around us. Jesus also urges ask to ask for protection from the evil which permeates so much of this world.
There is so much in the few words of The Lord’s Prayer … and none of those words can be described as empty phrases.
The Lord’s Prayer gives us something else that is important. This model prayer is complete in its brevity which means that it also gives us the gift of time. Regular use of The Lord’s Prayer allows us to bring everything to God, and it gives us the time to listen to God talking back to us.
Prayer is not a one-way process. By setting aside our empty, meaningless phrases we are creating the time and the space to listen to the God who wants us to hear what he has to say … and then go out and take those words into the lives of others.