And when you pray…
Our series entitled “Rooted: Essential Christianity” has so far consisted of sermons through the Apostle’s Creed, The Ten Commandments, and the Reformation Solas. Today we begin the final series of messages in the Rooted series. In these sermons we will be diving deep into the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew chapter six as part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
One of the earliest Christian commentaries was written on the Lord’s Prayer by Tertullian who referred to the prayer as “a compendium of the gospel.” Early on, Christians began using the Lord’s Prayer as an essential component, along with the Apostle’s Creed and Ten Commandments, for catechizing children and new Christians. Thomas Watson, the great English Puritan, wrote an entire volume focused on the Lord’s Prayer. Indeed, in Watson’s magisterial three-volume work on the Westminster Confession of Faith, The Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer, the later volume is the lengthiest.
Robert Murray McCheyne once said, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is – and no more.” J.I. Packer writes, “It is not too much to say that God made us to pray; that prayer is (not the easiest) but the most natural activity in which we ever engage; and that prayer is the measure of us all in God’s sight.”
It seems odd to many contemporary evangelicals that they would need to be taught to pray much less given a certain prayer to recite periodically. But this was the request put to Jesus by his disciples: “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). The Apostle Paul acknowledged that there are times when God’s own people will not know how to pray (Romans 8:26). Certainly, the Lord’s Prayer is not to be used as some magical incantation conferring spiritual power and blessings upon those who repeat it. But we ought not assume that sincerity must always be spontaneous and unscripted. Sometimes a well prepared prayer gives to us the language we require when our lives confirm our great need to open our heart to our Heavenly Father.
As we will see, the Lord’s Prayer provides us not only with a pattern for prayer but also a treasury of Christian doctrine. The Lord’s Prayer may well be considered the first example of systematic theology in the New Testament. Thus, the prayer that Jesus taught us is a model of theology in service to devotion and doxology. The prayer begins where all good prayer begins, by acknowledging the God to whom we pray: “Our Father…”