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Table of Contents
Introduction: A Study For Spiritual Formation
We live in times that, even in our best moments, challenge us to the core. Every day the news that pours into our homes reminds us that the world is truly not as it should be, nor as it will be one great day. For that reason, God has al- ways invited His people to be a praying, intercessory people. These are people who present their requests to God, in humility, but who also press in with passion and expectation as they pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most powerful, and certainly one of the most recited, prayers in the Bible. In this prayer, provided by Jesus at the request of his disciples, all the territory a follower of Jesus needs to cover in intercession is contained in just a few simple phrases. It is truly a trustworthy framework for learning how to pray. Prayer is meant to simply be an ongoing conversation with God. As Chris Lowney writes, “Ignatius urges, in one after another of his Spiritual Exercises, that we speak to Jesus ‘in the way one friend speaks to another’” (Lowney, Heroic Living, p. 97).
As we learn to pray as Jesus taught us, we’ll see a renewal of our own intimacy with the Father, and at the same time we’ll see real, lasting change take place in the world around us.
This study in the How Is Your Soul? Series is designed to work as a church- wide message series, an enriching small group study, or as a tool for individual growth. Bless you as we pray with Jesus the prayer He taught us to pray.
The Vineyard Resources Team
JESUS, TEACH US TO PRAY.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
At only one moment in the entire New Testament do we see Jesus’ disciples asking Him to teach them something. They do not ask to be taught how to heal, how to show compassion, or how to tell others the Good News of the Kingdom. They simply ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.
Could it be that what the disciples saw in Jesus’ life, the quality they most wanted to have as their own, was not His wisdom, power, or teaching ability? Could it be that they most wanted to learn how to have the inner life of intimacy Jesus seemed to have with His Father – His life of prayer?
When asked the question in Luke 11:1, Jesus answers directly with what we know as The Lord’s Prayer (or the Our Father, also known as the Pater Noster in some traditions). This prayer is perhaps the most prayed prayer in all of history, across the Body of Christ. It is unrivaled in its simplicity, expansive in its reach, and honed in its Kingdom focus. With 6 petitions in its text (3 imperatives directed toward the Father, and 3 requests addressing our basic human needs), here it is from Matthew 6:9-13 (without the familiar doxology at the end):
This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
The Vineyard Resources Team
Q. Why has Christ commanded us to address God as our Father?
A. To awaken in us
at the very beginning of our prayer
that childlike reverence and trust
which should be basic to our prayer: God has become our Father
and will much less deny us
what we ask of him in faith
than our fathers would
refuse us earthly things.
— Heidelberg Catechism
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1a
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Week 1: Our Father In Heaven
THE NAME OF GOD - We begin our prayer with love.
There is power in a name. A name quietly carries with it a rich story – a story of ancestry, roles, expectations – and even the power to act. The prayer that Jesus teaches us begins with the most familial, and most meaningful, of the names we have for God: “Our Father.”
The word “our” reminds us that we are a part of a family – a transhistorical tribe of men, women, and children who have recognized that God truly is the “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6). When we pray, we are a part of a community whose prayers are al- ways ascending to the One God who keeps them before Him as a sweet incense – prayers that move Him to change the world (Rev. 8:3-4). In other words, we are never praying alone.
Then, we confidently proclaim and affirm God’s character as our “Father.” We are remembering to whom we are praying – the Lover of our souls. Speaking out this name of God, we affirm who God is, what God is like, and the loving motives of His heart to- ward us as He listens to our requests. This postures us to pray with confidence, knowing that our prayers will be heard, not because of our fervor or eloquence, but rather because of the Listener’s love for us.
He is our Father “in heaven,” meaning that He dwells in the sphere of creation that is beyond that of our earthly fathers, and has unlimited knowledge of factors influencing our situation that are beyond our own limited perception. The imperative, “Be holy, Your name!” asks God to make His name sacred and revered again in us and the world; something only He can do.
