It is always fun when something well-known and used gets a fresh look. I love to see an old deck re-floored, an old dresser refurbished, a splash of new paint on a wall, a new coat of wax on the wood floor, or even just a thorough cleaning can bring out a spanking new look in something old. It is also exciting to have something change in us, either inwardly or outwardly. Forgiving someone, paying off a debt, letting go of a grudge or offense, adding a splash of color in our hair, trying a different style of clothing, or doing something out of the ordinary can give us a fresh perspective in life. But most thrilling for me is when God opens my eyes so I see old, familiar truths in a new light with fresh revelation from the Spirit of God. Sometimes I get so comfortable with precious truths from His Word that I take them for granted. This is when familiarity breeds disrespect by not maintaining the highest level of reverence and esteem for His Word.
Holy Spirit is more than willing to take us on deep journeys of truth much like plunging into water. When I was younger I went swimming often, spending most of my time in the end of the pool where my feet touched bottom. But the more familiar I got with water, the more confidence I gained and the more daring I became so that eventually I dove deep to the bottom of the pool. It was only there where the noise above was muted and even silenced, and it was at the bottom where I would find little treasures, usually money, because only a few people wanted to go that deep. I can only imagine what it must be like for deep-sea divers as they traverse the deepest, darkest parts of this universe, far away from all the noise above, to discover treasures out of reach for most of us.
So it is with the Word of God. We can read and enjoy our devotional time, attend an occasional bible study, and listen to a sermon. But the more consistently we soak in His Word, the more familiar we get, the more confidence we gain in God, and the more daring our lives in Christ become so that we dive deep into the mysteries of Him who saved us. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”
It is only in the depths of God’s love and truth that the voices of this world are muted or even silenced and we desire to hear only His voice above all others. Psalm 29:3-4 “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Unfortunately, many of us do not spend enough time hanging out in His Word (the pool) so are not even familiar with the surroundings, and others of us are satisfied staying where we feel safe and comfortable(in the shallow end) instead of seeking Him in His secret place (the deep end of the pool). This familiarity only leads to boredom where nothing is new or exciting, thus we get out of the pool of His Word and onto the splash pad of this world. The splash pad only brings temporary relief from the heat and is only so much fun. The immersion effect from being in the depths of His knowledge, love, and truth is SO much better and gives permanent relief and everlasting joy!
Recently I have been plunged into the depth of an old familiar story as my husband and I teach on the various petitions of the Lord’s Prayer at our church. Holy Spirit has taken me deep into His Word, given me a fresh outlook, and an exciting “in-look” into a prayer I have known for decades. I have been renewed and electrified with fresh awe-inspiring truths of His Name, His Word, and His Truth.
I have never known a time in my life when I did not know Jesus as My Lord and Savior and I would guess I learned this prayer as early as three or four years old. I admit very often I prayed it just because everyone else did and at other times I gave serious thought to what I was praying. I remember memorizing the petitions along with their meanings from Luther’s Small Catechism in confirmation classes, enjoying every minute of it. (I joke that the reason I loved studying the Word even at an early age was because I had no social life and though that is true, the reality is God had a hold on me and Jesus WAS my social life for which I praise Him). Yet, over the years I stopped praying this prayer as often, and have only recently discovered I had let the familiar become mundane instead of highly esteeming it.
Jesus spoke to His disciples and us about prayer in Matthew 6. Three times in verses 5-7 He tells them what to do “when” they pray; no need to garner attention by praying to impress Him or others and vain repetition was forbidden. However, they were to pray to their Father in the secret place because He sees in secret and will reward openly. Then Jesus goes on to instruct what to say when we pray using the words we have titled “The Lord’s Prayer”. Verses 9-13 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
These are beautiful words but also come with deep meaning to be discovered throughout our journey of life. Luke 11 shares the same words but gives a little more insight into what was happening before Jesus told them to pray. Verses 1-4 “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
Hopefully you see these words of our Lord are meant to serve as a catalyst to prayer and as motivation to develop a prayer life like Him. Notice the disciple did not say “Lord, teach us how to pray” but “Lord, teach us to pray”. This is our clue that the disciples watched and admired Jesus’ prayer life which resulted in magnifying their own lack of zealous prayer or else they wouldn’t have made this request. They were spurned on as a result of seeing Jesus pray and wanted to be like Jesus! He had no problem responding quickly and affirmatively, “When you pray, say…”
Unfortunately some people have toted these words of Jesus as merely a “model” prayer, meant to teach us how to pray but obviously this is much more than a “model”. The words we pray/say are important. We are to pray this prayer using these words that Jesus said to say, AND we are to grab hold of more profound truths by diving deeper into His bottomless ocean of truth.
We must understand how important words really are. In fact, they are so weighty that as Christians it is imperative we speak the Word and pray the Word using the words in the Word! Words communicate our thoughts, feelings, information, instructions, and promises. We can certainly communicate to some degree without words, (and many of us would be wise to talk less) but nonetheless, words help convey and impart our heart to other people. Thus when Jesus says when we pray, say… and then we pray, say what He said, we are conveying and imparting our heart to our Father according to the Word, as well as allowing Him to convey and impart His heart to us.
It is interesting that Jesus said when we pray, “say…” and yet people say He didn’t really mean to say those words exactly. They cite His earlier words not to use vain repetitions. We have only to back up and see what Jesus really said so that we say what He said to say. Jesus said “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites…they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets…” and “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…”
He did not tell us not to pray the words He taught! His warning is not to be like hypocrites and heathen who pray to be seen and heard by men instead of having their hearts pierced in the secret place with God. We read this in Isaiah 29:13 “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me…” Jesus wasn’t saying it is wrong to pray in public or wrong to recite prayers. He was saying the motives of the heart count and then teaches us to pray so that we are heard by our Father in heaven!
We cannot and should not underestimate the value of the words Jesus said to say! He said “In this manner, therefore, pray…” Matthew 6:9 and “When you pray, say…” Luke 11:2. There is no indication He meant for us not to take this literally. There is every indication He meant for us to say it, do it, and live it!
So take the plunge! Say what Jesus said to pray! Don’t be afraid to pray this prayer! As long as you don’t do it in vain, without purpose or meaning, you can repeat it as often as you like! Holy repetition is a good thing – vain repetition is not! Let God stimulate you today as you pray and let Him splash you with His joy, renovate you in His presence, do something new and fresh in your thought life, and surprise you with a new outlook! Let Him take you deeper! You will hear His voice in the deep and you will find treasures that can be found only in Him!