The Precious Gift of the Lord’s Prayer

The Precious Gift of the Lord’s Prayer

by the Rev. Professor Emeritus Norm Barker

The Church through the ages has used Matthew 6 as a form of prayer. Another form is found in Luke 11, in answer to the disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray”.  Referring to Luke 11, he said, “Someone has said, `Don’t turn to books about prayer – just pray!”

There is a tendency in parts of the modern church to avoid its use as a form, possibly to avoid `vain repetition’ (Matt 6:7) which it may become.  I like the balance in the Directory of Public Worship which accompanied the Westminster Confessions: “And because the Prayer which Christ taught His disciples is not only a Pattern of Prayer, but a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the Church.”

A very early Christian writing titled The Dicache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, perhaps dated early in the second century, says,  “And do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in the gospel: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us enough bread day-by-day. 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.”

Catholic devotion made regular use of the Pater Noster. The Emperor Charlemayne (8th century) laid down that Christians should know the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed.  With the Ten Commandments, these provide a structure for our faith.

In regard to these, the Reformers did not depart from catholic practice.  Regularly the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed formed the basis of Christian instruction in theologies and catechisms.  The Lord’s Prayer was expounded as a pattern for Christian prayer.  At the same time, the Reformation churches did not depart from the form in the worship of the Church.

The famous Shorter Catechism seems to restrict its use as a guide to prayer, but the Larger Catechism at least allows its use in public worship, at the same time stressing that it is to be “used with understanding” – “The Lord’s Prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers, but may also be used as a prayer to be used with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer” (Q and A, 187).

Scots-born Andrew Murray, 1828-1917, South African Dutch Reformed leader, wrote, “In condescension to our weakness, our Heavenly Father has given us the very words we are to take with us as we draw near to our Father.”  He refers to the freshness, the fullness, the comprehensiveness of the Lord’s Prayer.  The prayer is saved from vain repetition if we give thought to its meaning.  I personally use it in private prayer, which allows one to pause and meditate on the impact of each phrase.  Outstanding Congregational preacher, G. Campbell Morgan, said, “He knows whether when our lips recite the prayer he taught his disciples, we are indulging in the talk of parrots, or praying”.

I  watch Foxtel TV Channel 182 telecasts from The People’s Church, Toronto, Canada (Living Truth program).  Recently the pastor, Charles Price, directed us to what he called the best known prayer in the world.  Charles concentrated on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:6-13 as a guide to prayer, “This is how you should pray.  Charles first concentrated on “aspects of our relationship with God revealed in the Lord’s Prayer.”

  1. Our Father in heaven – the relationship of a child with a Father.
  2. Your kingdom come – the relationship of subjects to our Sovereign.
  3. Your will be done – the relationship of a servant to a Master.Lord Teach Us to Pray
  4. Give us this day our daily bread – the relationship of the needy to a Provider, beginning with the most basic of needs.
  5. And forgive us our trespasses (debts, sins) – the relationship of a sinner to a Saviour.
  6. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – the relationship of weakness to strength.

All are part of the tapestry of our relationship with God.  Not one without the others.  We come to him as a Father – with all the tenderness and intimacy that his name conveys to us.  But at the same time we come to him as a King. We come to him as our Master, our Provider, our Saviour, our Deliverer.

He Gave Himself

He Gave Himself

by the Rev. Paul Seiler

The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went t0 visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he “came where he was”.

One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. lnstead, he looked long into his leader’s face and with love and wonder in his voice said, “You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!”

As we think of what our Lord has done for us, we can echo that fire tender’s sentiments. Oh, what a step our Lord took – from heaven to earth, from the worship of angels to the mocking of cruel men, from glory to humiliation!

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5-7)

True Faith

True Faith

by the Rev. Paul Seiler

Faith in Christ is more than mere intellectual assent; it is believing with all the mind, with the will, and with action. Years ago a party of visitors at the national mint were told by a workman in the smelting works that if you first dipped your hand in water, a ladle of molten metal might be poured over the palm of the hand without burning it. A husband and wife were part of this party of visitors. “Perhaps you would like to try it”, the workman said to the husband. The husband drew back sharply, “No thanks,” he said, “I’ll take your word for it.”

The workman turned to the wife, “Perhaps you would like to try it.” She replied, “Certainly.” She pulled up the sleeve of her blouse and thrust her hand into a bucket of water. Calmly she held her hand out while the metal was poured over it.

The husband believed at one level – but he wasn’t willing to put his belief to the acid test. The wife, on the other hand, was willing to put her faith into action. True saving faith has the character of the wife’s faith – it acts upon the word of God.

But someone may well say, You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18)