As we begin to pray, we are stirred up in our communal confidence and Kingdom expectation that the Father to whom we speak takes us seriously – and is the One who loves us with incomparable affection, able to do what only our Father in heaven can do.
Father of my heart, Leader of Your family, and Master of the past, present, and future, I join with the saints today to pray in accord with Your loving, good, pleasing, and perfect will. Be holy, Your name! Your name is Your promise, and in Your name, Father, I offer my prayer.
- Are you aware of how much your Father God loves you as you begin to pray?
- How does that shape the tone of your prayers?
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
In the second petition, which is “Thy kingdom come,” we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be de- stroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Thy kingdom come – may Thy kingdom of grace come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of this earth: may all mankind, receiving Thee, O Christ, for their king, truly believing in Thy name, be filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy; with holiness and happiness, till they are removed hence into Thy kingdom of glory, to reign with Thee for ever and ever.
Through Jesus’ life and ministry, God’s future world – and its entire value system – was breaking into our human experience. Using a theological phrase, we call this inaugurated eschatology. Put simply, this means that Jesus inaugurated (ushered in) the gifts of God’s future, perfect world (eschatology is about the “end” of the world). God’s future kingdom, where healing and justice and love will reign supreme for eternity, was being brought into the present through the ministry of Jesus. In Jesus, humanity was experiencing the presence of God’s future (George Ladd). The kingdom of God, God’s rule and reign, was being established in hearts and lives as Jesus not only proclaimed the good news of God’s plan to crush the works of Satan (1 Jn. 3:8), but he also demonstrated that good news by healing the sick, casting out demons, offering radical forgiveness, extending compassion, and delivering the oppressed.
What Is The Kingdom? (Vineyard Resources, p. 11)
Week 2: YOUR KINGDOM COME
COME, YOUR KINGDOM! - Invite God's Rule and reign.
In the Bible, how something is said is as important as the words being said. The petitions of The Lord’s Prayer have their verbs written in the imperative mood. In other words, though we are speaking with the God most holy, almighty, and transcendent, Jesus welcomes us to speak with God in the mood of “command or entreaty – the mood of volition” (Johnson, p. 19). In other words, we are “willing” something as we approach God, and Jesus invites us to do so. This passage then translates to “Come, Your Kingdom!” We are applying our faith to the request, as a child would boldly and confidently trust a parent to do what he or she knows the parent can do.
Be holy, Your name! Come, Your King- dom! Be done, Your will! In the imperative mood, yet set in the passive tense, there is a note of respect in these phrases. Rather than commanding God or saying “do it,” we are saying “be done” (Johnson, p. 20).
I.e. “Be holy, Your name! Let Your name be holy on my lips and the lips of all who speak it. Come, Your King- dom! Let your rule and reign be mani- fest in this situation. Be done, Your will! Move Your purposes forward in this circumstance, O God.”
The Kingdom of God is God’s rule and reign, manifested in the world through God’s actions and God’s people al- lowing His rule and reign within their hearts. When we pray, “Come, Your Kingdom!” we are praying for heaven to come into full contact with earth, to break into the circumstances with which we are concerned. We are embracing the reality of the already and not yet of God’s Kingdom, inviting the wholeness of the age to come into the need of the present. In praying, “Your Kingdom come,” we are praying for our heavenly Father to express His rule and reign in the earthly concerns we are about to present.
To affirm God’s Kingdom coming is to lean in to God’s power for our present.
- Does it bring you joy, or make you nervous, to know that Jesus encour- ages us to speak to the Father with such boldness and confidence
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
But when we are faithful in keeping ourselves in his holy presence, keeping him always before us, this not only prevents our offending him or doing something displeasing in his sight (at least willfully), but it also brings to us a holy freedom, and if I may say so, a familiarity with God wherein we may ask and receive the graces we are so desperately in need of. In short, by often repeating these acts they become habitual, and the presence of God becomes something that comes naturally to us.
