For me, the daily recitation of the Lord’s model prayer has been quite helpful. While the Lord’s prayer is a “model” prayer in the sense that it a prototype upon which we can base spontaneous prayers, it is also a “model” in the sense of being a “master prayer” to which we would be wise to apprentice ourselves. In the ancient and medieval world, individuals learned a trade by mimicking their master; similarly, we can learn to pray by literally mimicking Jesus’ prayer.
The need to mimic should be unsurprising. After all, as human beings, we are lovers. We are defined more by our affections and desires than by our thoughts. Furthermore, our affection and thinking are influenced significantly by our habits. When we are learning to love another person, we form habits such as serving their favorite coffee, saying kind words to them, or spending time doing their favorite activities with them. As we do those things habitually, it chisels certain “grooves” in our minds and hearts, making it easier—if our motives are in the right place—to love them and understand them.
Similarly, as we are learning to love God and think about him correctly, we want to engage in the right habits. Taking the Lord’s Supper is one such habit. More to the point, saying the Lord’s Prayer is exactly the kind of habit that helps us to know and love God.
We should note that, as Jesus stared death in the face, he prayed in a manner remarkably similar to the model prayer. He said, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” and then he died. There were three ways in which his prayer differed from the model prayer. He didn’t ask to be forgiven of sin, because he had never sinned. He didn’t call God “Father” because this is the one instance in which God the Father had to forsake him. And he didn’t pray to be delivered from the evil one because he knew that he must allow the evil one to crush him so that we in turn could be delivered from evil. Nonetheless, his dying prayer echoed his model prayer.
Because of Jesus’ atonement, I can know God as Father, and hallow his name. Because of his work on the cross, I can truly desire for his kingdom to come and for me to be an instrument of it. Because of his crucifixion and resurrection, I can trust him for my daily bread, and can long for the day when I break bread with him in the kingdom. Because of his saving work, I have been forgiven, and therefore can overflow with grace and mercy toward those who sin against me. Because he rose from the dead, I can walk in the power of the Spirit, overcoming temptation. Because of Jesus work on our behalf, I can declare that his is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
In other words, because of the once-for-all atoning work of the Son of God, I can say, from my heart, without fear or doubt:
My loving Father, who is in heaven, holy and wonderful and beautiful is your name.
Let your kingdom come and let me be a part of bringing it;
Let your will be done, on earth (in my private and public life) as it is heaven.
Give me all that I need for today, and remind me of our future feast in the kingdom.
Forgive me of my sin, while I (generously and joyfully) forgive others,
Keep me from temptation and from all evil.
Yours is the Kingdom and power and glory on which you turned your back, so that I could share in it with you forever and ever, Amen.Matthew 6:9-13
In recognition of the Lord’s recommendation of this model prayer, and of the foundational truths conveyed by it, I find it helpful to recite it, slowly and meditatively, at least twice per day (morning and evening). Doing so helps me to frame my days within God’s perspective. I offer this habit for your consideration, in the hopes that it might serve as a framework for your days and a soothing balm for your soul.