Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.” [Luke 11:1-4 (NLT)]
When one of His disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he alluded to John the Baptist’s prayer. Perhaps this nameless student had been one of John’s disciples. While we have no idea what John’s prayer was, we do know that he both prayed and fasted with his followers. We also don’t know if this disciple was one of the inner circle of twelve or one of the seventy-two that had been sent out by Jesus. We only know that he wanted to learn to pray, which was not an odd request. Rabbis often gave prayer formulas to their pupils and, since Jesus frequently prayed, the disciple knew that prayer was an integral part of his teacher’s life.
In at least two different times and places, Jesus said what has come to be known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Actually, that title is a misnomer; this is not a prayer our Lord prayed, such as the ones prayed for His disciples in John 17, in Gethsemane, or as He hung on the cross. This is not His prayer, it is ours; rather than praying this prayer, Jesus was teaching it and giving this prayer to His disciples. The pronouns are not singular but plural; it’s not give, forgive, or let me but rather give, forgive, and let us. It’s not the food I need or the people I forgive who sinned against me; it’s the food we need and the people we must forgive who hurt us. This is a prayer meant to be said with one another; a prayer of community, it is a corporate prayer of submission and dependence.
When St. Cyprian wrote about the Lord’s Prayer, he emphasized the importance of praying it with other believers as a way of uniting them with their church family. He said, “Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray we pray not for one but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.” With that in mind, perhaps a more appropriate title for this well-known prayer would be “The Disciples’ Prayer.”
When in Florida, we worship at two vastly different churches. Saturday nights, we attend a liturgical church and Sunday mornings we attend a non-denominational non-liturgical church. Pastored by a gifted preacher, Sunday’s message is inspiring and uplifting, but there’s something about Saturday nights that lifts my spirit and strengthens my heart. Saturdays, we raise our voices in song, responsively read a psalm, recite the creed, and say the Lord’s Prayer as one. The small groups in that church often end their sessions by joining hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer together. Singing, declaring, and praying with one voice, especially when physically connected with one another, reinforces our oneness in the Spirit and the Lord.