Brother Lawrence (Devotional Classics, p. 370)
Those people who doubt the power of prayer will never have their question answered until the Lord opens their spirits and teaches it to them. Herein is the truth: all true prayer is in and from the Holy Spirit. The promise of God concerning prayer (that is, the certainty of prayer being answered) is referring to the kind of prayer that is in faith and to the Holy Spirit. It is not, however, dealing with the prayers that come from the flesh or will or human wisdom. Therefore, the great care and concern in prayer is that it be of God in the quickenings and motions of his own Spirit.
Isaac Penington (Devotional Classics, p. 210)
Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. …[Hope] means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do. It is the imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.
Eugene Peterson (A Long Obedience In The Same Direction, p. 144)
Week 3: YOUR WILL BE DONE
BE DONE, YOUR WILL! - Align your will to the Father’s.
The prayer of “Come, Your Kingdom!” is followed by the prayer, “Be done, Your will!” The volition of God represents His choices, His preferences, His desires. At this point in the first 3 petitions, we boldly take the position that God’s will being done is more important to us than our own will being done.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays an echo of this prayer He taught His disciples, revealing a life trajectory set on honoring the Father no matter the price: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39b). Jesus’ will propels Him to ask the Father to take the cup of suffering and death from His hands. If He had stopped there in His request, who knows how the Father would have responded. However, Jesus adds the words, “…not as I will, but as you will,” modeling for us our need to yield ourselves to the will of the Father – even as we honestly state to him the desires flowing from our own will.
Still in a posture of bold, imperative request, we cry out for God’s will to be done – even if it will contradict our own will. This capacity to eagerly desire the will of God to be done in any given circumstance sets prayer apart from magic. Magic manipulates spiritual powers to see our own will accomplished. True prayer, however, yields to a greater will even as we make requests born in our own preferences. Prayer is about God’s will being done.
Then, following this phrase and sitting at the center of The Lord’s Prayer, designed to be connected to each of the first 3 petitions, is the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We declare that we are not content for earth to go on as if it owes no allegiance to heaven. We pray for the powers of this earth to have a revelation of the Father’s love. We pray for God’s will to be done here as it is so perfectly done in His heaven.
Be done, Your will! Father, align my will, and the will of those involved in this area of concern, to Your desires, Your purposes, Your highest ends. As Your will is being done right now in heaven, let it be so unfailingly accomplished here!
- Have you ever been disappointed in prayer?
- Reflecting, have you seen how the will of God may have been accomplished though your will was not done in the situation?
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
They asked, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
…All we have is from the hand of God’s royal bounty; we have nothing but what He gives us out of His storehouse; we cannot have one bit of bread but from God.
I praise You for the life that stirs within me:
I praise You for the bright and beautiful world into which I go:
I praise You for earth and sea and sky, for scudding cloud and singing bird:
I praise You for the work You have given me to do:
I praise You for all that You have given me to fill my leisure hours:
I praise You for my friends:
I praise You for music and books and good company and all pure pleasures.
John Baillie (Seventh Morning Prayer, Devotional Classics, p. 111)
Week 4: GIVE US THIS DAY
BE OUR PROVIDER - We depend on You for sustenance.
Following the first 3 petitions, we now notice a change in the pronouns of the prayer. Whereas the first 3 petitions use the pronoun “Your,” (Your name, Your Kingdom, Your will), the next 3 refer directly to “us” and “our” very human needs.
“Give us this day our daily bread” turns our attention to the fact that God is ultimately the Provider for every need we have. Few needs are as basic as those of eating and drinking, and the word “bread” becomes a metaphor (as it often is throughout the Gospels) for sustenance of every kind.
Here we recall the storytelling and truth-affirming names of God again, this time, the God who is our Jehovah Jireh – our Provider.
We are not asking for fine wine, spiced chocolate, or gourmet cheese at this point, though we don’t want to assume that our Father God doesn’t care about our unique preferences in life! However, we are oriented again to the fact that it is a gift and a privilege to have our hunger filled, each and every day. And when we see even our most basic provisions of food as a privilege to be experienced, we become those who are both grateful for, and generous with, the resources that flow through our hands.
