We call it “The” Lord’s Prayer. Scholars and preachers dissect each clause. Is it of Aramaic origin? Who knows? Since it’s the only prayer we have where Jesus says, “pray this way,” it becomes “the” prayer.
Even though we have “the” Lord’s Prayer, the gospels contain other prayers of and by Jesus. According to the text, the Lord’s Prayer is one of several prayers of Jesus. Jesus prayed for the sick, his disciples, himself, and even the city of Jerusalem. In one way, these are all prayers from our “Lord.” They are all worthy of study and emulation. I immediately think of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John’s gospel (17:1-25), “that they may be one.” John 17 may not be the shortest or most accessible of Jesus’ prayers. It is one of the most important. Methodists need to remember this prayer as often we recall “The Lord’s Prayer.”
In my mind, John 17 is a quintessential Lord’s Prayer. The entire chapter is Jesus praying. These twenty-five verses are some of Jesus’ most heartfelt words for humanity. “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you have me, because they are yours.” They come from a place deep within his soul, and each syllable belongs to him.
Luke 11:1-13 is different. In the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is trying to help us find our words for our prayer. The result, reading Luke 11:1-13 isn’t that we’ll only pray Jesus’ model prayer. So what’s the right answer to, “Lord, teach us how to pray?” We’ll use Jesus’ words to find our language to express gratitude, acknowledge God’s holiness, the presence of God’s kingdom among us, our need for forgiveness, and a desire to be better tomorrow than we were today.
So we call Luke 11:1-13 the Lord’s Prayer, yes. That’s true. It’s also your prayer, a gift from Jesus, to use as you will. Take it, make it your own, and have a conversation with God about gratitude as a way of opening your heart to others, how sacred creation is, how present God is, how much you need God, and the desire to live a better life.
Richard Lowell Bryant