Then He said to them, "When you pray, say, 'Father, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'" Luke 11:2-4 (The Message)
I wonder how well the disciples understood what Jesus was teaching them about prayer. Did they grasp the underlying truth of God as their Father?
Unlike Matthew 6, there is no preamble to this version of the prayer. Although Jesus taught them that prayer is not about words, words are used to express the thoughts and emotions of the heart. What a world of meaning is wrapped up in the word 'Father'! There is no prayer outside of this relationship which was made possible through Jesus. "Yet to all who received Him, to all who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God..." John 1:12.
Prayer is the way sons communicate with their heavenly Father. Prayer is the conscious turning of the attention away from self to the One who is our source and sustainer, changing the focus of our attention from self and its issues to God and His attributes. Whatever words it might take to do this are only the vehicle through which this change of awareness is effected. Therefore, when a son focuses his attention on Father God, that is prayer.
This Father with whom human beings are privileged to have a relationship because of Jesus, is not outside our realm of existence and experience. Heaven is not a place up there or out there but a dimension that completely saturates the physical realm as air saturates the earth. God is everywhere and He is as near to us as our breath.
Prayer , therefore, firstly, a change of awarenesss from my environment to the environment of God, of His presence and nearness. Secondly, it is the awareness of who He is. To hallow His name is to concentrate on His glory, "the sum of His magnificent attributes and the eternal fame of His mysterious works". Where my attention was taken up by the issues of my life, I deliberately change my focus to the greatness of the God with whom I am engaging in love and trust as a son.
To engage with Him in this way is to put my personal concerns into the context of the bigger picture of His kingdom and will. It is also to put my failures into the context of His mercy. Since He has dealt with my load of guilt and the barrier of sin that separated me from Him, I dare not hang onto the offences that separate me from my fellow man.
Just as I am dependent upon Him for every crumb that passes my lips as a little child, I too, I depend on Him for the "bread" of heaven that nourishes my soul. And, knowing how tainted I am with the self-centred greed that has infiltrated my soul from birth, I look to Him to save me from my self-destructive ways that would ensnare and destroy me without the grace of His Spirit who is constantly at work in me.
This simple pattern prayer teaches me the essence of the attitude and disposition of a son to the Father, submitting to Him and being involved in the things that are on His heart. This is not about putting God first. This is about putting Him in the centre of my thinking and living.