Exploring and Applying the Lord's Prayer
Lord, Teach Us To Pray

'Listen and read' podcasts and text of this potentially world-changing prayer and a chance to obtain the much fuller original book. Explore it in one sitting, a little a day, or discuss it in a group using the questions posed.

see the book
 
  

Download and listen to the audio podcast of this extract

Our Lord's pattern is the Hebrew pattern of prayer and worship kept together. The petitions are balanced and strengthened by reminding ourselves of the power and glory of our heavenly Father. Having just looked at the great dangers and evils that surround us, we have every reason to be weighed down. And so how good it is to turn our eyes heavenward and boldly affirm the glorious truth that our heavenly Father is the sovereign Lord; to him belong all power and glory. He is well able to rescue us, deliver us, and keep us safe even though we walk, maybe often, through the valley of the shadow of death.

One of the characteristics of stately homes is their balance, their symmetry. If one wing was never built, or was lost by the ravages of fire or dry rot, the whole building is left out of balance; half missing. Similarly with prayer, if we fail to remind ourselves of the greatness of God in praise and adoration we shall be spiritually cast down by life's great challenges, difficulties and battles. We may also become prey to a dryness of spirit which reduces prayer, and indeed the whole of our Christian living, to an unlovely, formal duty, something which has to be done and yet which has within it no contagious, God-centred joy and gladness.

On the other hand, if the aspect of heartfelt petition for this fallen world is lost we may enjoy 'praise and worship' which is quite literally out of this world. It will be in a compartment on its own - stirring, heart-warming, deeply moving at the time and yet having little or no relevance to the reality of living in this world for God.

In public worship and in private prayer, therefore, plead with the Lord from a full heart about all the practical issues of living and revel in the fact that he is able to keep us from falling, able to present us faultless, able to do more than we can even begin to think or imagine . . . the kingdom, the power and ultimately all glory belong to the Lord God, our heavenly Father.

                The Lord is King! who then shall dare
                Resist his will, distrust his care,
                Or murmur at his wise decrees,
                Or doubt his royal promises?

'The kingdom, the power and the glory,' here is a peal of praise giving glory to God our heavenly Father whose sovereign power will never cease, even for ever and ever. 'The Lord God reigns. Amen, Amen.'

The word 'amen' so often thought of and used as if it were a 'religious full-stop' is in reality far greater. It means 'certainly so' or 'let it be so' and gives us the opportunity to 'sign our name', and add our own voice to the great affirmations and petitions of this most wonderful of prayers.

The Authorized, King James' Version concludes the Lord's Prayer with this magnificent ending. It is fitting and part of our godly heritage. However, many of the modern versions conclude the Lord's Prayer without this ending.

Within the services of the Church of England we use both forms of the Lord's Prayer. I used to feel we were 'given short measure' if the prayer ended with, 'Deliver us from evil.' It felt unfinished; as if, as a visitor, we had been suddenly ushered from a great house having been shown just a few of the magnificent rooms! However, it is in fact a fair reflection of what we find within the New Testament.

If you study the various ancient manuscripts from which our New Testament has come, you find that not all of them have the fuller ending. Many texts stop short, ending with, 'Lead us not into temptation,' or, 'Keep us from evil,' or even earlier. There is clearly some uncertainty about the conclusion of the prayer. The traditional ending could have been something which the apostles, or early Christians, added as they came to pray it. As they prayed they came back to thinking about our heavenly Father and the great themes of this prayer and ended, surely rightly, on this note of praise, giving glory to Almighty God.

This concluding peal of praise is absolutely consistent with the whole teaching of the scriptures. It is a telling forth of who God is; the one true God who is the king of the universe. Although around us men and women ignore him, although there are many who live in active rebellion against him, we affirm that God, the living God, is Lord. Let all the earth know that the one, living God reigns.

You might ask, 'Is such a statement of the sovereignty of God a charitable, a "Christian", attitude?' We live in a very tolerant age and surely the spirit of Christianity is to be tolerant. Clearly, there is a place for tolerance, but when tolerance, gentleness with those around us, leads us to suppress the truth, then surely the principle of tolerance has led us to overthrow something far greater, far more important. It has led us to overthrow truth.