As Martin Luther said in the 16th century, this prayer includes “food, drink, clothes, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money and goods, a godly husband or wife, devout children, good workers, honest and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace, health, law and order, an honorable name, faithful friends, trustworthy neighbors and things like that” (Johnson, p. 70).
In other words, this petition reminds us that we are not to become blinded by our own self-sufficiency, but rather we are to lean into God’s-sufficiency.
- When is the last time you felt desperate for basic provision?
- Did you pray, and what was the result?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the serv- ant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
Week 5: FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS
LET FORGIVENESS RULE - Forgive me as I forgive others.
The fifth petition of The Lord’s Prayer cuts right to the heart of our interactions with others in what can be an unforgiving and merciless world.
“…Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” The words come crashing into our shame and self-doubt. We can be forgiven! We can fail, and it not separate us from God. We can be set right again when in our hearts we have definitely, repeatedly wronged another. A world without forgiveness is a barren field, seedless, rainless, and lacking possibility. But a world with forgiveness, from God to us, and then from us to others and others toward us, is verdant with new beginnings, shared hope, and powerful revelations of what it means to belong to the Father.
The word “debts” has been translated “trespasses” or “transgressions” (Col. 2:13-14), words seeking to capture the essence of the Greek word, opheliema. The word, drawn from the world of human commerce, speaks of a financial debt, or a moral or social obligation that is a person’s duty to discharge (Johnson, p. 80). When forgiveness touches a financial debt, a moral trespass, or a social transgression, a wind of joy sweeps through the heart.
The challenge of this passage is obvious to every Christian who has ever taken this part of Jesus’ prayer seriously. We welcome second chances for ourselves, yes. But the prayer Jesus is teaching us adds an arresting caveat. “Forgive us as we forgive….” We are actually asking God to clean our slates to the degree we are willing to clean the slates of those who have wronged us. We become liberated from our burdens as we liberate others from theirs. We are released from the weight of our transgressions against God and ourselves when we lift that same weight off of those who have transgressed against us. For Jesus, He wanted this to be in the prayer He would teach us.
Our Father, our sins have been cast into a sea of forgetfulness (Mic. 7:19), and we offer the trespasses of recent moments to You. Teach us to live in this same spirit of forgive-and-forgetfulness toward those who sin against us.
- Are you holding unforgiveness toward anyone in your heart?
- What is one step you could take to release that person from the judgement you carry toward them, in the same way that God has released you?
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make straight your way before me.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
…The word ‘temptation’ means sometimes trial, affliction, anything that tests our virtue.
Week 6: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
STRENGTHEN MY SPIRIT - To resist the pull of evil.
The sixth and final petition of The Lord’s Prayer reveals our need to be continually “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) so that we are not over-powered by evil or the enemy of our souls. In the biblical versions of The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus ends the prayer He is teaching His disciples with this final phrase: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Imagine ending the prayer at this point, with no “For Yours is the Kingdom…” at the end! Our need for deliverance from temptation and deliverance from the evil one draws us into a prayer request that has eternal implications. Here, we affirm not only our need for forgiveness and our mandate to forgive others, but we also affirm that we are empowered to resist the forces of evil that will definitely and assuredly assail us today. One fascinating element in this section of the prayer is the definite article preceding the word “evil” – transforming it into the idea of “the evil one.” We face a personal evil in this world, the “accuser” of our souls who will be intentional about targeting the weakest areas of our character. Because our “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41), we need a constant renewal of our spiritual stamina to resist the temptations of fear, pride, anger, self-sufficiency, greed, lust, jealousy, and control that will inevitably badger us along the path of discipleship.
Jesus concludes the prayer with a cry to be delivered from the evil within us, and the evil one without. Jesus never said that living out our faith in the world would be easy, nor did He say we’d never face our vulnerabilities and brokenness. What He did say was that God could be called upon, in prayer, to strengthen our spirit for abundant living. He trains our hands for war to resist the powers that pursue us, and our fingers for a battle in which He is our master and commander (Ps. 144:1).
