March 1 – Lord’s Prayer Week 1
Specifically we’ll be looking at the version of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13, the one many of us are familiar with (there’s a shorter one in Luke 11). We’re going to start this week reading the whole section in which we find the Lord’s Prayer, which is itself a section of the Sermon on the Mount (which we’ll return to after Easter, FYI). This is perhaps painting the Sermon on the Mount in very broad strokes, but on the whole in the SOTM Jesus is looking at the current state of religious practices in Judaism and both highlighting its flaws and its shortcomings before the law. Or, to put it positively rather than negatively, Jesus is showing the fulfillment of the Law. For instance, he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”(5:27-28) He raises the bar on righteousness, showing that the righteous person isn’t just one outwardly; the inside must be cleansed as thoroughly as the outside. He repeats over and over, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” This is carrying out Jesus’ intent for the SOTM, “Do not think that I have con to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”(5:17)
Similarly in the passage surrounding the Lord’s Prayer Jesus is showing what a prayerful attitude looks like internally, not just externally. He calls to mind two images of hollow piety, firstly of men standing on street corners praying out loud so that people will take notice of their religiosity, and secondly of pagan worshipers chanting incantations over and over, as if God will only respond after a certain amount of repetitions. In contrast to these two images he tells his followers first to go pray in secret, because prayer is actually about the one to whom you pray rather than everyone else watching. Second he tells them to pray sincerely, not with empty phrases that don’t mean anything. In summary, he tells them not to pray as if God is some mystical force that can be incanted or some token to earn social standing. He asks us to start in prayer by remembering who it is we pray to. He seems to be leading our gaze in a specific direction by starting his prayer with this unique address:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
As we embark on these four weeks in the Lord’s Prayer, let’s start here, remembering who it is that we pray to. This passage tells us a lot about the God to whom we pray; we can call him Father, he knows what we need before we ask, he gives us what we need, he forgives us. But don’t miss this. He is our Father. The God of the Universe, the Lord Most High, lets us call him Father. No groveling, no beseeching, no “Yessir.” But Jesus also intentionally has us remind ourselves that he is Holy, that his name is “hallowed” and it’s a freaking big deal that we get to name him Father. This tension is a beautiful way to start out our series, especially this week as we think about how we relate to God through prayer and how we want to grow in prayer throughout Lent.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Matthew 6:5-15 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• What is Jesus telling us about how to pray here?
• This week we’re focusing on verse 9. What does this verse say about who we are praying to?
• What have your personal interactions with God in prayer been like recently?
• How can verse 9 relate to the way you personally pray?
• How would you like to engage in prayer this year through Lent?
• Let’s finish our time by reading The Lord’s Prayer out loud together (6:9-13).