Praying The Lord’s Prayer

This past Sunday in church we talked about the Lord’s Prayer, and how it is the “way out” of temptation, and the way back to God when we sin.

St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10, talks about how there is no temptation that we have faced that isn’t common to all men, but God is faithful, who also gives us the way out. He doesn’t say specifically what that way out is, just that God gives it.

One way that we are given out of temptation, according to the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, is through prayer. The Catechism actually says that we do not have the power within ourselves to do what is good and follow the Commandments of God, but must learn to call on him in diligent prayer to ask him for the grace to do so. (And by the way, for more on how the Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer work together, I recommend this article, which influenced this blog post and the sermon on Sunday, as well as pages 580-581 in the BCP.)

The heart of all Christian prayer is the Lord’s Prayer. It is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. It is included in every single service in the Book of Common Prayer. The Didache, a document of teaching on Christian life written during the same time as the New Testament, commends praying the Lord’s Prayer three times daily. In our Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer, it is prayed twice each day. In other words, it is not a prayer that wears out with repetition, but on the contrary, grows in effectiveness as its words take root in our hearts, changing our desires to love what God loves, that his kingdom would come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we pray these powerful words – words prayed by Jesus himself and given to us to pray – we invite God to reign as king in our hearts, our lives, and our world.

No matter what we are facing in life, the Lord’s Prayer is a good response. If we are tempted, it is a prayer that invites his will to be done. If we have sinned, it asks him to forgive our trespasses.

There are three ways we can make more frequent use of the Lord’s Prayer:

  • By praying it regularly throughout the day. Some suggestions for when it could be prayed:
  • By praying it contemplatively: St. Ignatius Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, commends the practice of saying the Lord’s prayer very slowly, as an exercise of contemplation, taking slow, deep breaths, saying one word with each breath, and contemplating each individual word as it is slowly prayed. (To do this, it is best to find a time and place where you will not be disturbed, and begin by taking some time and some slow deep breaths to clear the mind before beginning to pray.)
  • It can be prayed at times of need: for example, when we are feeling tempted to sin, when we are facing stress, anxiety, or other trials, or when we have sinned and want to turn our hearts back to God, asking his forgiveness. This takes practice! But with greater repetition, including regular repetition throughout the day and in contemplation as suggested above, it will eventually become second nature to turn to God in the Lord’s Prayer when faced with temptation or trial.