- Are you aware of your need for rescue from temptation?
- Do you welcome the Spirit each day to strengthen you to face the assaults of the evil one?
DOXOLOGY: YOURS IS THE KINGDOM
“For Yours is the Kingdom,
and the glory,
forever and ever.
Concluding Jesus’ prayer in a celebration of praise is a fitting, worshipful, and glorious way to complete such a powerful petition! The doxological words we typically pray resonate profoundly with the following words from King David at Solomon’s coronation (Johnson, p. 111):
“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.”
1 Chronicles 29:10b-11
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer… as it stands in connection with the rest of the prayer, implies that we desire and ask all the things mentioned in each petition, with a subordination, and in sub- servience, to the dominion and the glory of God; in which all our desires ultimately terminate, as their last end. God’s glory and dominion are the two first things mentioned in the prayer; and they are the two last things mentioned in the same prayer, in its conclusion. God’s glory is the Alpha and Omega in the prayer.
This means we have made all these requests of You because, as our all-powerful King, You not only want to, but are able to give us all that is good; and because Your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
[a fresh expression by Darrell Johnson]
very close at hand,
on the throne of the universe;
Be hallowed (!) your name,
On earth as it is in heaven;
Come (!) your kingdom,
On earth as it is in heaven;
Be done (!) your will,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day all we need to be your people.
Cancel our debts,
As we have cancelled the debts of our debtors.
And as you lead us to the test,
Do not let the test become a temptation,
But rescue us from the twisting wiles of the evil-one.
He wants us to think that you are not as good as Jesus says you are.
All this, and more, you can do,
for yours is the kingdom,
and the power and the glory.
Forever! So be it.
Prayer excerpted from Fifty- Seven Words That Change The World by Darrell Johnson, p. 113
The Vineyard Resources Team
ABOUT SPIRITUAL FORMATION
How do we keep growing, day by day and week by week, as Christians? Ignatius of Loyola, many centuries ago, asked this same question. Ignatius knew that human beings are deeply emotional, thoughtful, and physical creatures. To grow in our spiritual strength, we must also grow in self-awareness, training ourselves to examine our hearts in the presence of God multiple times a day.
To create a self-guided “cleansing, thanking, and evaluating” tool for each day, Ignatius developed what is called the Daily Examen.
The Daily Examen is a series of simple questions that helps us to see the Spirit’s work in the day we just completed, and to expect the Spirit’s work in the day ahead. We examine our souls before God, and then turn our hearts to gratefulness, joy, repentance, hope, and trust for tomorrow.
The tool to the right can be removed from this booklet, and kept with you at all times. Memorizing the five steps of the Examen enables you to do this powerful spiritual exercise in the car, on a walk, or multiple times during your workday.
The attitude in which we best approach the Daily Examen is one of love for God and gratefulness for His deep work in our lives. That spirit is captured in these words from the great Augustine of Hippo, at the historic moment of his conversion:
“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong, I, misshapen. You were with me but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being were they not in you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace”
Augustine of Hippo (Chadwick, Confessions, x.27, p. 201).
This Daily Examen to the right is adapted from many variations of Ignatius’ original. Take your time, and give about 5-15 minutes at the opening and/or close of your day to this spiritual exercise.
Become aware of the Presence of God.
Quiet your heart, and listen. In this moment, become present to Jesus.
Review your day with gratitude.
Become aware of your emotions.
Review your positive and negative feelings. Did you choose Jesus’ way in each situation?
4. Joy & Sorrow
Choose one feature of the day, and pray.
Rejoice in a success, or ask forgiveness for sin. If necessary, plan to make amends.
Look toward tomorrow.
Move toward expectation. Ask God to shine light on tomorrow’s path. Resolve to grow.
The Vineyard Resources Team
[Place this by your bed, or in a location where you meet with God in a devotional space. Commit it to memory as able. Give each step 1-3 minutes of reflection, until all 5 steps are completed. Consider doing this at least twice per day.]
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