It is as if there were a fire at a great house and a servant went to bring a young prince out of the house, but the lad said, 'No, no, leave me alone. I want to sleep, I don't want to come out.' The servant would have to say, 'I am sorry but you must come out. There is no choice, because there is something great at stake - your own life - and that is much more important than sleep.' If we allow tolerance to overthrow truth we shall be in great trouble. This is the particular danger in which we find ourselves in our own liberal, tolerant day. We are called by God to be his heralds, to proclaim the gospel, and yet we find ourselves squeezed by the world into being so tolerant and gracious, that we cease even to affirm that to God, and to God alone, belong the kingdom and the power and the glory. 'Brothers,' says the apostle Paul, 'pray for me that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.' A prayer worthy of echoing both for ourselves and for our Christian leaders in a world that increasingly tolerates almost anything . . . except the call to bow the knee to the one true God; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every great house has one or two particularly fine views; views that display the estate, the gardens and the house to their very best advantage. As we conclude the Lord's Prayer we are given such a view. 'The kingdom, the power and the glory . . .' words which tell out the sovereign glory of God our heavenly Father. There is no other with whom to compare him. His alone is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. The words themselves take us back to the heart and focus of the prayer, to the three great state rooms: the honour of his name, the coming of his kingdom and the doing of his will.

This traditional ending is, as it were, a stepping back to take in the whole view of the great house in its setting. In a phrase it sets before us the whole vista of God's glory and purposes in this world. Like the flag, the royal standard, flying above a stately home, it may or may not be as old as the house, but it is there to affirm that the Lord is King and that the Lord is in residence. To him be ascribed all honour, power and glory.

References

'Able to keep us from falling' - Jude 24&25
The Lord God reigns - Revelation 19:6
'That I may speak boldly'- Ephesians 6:20
'Full of grace and truth' - John 1:14
The Lord is King - From the hymn by Josiah Conder

Questions

1 Have you known churches or been through times yourself when either, a) Christian living was reduced to a dull duty, or b) the easy words on our lips bore no relation to the tough and real world in which we live?
2 How can we keep the right balance between stirring Christian worship and practical Christian living?
3 Is the word 'amen' just a religious full-stop or an opportunity for something much more?
4 The apostle John speaks of our Lord as 'full of grace and truth'. How can we keep this balance in a world that requires us to be so tolerant as to allow falsehood side by side with truth or even to suppress the truth?
5 In what ways do these concluding words help us to focus on the sovereignty and purposes of God our heavenly Father?


The Whole Prayer in Practical Use

The great sweep of human history or the details of one person or situation  

In the life of a stately home, the business of the whole house can be directed to the general well-being of the whole estate or it can, on occasion, be focused on a single event or person. From time to time there will be activity in every room in preparation for a great state occasion, an important meeting, or a family wedding or celebration. On another occasion the whole household will be going about their ordinary business but with a particular hush and concern for one member of the household who lies very ill.

As it is with a great house, so it is with the Lord's Prayer. For example:

We can apply each petition generally as we pray for the world and its leaders, and for all God's people as, together, we strive to live for him in this spiritually hostile world.

On another occasion we might first bring a whole series of concerns in our prayers and then 'gather' them as we pray the Lord's Prayer.

Following a prayer of confession, the Lord's Prayer can be a response of faith and a plea for grace and courage to start afresh to live in a way that pleases our heavenly Father.

Finally, we can cry to God for a particular person or situation using and applying each of the petitions in turn. The whole prayer can be focused and brought to bear, for example, on a particular meeting, or on a particular person in physical or spiritual need or on particular members of our own family.

As an example of this last and less usual use of the prayer, praying for a son or daughter of the house approaching marriage, we might follow each petition of the Lord's Prayer in turn and pray:

'Father we place into your hands this couple as they approach marriage.
May your name be hallowed on their wedding day in all that is said and done in the service and at the reception.
May your name be honoured, too, in their relationship with one another as they prepare for marriage and as they build a home together.
May your kingdom come, may they, together, submit to your holy rule and live in a way that pleases you.
May your will be done in every detail of the great day and in each decision of the months and years that lie ahead. May there be a touch of heaven about this marriage.
Give them day by day godly wisdom, and peace that they may live without anxiety before you.
Grant them each a forgiving spirit towards one another as they adjust and settle to married life.
Grant them grace to withstand the particular temptations that come with wealth and position, and from would-be suitors who would break the marriage.
Finally, Father, we ask you to protect them from every kind of evil; evil from within and evil from without, and from every onslaught of the evil one.
May your holy name be held high in this marriage, Sovereign Lord, King of Kings.'

