“Teach us to pray …” the Disciples Prayer

The disciples of Yeshua/Jesus approach Him and say, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1).

He answers with what is usually called “the Lord’s Prayer.” For several reasons it should be known as “the Disciples Prayer,” but that is neither here nor there for this commentary.

The prayer itself is a beautiful example of historic, communal Jewish prayer of the Second Temple period. Written in the words of covenant, it is in the plural, and by definition, intended to be prayed with others: “our Father,” “give us,” “forgive us,” “lead us not into,” “but deliver us.”

Can we pray it alone? Certainly, but our hearts and minds must be aligned with our broader setting: covenant community.

The Hebrew word meaning daily prayer, the Disciples Prayer is an example of this, is תְּפִלָּה/tefillah. The act of praying, in word and song, is לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el. לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el in Hebrew is reflexive, meaning to pray to yourself. So the public, plural prayers that we pray, including the Disciples Prayer, is somehow private in nature? Closed off? Prayed to ourselves?

Yes, but also no. לְהִתְפַּלֵּל/hitpa’el is from the root פָלִיל/palil, meaning to judge. In order to understand this, one must know what a judge does.

A judge takes conflicting information, and in the case of a religious judge he searches biblical truth concerning the matter, and investigates in order to reach a conclusion, thus rendering a verdict. The truth found in the Word penetrates to the heart of the conflict, leading to resolution, if we respond in faith.

What does this have to do with prayer?

When we pray, considering closely the words Jesus taught us, we are often wrestling with conflict of some type. The conflict between our circumstance, and our hopes. Real, pressing, and in need of immediate aid, in the face of His eternal hope.

The root of prayer, daily spoken, calls us to take in the conflicting experience and information, imbue it with holy truth and faith, by which we live the words prayed in the communal setting. When we pray in private, we are still praying in community, because we will live the words prayed in the midst of others.

Reflexive prayer brings an inflow of truth, changing us internally; for an outflow of living, changing life externally.

Yeshua taught us to pray focused on the sovereign presence of God, the author of life; knowing that He will supply the need for every circumstance, and He does so, in community.

You may fill the need, or have it filled; because someone spoke, and lived His holy Word. That is communal, covenant prayer.

Be well. Shalom.

2 thoughts on ““Teach us to pray …” the Disciples Prayer

  1. Rabbi …
    “Reflexive prayer brings an inflow of truth, changing us internally; for an outflow of living, changing life externally.”
    The above statement from this piece on prayer is so succinctly and powerfully stated!
    Thank you! John

    Liked by 1 person

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