One of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name…” (Luke 11:1b-2a)
Far too often in our world, today, we get so focused on praying “correctly” – with the right words, exact phrases, and specific nomenclature – that we miss out entirely on how Christ has invited us to pray.
Sometimes we think that prayer is a chance for us to order God like a fast-food menu. Other times we think that prayer is an opportunity for God to grant our utmost desires and wishes like a genie. Still other times, we think that if we just pray hard enough, everything we want will come to pass.
There are, in fact, scripture passages that explain how we arrived at these conclusions. However, frankly, they are quite often cherry-picked and do not take into account the bigger picture.
I may have mentioned it before, but a wise mentor of mine once suggested that there is always an open channel of communication between us and God – prayer is just those moments when we pay attention to it. Contrary to popular experience, prayer was never intended to be a one-sided conversation. Not only are we to pray to God, but we are also meant to listen to what God is saying, too.
True prayer can be everything from pleading cries to joyful shouts to silence. All are correct when they intentionally acknowledge that open connection between ourselves and God.
Nevertheless, the prayer that Christ taught us gives us a unique opportunity to see the true purpose of our communication with God fulfilled. That purpose is to transform us. Shape us. Mold us. Fashion us into a greater mirror of God’s own likeness. Why does this prayer do this? Because it gives us major layout of God’s greatest desires for our life together.
We are to address our God in heaven as a parent with whom we are in deep relationship. We are to give honor to who God truly is and look for God’s reign in us, among us, and through us. We are to work with God to gain what we and all the Creation needs. We are to beg forgiveness even as we offer forgiveness for which others have never asked. And we are to live in hope that God will be with us no matter what may come.
That is how we build healthy relationships – with God, ourselves, and others.
The words of the Lord’s Prayer are not necessarily the “correct” words, but they do give us a glimpse at God’s bigger picture. They provide a beginning to the path of true-two-way communication with God. They aid in God’s work of shaping us into the heirs of Christ we already are and are meant to become.
So keep praying – in all the ways to which you feel called. Consider how you might better listen to what God is saying during your prayers and in your prayers. And then you will truly begin to see who God really is and who we are meant to be.