Bible Q&A: What’s so special about the Lord’s Prayer?

Our Bible Q&A series explores the questions you’ve asked us about the Bible.

This article represents the author’s personal view. It accords with Bible Society’s values, but is not intended to express our position as an organisation.

Question: What’s so special about the Lord’s Prayer?  

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he gave them no course book or lecture series but a simple, 60-second prayer. It’s been at the heart of Christian worship ever since.  

The Lord’s Prayer has multiple facets. Two planes – divine and human. Six individual petitions, each rich with layers of meaning. The juxtaposition of grand vision and personal challenge, so common to Jesus’ teachings. The emphasis on ‘us’ instead of ‘me’. The list goes on. 

Nothing about this prayer makes you sit up more, though, than its beginning. Nothing is more radical and at odds with anything people have ever believed or thought about God than the opening words, ‘Our Father’.  

No Old Testament Jew, not even celebs like Abraham or David, would have dared to call God ‘dad’. To this day, Jews pray to the LORD, Muslims  worship God, Hindus revere a Supreme Being, deists marvel at the ingenuity of a divine clockmaker, and philosophers talk about the world-soul or the ground of all being. No ‘father in heaven’ in sight. 

Back in the days of the early Church, pagan gods were thought of as fickle. Occasionally they might be generous if they were in the mood, but the Christian claim that God was love, was literally out of this world. Early Christian fellowships were counter-cultural sanctuaries where slaves had value, the hungry were fed and the sick could find free care. The notion of God as Father underpinned it all – found first in the Sermon on the Mount, and at its core, the Lord’s Prayer. 

Think of God as a loving father and why wouldn’t you revere his name and seek to be holy as he is? Why not long for his uncontested rule in your own life and the world at large? Why not ask him for provision, pardon and protection from evil?  

The Lord’s Prayer is no prayer marathon attempting to twist God’s arm. It shifts the focus from our wants to God’s agenda; and it rests in the knowledge that the Father knows what we need.

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