The Lord’s Prayer offers answers about how to pray that grow richer over as we grow.
Apr 22, 2014
It’s incredible how often, when you try to help others, you find that, in the end, you have been helping yourself. If I needed any proof of that proposition, I was given it–again–one spring.
The man who sat in my living room that day was groping desperately for something. “You and I are old friends,” he said to me, “and I’ve heard you say that prayer has done wonderful things for you.
"I’d like to be able to pray, too. But I’m not at all sure that I understand prayer. How do you pray? Where and when do you pray? Why do you pray?”
There was no mistaking the urgency in his voice. My friend was in dead earnest. Ordinarily I might not have known how to begin to answer such questions, but something in the way he phrased them struck a chord in my memory.
Years before, when I had been a very new reporter on a Los Angeles paper, I had been taught that every good reporting job contained the answers to the basic questions who, what, where, when, why, and how.
“Tom,” I said, “let’s take the Lord’s Prayer and see if it doesn’t contain the answers to the questions you’ve just asked me. Jesus was the Master Pray-er. The prayer He left us must contain all the answers; it must be a formula for complete prayer.”
He looked up, hope in his eyes. “You think so?”
I felt a sudden surge of excitement, the kind a writer feels when he has stumbled onto an idea that he knows instinctively is right. “Let’s try it!” I said.
And so, sitting there in my quiet living room, we tried it.
Our Father... thus the great prayer begins. This simple yet tremendous salutation establishes instantly, without any question or doubt, who is praying and to whom the prayer is addressed.
Which art in heaven... This tells me where the God is to whom my prayer is addressed.
Jesus said clearly that the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, was not in this mountain or that temple, but “within you.” In other words, we don’t have to run after it physically. And where we pray doesn’t matter a great deal as long as we worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Hallowed be Thy name... It is God we honor. We are not praying to impress men, nor do we put our trust in material things or in persons. We are observing the first commandment given by God to Moses: “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven... This tells me to stop giving orders or making selfish requests and ask simply that as in Heaven, so on earth, the Kingdom of God be manifest in my life.
By surrendering, we place ourselves completely under His grace, and we bring the entire world, all sick and suffering humanity, into the care of a loving Father who alone knows how to achieve a harmonious kingdom.
Give us this day our daily bread... As to the when of my prayers, I accept the fact that today, this minute, is all I have to be concerned with. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not arrived; when it does, it will be now.
The release from tension and anxiety is tremendous when we stop worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, when we use today, and pray today, as our actual moment of contact with God.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors... I must also ask forgiveness and receive freedom from all sense of guilt. But we shall not obtain our own release until we have released others.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil... Here we seek to renounce all that is not of God. We say–and mean–that we wish to walk in His way, to sin no more. What I am praying for here is peace of mind, serenity of soul.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen... Why do we pray? Because God is over all, in all, through all. All things are His and we are His.
And then we add Amen. Here is the joy, the rejoicing and the thanksgiving of our prayer.
When we had finished our experiment, both Tom and I felt that the Lord’s Prayer had given us complete answers to our questions about how to pray–answers that would continue to grow richer and deeper as we grew in spirit and understanding.
I had, besides, the happy feeling that comes from trying to help someone, and in the process finding yourself helped and strengthened.
Tom went home that day determined to put into practice what he had learned about prayer. Later, he joined a church. Since then, he tells me, he has found a peace and a certainty that he never knew before.
“Discovering that there is a God,” he says, “was the door to my new life. But learning how to pray was the key that opened it.”
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