The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)
Read Luke 11:1-4
Why don’t we pray more? Why are prayer meetings so poorly attended, not only here but at most churches? It does not seem to be due to a lack of information. Many who are very comfortable reading and applying Scripture are still terrified to pray out loud. There is an unnecessary intimidation involved. Part of what I am hoping to do by slowing down in our series in Luke is to help us to have a more robust understanding of the purpose for prayer and the principles that ought to guide our practice.
In an article titled, “Seven Reasons Prayer Meetings Fail” Kevin DeYoung suggests the following:
- We hardly take time to pray.
- The individual prayers are too long.
- Too few people participate.
- No one has prepared to lead.
- There is no variety in prayer.
- We don’t stick to the allotted time.
- We forget that we are praying.
Last week we began looking at the WLC 178 What is prayer?
Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
We considered how we come to God in humility asking according to his will. We come trusting that He hears our petitions. And we come persistently. We also pray to God in the name of Christ, recognizing that we have an advocate who is seated at the right hand of God interceding for us. And the Holy Spirit also intercedes on our behalf when we do not know what to say (Rom. 8:26). Prayer involves the confession of our sins knowing that Christ alone can provide that assurance of pardon that we need to hear.
The WLC takes each clause of this answer and elaborates upon them.
- Are we to pray unto God only? Yes.
- What is it to pray in the name of Christ? Among other things, it is “to ask mercy for his sake.”
- Why are we to pray in the name of Christ? Because he is our only mediator.
- How doth the Spirit help us to pray? The Spirit helps us to understand who to pray for (183), what to pray for (184), and how to pray (185). He also creates the right affections in us.
- For whom are we to pray? The whole church, magistrates, ministers, ourselves, brethren, enemies, and the living (not the dead, or those who have sinned the sin unto death, 1 Jn. 5:16)
- For what things are we to pray? Things that glorify God, the welfare of the church, the good of us and others, but not for anything unlawful.
- How are we to pray? We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon him, with humble submission to his will.
All of these would be excellent questions and answers to study, but I want to jump ahead to what the WLC teaches us about The Lord’s Prayer.
WLC 186. WHAT RULE HATH GOD GIVEN FOR OUR DIRECTION IN THE DUTY OF PRAYER?
The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.
All of God’s Word provides direction in our prayers because it reveals to us his divine will. So our desires begin to align with his will as we come to know him through his word. That is why we can ask for things with confidence know that we are asking “according to his will” (1 John 5:14).
But, the Lord’s Prayer is called a “special rule of direction.” We find the Lord’s Prayer here in Luke 11:2-4 and in Matthew 6:9-13. Matthew includes Jesus’ instruction during the Sermon on the Mount and expands upon a few of the clauses. He also adds a conclusion that is not found here in Luke. It is probable that Jesus taught his followers about prayer more than once. So it is understandable that the disciples follow up with a request to hear it again.
Notice, in this case, the instruction comes upon the disciples witnessing Jesus in prayer (11:1). The disciples saw him praying and wanted to understand how they could pray like him. Certainly, they saw him praying in a way that showed sincerity and a confidence that had not witnessed before.
WLC 187. HOW IS THE LORD’S PRAYER TO BE USED?
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, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer can be used to teach us about the categories for prayer as we did last week (ie. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We can look at each petition in the prayer and determine what it is. For instance, we might say that the first petition “Hallowed by your name” is about acknowledging and adoring God for his holiness. Or we might note that the fifth petition teaches us to confess our sins and seek forgiveness. That is one good way of analyzing the Lord’s Prayer and incorporating it as a guide for our own prayer life.
But, the Lord’s Prayer can itself be recited as a prayer in it’s own right. There is nothing magical about the mere recitation of the words. It’s not a formula that conjures up a genie who grants us our three wishes. But when we pray these words “with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer,” it serves as a genuine prayer from our heart.
This answer comes from the verses just preceding the prayer in Matthew and Luke. In Matthew, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “after this manner” (Matt. 6:9). In other words, pray in these kinds of categories, or pray about these kinds of things. In Luke, Jesus simply says, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2). So we should both pray according to the manner of this prayer, and at times we should also pray this prayer precisely.
WLC 188. OF HOW MANY PARTS DOTH THE LORD’S PRAYER CONSIST?
The Lord’s Prayer consists of three parts; a preface, petitions, and a conclusion.
The preface is simply how we address God. In general, we should begin by addressing God the Father. We might say, “Father” (Luke 11:2), “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), “Heavenly Father” or some version of that. Does this mean it is out of accord with Scripture to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit? No. As long as we are praying to God, it is appropriate to pray to him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul refers to the saints as those who “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2). Scripture concludes with a petition to Jesus, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
But the Lord’s prayer, along with the many examples that we find in Scripture, does provide us with a helpful pattern that should serve as our normal habit. It makes sense with the whole counsel of God’s Word that we would pray to the Father, in the name of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit (WLC 178). That our typical address should begin by acknowledging God the Father.
The next section of the Lord’s Prayer to consider is the petitions. There are a total of six petitions contained in the prayer. My plan is to take some time over the next several weeks to address each petition in turn.
Then we will wrap up our series on the Lord’s Prayer by considering the conclusion which is only found in Matthew, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Let’s conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer together. You can follow along in our Trinity Psalter Hymnal (p.894, HC 119).
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.