I was going to write a post today filled with platitudes about what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about praying.
But the truth is, my own prayer life stinks.
If I wrote the kind of post I wanted to write, I would be the same kind of hypocrite that Jesus speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount. One who uses words to look holy and pious, but fails to do privately what she does publicly.
It’s true that I practice a certain kind of “prayer without ceasing” during my day. I walk around with an awareness of God’s presence and an invitation for him to be part of my activities that I never used to have. And I am so grateful for the way my faith has changed and grown to have this sort of richness.
But, for a long time now, I have struggled in my commitment to set aside time to pray. To speak to God with intention. To focus. To set aside distractions. To breathe. To listen. To be fully engaged in the act of prayer.
I long to change. I can feel in the fragmentation of myself, and my faith that I need to.
And so more than the words of the Lord’s prayer itself, I am hearing Jesus’ introduction to it. “When you pray… pray like this.” Not if you pray. Not if you get around to praying. Not if you feel so inclined to set aside the time once in awhile.
When you pray...
This is an invitation for our souls to come, and an expectation that we will. Not because we should pray, or are obligated to pray, or are holier if we pray, but because we can pray. Because we need to pray.
Pray like this.
Not as a formula, but as a holistic picture of what prayer can look like. Of what our God looks like.
God is our Father. He is intimately concerned about our well-being. God is holy. But also, He forgives us. His holiness does not mean we have to measure up, but that He is immeasurable. God provides for our needs. But also, He is bringing His kingdom. His purposes are much more grand than our individual happiness.
Intentional prayer like the Lord's prayer centers us. It gives us perspective.
I need to pray more. Not because it makes me holy. But because it makes me whole.
(P.S. Jesus' teaching on prayer, which includes the Lord's Prayer, is found in Matthew 6.)