Or, approaching a Sunday evening service we might pray:

'Father, may your name be held high, honoured in our music and teaching and in all that takes place tonight.
By your Holy Spirit, take the speaker's words and set our hearts ablaze for you, may lives be changed, may your kingdom come . . . tonight.
Father, we commend to you all the practical arrangements; our individual tasks and our working together.
 May your will be done in every detail. May there be a touch of heaven, here, tonight.'
 . . . and so on, until we pray. . .
'And Father keep us safe, tonight, from any who would disrupt and spoil the service, and from the spiritual coldness, deadness, attacks and interference of the evil one.'

Would to God that our national and local elections, great parliamentary debates, council, governor and board meetings, synods, church meetings and individual opportunities to speak for the Lord were covered and supported by prayers like these . . . prayers after our Lord's pattern; prayers that we can be confident he will hear. We make up our own prayers after the 'God bless . . .' pattern, or read set prayers, but, to our great loss, we neglect this great pattern prayer of the Lord.

'Lord open our eyes to see the armoury that you have provided for our spiritual warfare. Help us to take hold of it, understand it and use it for the honour of your holy name.'

Questions

1 Sometimes we will bring a whole series of concerns in our prayers and then 'gather' them as we pray the Lord's Prayer. Are you happy to use it in this way?
2 Sometimes the Lord's Prayer will be a fitting response of faith and determination after a prayer of confession. Are you comfortable with that?
3 Sometimes it will be focused on a single issue. For example, suggest how each petition in turn, i.e. the whole of the Lord's Prayer, could be relevantly applied to one, or a selection of the following situations:

When praying for parliament and our political leaders.
When praying for our national or our local church.
When praying for a known missionary.
When praying for a known person in need or sickness.


Postscript 

Rescued from the gentle, well-meant but unthinking murmur of an 'act of worship' and prayed with understanding, passion, imagination and a willingness to heed and act upon our own prayer, the Lord's Prayer becomes - not the formal opening of a vicarage tea party or parliamentary session - but the power behind the great, guiding principles by which the Lord would have us conduct every part of our lives.

If we pray it in this way it will touch our families and workplaces, shape our churches, and over the years encourage us to play our part in making the world around us as God would have it be.

Here, in these few memorable words are the seeds of liberty and justice, trust and true fellowship of families, and of families of peoples, all founded on a common submission to the Lord God, our heavenly Father. It is not a pious mumble but a manifesto to change the world . . . beginning with those who pray it. It is a manifesto to change the world . . . not by armies, strategies, politics or organisation but by men and women at every level of society and in every nation and people-group praying, and living for the Lord, by the pattern and principles of this prayer.

Under God's new covenant, his ancient promise to Solomon has world-wide application:

'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their ungodly ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.'

- 2 Chronicles 7:14  

Purchase the full fopy of the Limited Edition paperback: "Lord, teach us to pray" by John Belham

ORDER A COPY OF THE BOOK

'Lord, teach us to pray . . . the Lord's Prayer explored and applied' - Parva Press.

This high quality paperback has the full, original text, illustrations, Bible references and a set of questions for further thought and discussion. The book, 130 pages, is proving to be a very useful resource for group discussion.

Copies may be obtained from local or online bookshops ( ISBN 0-9537489-0-1, RRP £5.99 ), or directly from the publishers, at the special price of £5.00 inc p&p for U.K. orders.

To order your copy of the book through the publishers, use the purchase facilities below. Payment can be made with all major credit and debit cards securely through PayPal

Worldwide discount price £7.00 inc. p&p - available only via PayPal.

Purchase the book online now

UK CUSTOMERS ONLINE STORES INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS
£5.00 Inc. P&P

PayPal will ask for the address to which the book is to be sent and enable safe and secure payment to be made.

£7.00 Inc. P&P

PayPal will ask for the address to which the book is to be sent and enable safe and secure payment to be made.