How do we pray?
We can find so much in the Bible on prayer – how to pray, how not to pray.
Warm up Questions
Who taught you how to pray?
Are there any people you can name as mentors/influential in your prayer life?
Do you remember learning the Lord’s Prayer?
How have you prayed it over the years?
What happens in your mind as you pray it in our weekly liturgy?
If your church does not use liturgy regularly, do you still use this prayer? Why or why not?
I learned to recite the Lord’s Prayer from a bookmark in Sunday school when I was eight. I can still remember this experience. Actually, it is my only Sunday school memory.
If you have children or grandchildren, do they know this prayer?
What are your thoughts on memorisation such as this?
You may or may not have had a mentor, helping you to learn to pray or encouraging you in your prayer life. Let’s look to Luther from his “A Simple way to pray”, for his thoughts on prayer, and in particular the Lord’s Prayer and its memorisation and use.
You should also know that I do not want you to recite all these words [in Luther’s explanation of the Lord’s Prayer] in your prayer. That would make it nothing but idle chatter and prattle, read word for word out of a book as were the rosaries by the laity and the prayers of the priests and monks.
Read Matthew 6:5–8
Jesus of course tells us to go into our own room, pray in private and not to babble like the pagans. We don’t need to use elaborate words.
More from Luther:
Rather do I want your heart to be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts which ought to be comprehended in the Lord’s Prayer.
We are advised how to pray. These are simple words we use as a prayer together or we can meditate on different aspects of the Lord’s Prayer as we pray – leaving room for the Spirit to intercede, and for our own minds to wander in prayer.
These thoughts may be expressed, if your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways and with more words or fewer. I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas.
Read Romans 8:26
Does your mind wander in prayer? Do you allow it to? Do you recognise this as the Spirit’s leading in prayer?
It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us, we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times, I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.
We can see that for Luther, this prayer, as perhaps for many of us, was a prayer to be used in different ways, according to the leading of the Spirit. Do we think of Luther praying “free form” in this way?
Read Ecclesiastes 1:9
There is nothing new under the sun!
We might consider the Lord’s Prayer to be a quiver full of arrow prayers. It’s quite common to talk (or sing – if you have ever heard Colin Buchanan’s song, “You can tell the Lord that you love Him”) about arrow prayers. Find it (on YouTube or a music streaming service) and have a listen if you can! We can pause over each arrow (petition), and thoughtfully aim. Or we can fire them off, knowing that the Lord has given us these words.
Have a different person read out each “arrow” and allow a gap between each.
1. Our Father, hallowed be your name
2. Your Kingdom come
3. Your will be done
4. Give us each day our daily bread
5. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
6. Lead us not into temptation
As a group, brainstorm some areas of prayer that could be “hung” on to each of these lines if they were coat pegs: e.g. Our Father – the “Fatherness” of God, what it means to be his precious children, do we recognise ourselves as sons and daughters of the King? How does this manifest in our lives – or do we need to pray to him more about how we can show it, or see ourselves more in this way?
I have done the first one for you briefly. You can add any more thoughts, and then take each “hook” and make a list of the prayers that can hang off it.
Make a note of one of these arrows to follow up another day. Perhaps instead of “sharpening the axe” as one might say when we talk about improving our skill set, we might need to sharpen some of our arrows.
Which one stands out to you today? Is the Spirit whispering anything to you today for a focus in your prayer life right now?
Are there any words you skip over when you say this prayer alone, or that you don’t normally ponder when you say it aloud with others?
Action Point: There are six of these. Could you pray one each day this week?