Beyond Rote.

The Song of the Mountains – Verse XXX

What not to do. 

Recent articles have addressed how Yeshua/Jesus instructs His disciples regarding prayer: 

1) They should pray not seeking attention or admiration. 

2) They should make time and seek out the lonely places to pray. 

3) They should not believe that repetition of words, babbling, will cause the Lord to answer.  

These practices, and intentions in prayer are not pleasing to the Father in Heaven; as they are devoid of the characteristics of relationship. These are examples of prayers that actually do more harm than good. Seeking attention, making a public spectacle, and vain repetition, according to Yeshua, is praying hypocritically, or in the way of the heathen. Prayer should humble, and direct attention away from the petitioner. For the heathen, the error in prayer is mindlessness. For the hypocrite, the error in prayer is selfishness. For the disciples of Messiah, prayer is God-centered, and concerned with His glory. 

The disciple of Messiah is to go before the Father in prayer humbly, trusting in His will as a child before their father. Laying aside hypocrisy, a pretending of righteousness, piety, and eloquence.    

“What, or how, should we pray?”

In Luke 11, we find a nearly identical rendering of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Yet, Luke in his account prefaces the prayer with a request from the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1). He begins His answer with, “When you pray…” or, in some translations, “In this manner, therefore, pray…” In the coming articles we will give serious consideration to the words of the Lord’s Prayer, their meaning and application. For now we must recognize that the greatest impact of the Lord’s Prayer is on how we think.

How we think?

As noted above, Yeshua has corrected how to approach prayer, where and how we pray, and the words we speak in prayer. The heart of this correction is how we think of the Father. How we think of God (our theology or orthodoxy) will determine our practice (or orthopraxy). Yeshua stresses to regard the covenant Lord as Father, of knowing Him in that intimate relational space. The Lord’s Prayer:

1) Helps us to properly align our thinking to the Father. 

2) Helps us to approach Him as Father. 

3) Helps us to faithfully respond in the world around us.  

The Prayer of the Kingdom. 

In Matthew 6:9-13, following the correction and instruction regarding prayer, we find more than a form or pattern, but freedom. Gone is the concern for the right words, word order, intensity or frequency of words spoken. Replaced with words of faith; and deeper still, words of a child to their Father. 

Rote.

Disciple: the Living Word taught us to pray. 

Yet, the Lord’s Prayer is often appreciated as a liturgical prayer, one lacking the power, inspiration, and spontaneity that some are accustomed to hearing. Yeshua is not setting aside or forbidding exuberant and inspired prayer – consider John 17 – He is simply addressing the manner in which our prayer should be done. 

Meaning what? 

Firstly, it opens by acknowledging the Lord, worship of Him and our duty to Him. The Lord’s Prayer places our Father in Heaven in the preeminent position in our lives; as first, before all else, we are to honor Him.

Secondly, Yeshua addresses petitions that pertain to us, and to living with the human other. 

Thirdly, He reminds us there is an enemy of our soul, and that our natural desire is to serve what feels good to us – but that there is an ultimate power – the Lord in His Kingdom.

It’s a foundation. 

The Lord’s Prayer therefore serves as our foundation in prayer, informing not only our spiritual life of faith, but life in the material world.

It is a prayer that we can pray publicly, and privately. There are some who speculate that it was prayed three (3) times a day by the Jerusalem Congregations – similar then to the Amidah (standing prayer said daily by religious Jews). 

To the point. 

A prayer that is so oft spoken cannot help but be memorized. Yeshua has just warned us against praying meaningless, babbling prayers repetitiously; does this not fall into a category that I have suggested? The Lord’s Prayer is said daily by millions of people around the world, in numerous languages. How, then, does this not become a prayer of rote? 

Pray it from the heart

Yeshua gives us a means to speak to the Father, even when we do not know what to pray or how to pray it. Even the apostle Paul acknowledged that he did not always know how to pray. We might begin by uttering a few words honoring the Lord, giving Him praise, and then we notice that our heart opens a faucet of prayer.

So often we want “more” in prayer. Yeshua is telling us that we must have our hearts and minds focused on God as Father before we will experience the “more” we are seeking. Still, let us not forget His pattern in prayer: worship, Kingdom, provision, grace, and protection. These five points found in the Lord’s Prayer cover the most important aspects of life, and does so faithfully before “Our Father in Heaven.” 

Shalom. Be well.

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