I hope you will join with me this fall in a study of the Lord’s Prayer. Our goal will be make sure we are praying according to the will of God. That way we will have confidence that God hears us and that our requests will be granted (I John 5:14-15). That kind of confidence should help us a lot in this day of terror attacks and random violence. How do we pray in times such as these?
LESSONS FROM THE 1600’S
Let’s travel back in time…want to come along? Thomas Watson, an English Puritan of the Seventeenth Century, wrote The Lord’s Prayer in 1660. I will use this as my main source. Don’t be surprised if you have a bad taste in your mouth about Puritans. It is just a result of slander against them by many who are ignorant of what they were really like. Thomas Watson was a warm-hearted Calvinist. He was educated at Cambridge, then pastored St. Stephens Church in London for seventeen years before being kicked out of the Anglican Church for refusing to go along with a government prescribed order of worship in the Act of Uniformity 1662. He believed it violated his freedom for the State Church to require certain prayers and an order of service for the local parish. He felt he would be departing from the Bible’s prescription for the local church if he went along with the new rules. He chose not to violate his conscience for the sake of position or reputation. He lost his job, his home, and his reputation. Two thousand others did the same. It was a sad day for the British Isles; they proceeded down the path of cold orthodoxy evidenced by a decline of moral standards and heart religion which really was not checked until the revivals of John Wesley and George Whitefield in the 1730’s. Watson, and many of the others, including John Bunyan and John Milton, took up their pens. Most of Watson’s writings were published after the Toleration Act of 1689 which allowed them to publish their views. Come along. I will simply summarize what Thomas Watson wrote and apply it to our lives today. You can order your own copy at www.banneroftruth.org or Amazon.
USE THE LORD’S PRAYER AS A PATTERN
Don’t think God will hear you just because you pray a lot or use empty words that make you feel smart! Jesus said, “After this manner, pray…” The Lord’s Prayer is to be our pattern, the model we follow for all of our prayers; the ruler we use to see if we are praying according to the will of God. “The Ten Commandments are the rule of life, the (Apostle’s) Creed is the sum of our faith, and the Lord’s Prayer is the pattern of our prayer,” said Watson. This pattern consists of a preface, six petitions, and a conclusion. Read and memorize Matthew 6:6-13 so that you can pin this pattern to your own prayers. Begin now to actually use it that way instead of just reciting it without much thought. We will probably be surprised at what that reveals about our current prayers.
DON’T FORGET THE CHILDREN
They need a pattern to follow too. Help them to memorize The Lord’s Prayer and say it regularly in your home. Before Christmas, we should all know more of what each piece of our pattern means, and then we can explain it to them. The first step is to pray the prayer together in our homes. Sing it too. When your lower elementary child can’t think of a prayer, use the Lord’s Prayer as an echo. Have them repeat each phrase after you as an echo until they can say it on their own. Or sing each phrase and listen to their echo. Later, switch and let them sing and you echo. You are giving them a tool they can use for the rest of their lives…a pattern for all of their prayers.
In times like these of growing violence and uncertainty, we certainly need to be praying according to the will of God. Get ready to pin these pattern pieces on!