How Jesus prayed…
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
When Jesus uttered these final words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” (quoting Psalm 22:1) from the cross, he signified dying and paying the debt for our sins fully and utterly alone.
What a powerful comparison to the example of prayer he gives us in the sermon on the mount. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven,” Matthew 6:9a, where he teaches us to worship him and to make our requests about our lives, plural and in community. This is part of the reason why churches around the world pray this communal prayer every time they gather for worship. It’s why thousands of Christians pray this prayer daily, acknowledging it connects us to believers across time and space.
What Jesus Prayed
Jesus will echo this idea of oneness for his believers again in the final words he prays for us in the upper room, during the final meal he has with his disciples prior to his arrest.
“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their message. May they all be one, as you, father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be one in us, so the world may believe you sent Me” John 17:20-21.
Once you see this call to be one body of Christ, it jumps off the pages throughout the New Testament. It’s what God had for his people in the Old Testament as well, but in Christ, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are able to carry it out to completion, with God’s help. And did you note how this in fact affects our witness? “So the world may believe you sent me.”
Saint Cyprian, often called the African Pope, lived in Carthage, Africa, in the third century and had the following to say about the Lord’s Prayer communal nature:
“Above all, he who preaches peace and unity did not want us to pray by ourselves in private or for ourselves alone. We do not say ‘My Father, who art in heaven,’ nor ‘Give me this day my daily bread.’ It is not for himself alone that each person asks to be forgiven, not to be led into temptation or to be delivered from evil. Rather, we pray in public as a community, and not for one individual but for all.”
While many of us do pray the Lord’s Prayer in private, we do so spiritually alongside thousands of Christ-followers who have done so before us, are doing so today, and will continue to long after we’ve passed away from this life. In the various churches I visit, this prayer is our great uniter. It’s the common ground we can find among Christians around the world.
How Jesus Prayed: Two Ways To Go From Me To We
I’ve become convinced of two things regarding our role in the body of Christ.
First, we should long for unity. That doesn’t mean we all have to conform to one doctrinal opinion or one style of worship or one particular theology. It does mean we must be about trying to better understand one another.
It means listening more than talking. It means reading and listening to a variety of viewpoints when it comes to Christianity.
The other thing I consider when thinking about how my faith journey impacts my brothers and sisters in Christ has to do with Jesus’ words in John 10:10: “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
Abundance means more than enough. It means my cup is full and I pour the overflow out to a world in desperate need.
So, we have a thief, who comes to steal and kill and destroy. If that’s what you’re experiencing at this stage in your life, you’re dealing with the enemy. Then we have Jesus, who comes to bring life in abundance.
Of course, we can be dealing with both at the same time in varying degrees, because life is complex. But friends, I hope you’ll join me in wanting the abundant life Jesus offers.
How Jesus Prayed And What We Pray
Looking again at the Lord’s Prayer, we can’t have this abundant life unless we are striving for it together.
God’s kingdom come…
This is an invitation for all of us to join God in doing kingdom work. The more we pray and seek God, the more he reveals to us the ways we can partner with him.
This will, of course, include other people. Making his kingdom a priority helps us focus on the good set before us, rather than being bitter and cynical.
His will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
As we seek him together, praying as one, we better understand what his will looks like, and oh, how we want it. When I think of heaven, I think of an eternal space where everything is as God intended it to be. He makes all that is wrong, right again.
We should celebrate the times this happens early, here and now on the earth.
Our daily bread…
This means a portion for all of us, all that we need. Again, not just me and my family, but those in our community and around the world. There’s always more work to do. It’s not about wants, although in God’s economy of abundance, he gives us plenty of that too.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive…
First, we’re going to have debts to forgive. No one escapes this life without causing offense. How quick are we to set to work making things right after we’ve wronged a person? Does all that we’ve been forgiven motivate you to seek forgiveness? My forgiveness is wrapped up in yours, and how we both forgive others.
Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from evil…
This is a call to watch out for one another, and to intercede for one another, asking God to keep us on the right path. Yes, we are asking for God’s help, but often times this comes in the way of a pastor or a godly friend, a sermon, a podcast, a book, or even a song. Listen for his deliverance.
This prayer teaches us what Christ has for us. Paul picks up on this too:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” Ephesians 4:4-6
Unity among believers and abundant life in Christ are two things Jesus wants for us. Once I realized this, I have not prayed the Lord’s Prayer the same way since.
Now, when I pray these words in my own home or in a communal setting, these words include a deep desire for the oneness Christ calls us to, because I believe it’s the path to abundant life in Christ. In addition to serving in my local church, I often visit several new churches a year, intentionally seeking out a big variety. I want to experience the diverse and beautiful body of Christ.
Almost every time, as I am stumbling through the liturgical parts of the service that aren’t familiar to me, I have an overwhelming sense of comfort and unity come over me, as we join our voices in unison, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be your name…”
This. This is how Jesus prayed. This is how Christ would have us to pray.
Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher with a passion for bringing the people of God together in meaningful ways. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family. Connect with her online at tracesoffaith.com or @tracesoffaith on Twitter. She is the author of Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost and the forthcoming book, Shaky Ground: What To Do When The Bottom Drops Out.