Light Prayer, A Third Less Filling?

And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'”
(Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

In a study I lead every Thursday, I had someone complain that Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (or Model Prayer if you like) was so short and choppy.  Most in the group preferred Matthew’s version (Matthew 6:9-13).  Several in the group asked which one was right.  Some talked about using it as a model rather than as a rote prayer.

Clearly one of the struggles we face studying this prayer in Luke is the differences between, and the general familiarity and preference for the version in Matthew.  It’s really strange to compare the two.  I remember first doing that on my own while in the Army.  I had a hard time with the differences.  Why was Luke’s so short? What was that all about?  I didn’t know, and commentators explanations seemed more confusing not less (at the time).

But in the study I came up with a slightly different reason.  I suspect that Matthew used the model, and Luke had simply read the prayer model in one of his sources.  So while Luke probably records a more accurate account of what Jesus actually said, I believe Matthew preserves the model as he used it so many years later.  So he had added elements that expanded on the model from his growth in understanding and experience with God in prayer.  Such an interpretation adopts the “model” view of the prayer, which is probably not how the disciples understood it nor what they asked for.  But since we don’t know why, I like to think of Matthew’s version as personal to him.

Yet while the differences are stark, and Luke’s is definitely more choppy, the basic elements are still the same: God’s name is holy (He sanctifies it), His Kingdom comes, request for daily sustenance, forgiveness of sins, and protection from temptation. The elements in Matthew’s version can be assumed, and their absence is missed but not necessary for meaning.  The real problem for me is how much more easily Matthew’s version seems to roll off the tongue.  Luke’s version does seem more choppy.

So, having said all that, the point here is that a model or form for prayer is important, yet using it is more important.  If Matthew’s version is his own from years of loving use, then it shows that this bare bones version in Luke can become a base for greater understanding and experience for us.  Perhaps God will show us something different than Matthew experienced through his use.  Perhaps the elements we add will be focused on different aspects of God and His work in our lives.  For Matthew the point was forgiveness.  For Luke it was persistence in prayer.  What will it be for us?  The only way to find out is to pray.

What do you learn from Luke’s “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of the Lord’s Prayer?


Prayer Interrupted

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 NASB)

Jesus has been leading His disciples for 3 years now? And He’s on His way to die on a cross, when His disciples finally ask to be taught a prayer for their group.  The rabbis teach their disciples prayers, John taught his disciples, and now Jesus’ disciples want one.  I see two really strange things here.

I see that Jesus never really felt the need to provide His disciples with a prayer.  That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but when you consider that the culture would then use this prayer as a method (as opposed to a “model”) it may make more sense.  Jesus didn’t seem interested in providing a “rote prayer”.  He refers to prayer a lot, and in Luke He seems to be always off by Himself praying someplace.  We’re not given a sense Jesus used memorized prayers.  Yet He provides a prayer for His disciples.  We call it a model, but they didn’t.  He provides one so simple, yet so complete it was easy to memorize and effective to use.  So while He didn’t feel the need to suggest one, Jesus acquiesces to their request for one.

Second, Jesus’ prayer, while simple and short, could not have been what He used when they constantly found Him praying alone.  He didn’t give them what He used.  Now, chill out, I know Jesus is God and has a relationship with the Father that is qualitatively different than ours, and all.  But He is also human with human needs, and human physical weakness.  What I mean is that while Jesus may have used a sort of framework like what He provides to His disciples, it’s not certain.  He doesn’t say, “Do like I do in prayer.”  He says, “Pray in this way.”  There is a difference that was probably not lost on His disciples.  Jesus gives them a glimpse into the reality that prayer is a developing experience, not a formula.  I believe this is because prayer drives our relationship with God, which, as it develops and deepens, then informs our prayers.

What do you learn from the disciples question?