Q&A: Should we pray the EXACT Lord's Prayer?

Should we pray the EXACT Lord's Prayer?

Question

My pastor states that we should pray the EXACT words of the Lord's Prayer every time we pray. Why?

Answer

First, the Lord's Prayer is called such not because it is a prayer that Jesus needed to pray (he never sinned), but because it was one he taught to his disciples and thus his church to pray. It may also be called "The Disciple's Prayer," "The Church's Prayer," or "The Kingdom Prayer."

Second, note Jesus' words. While it is proper to pray the exact prayer as Jesus taught his disciples as a form of meditation, it is also correct to pray "in this manner" (Matt. 6:9). In other words, the EXACT words do not need to be prayed. Jesus didn't give his Church a Betty Crocker chocolate cake formula for prayer with an exact measure of this and another part that, but a model for prayer. It is not just a set of ingredients to be baked up and served to God - "Here's the chocolate one, God." Rather, it is a model for several types of cakes (prayers). While the bakers of the prayers should remain within certain guidelines they should make several different types of cakes!

As a model for prayer, Jesus mentions many things, including, but not limited to:

  • (1) our Father's sovereignty, power, glory, and will
  • (2) the "now but not yet" of His coming Kingdom
  • (3) meeting his children's needs
  • (4) forgiveness
  • (5) temptation and deliverance from evil
  • (6) his children's conduct.

Therefore, as a model for prayer these truths should be ingrained upon our hearts and confirmed by our lips. However, at times one area of this model may be emphasized more than another. For instance, I may spend 10 minutes in extolling God for his excellency, but spend the next 30 minutes asking him to assist me in dealing with a problem I am having with forgiving someone else, etc. In other words, prayer is also somewhat of an individual recipe and is not always chocolate! While it should always make a complete cake, the amount of ingredients may vary.

The Lord's Prayer is not just a quick set of preset words that we say and spray, but rather a meditation of the heart bent toward our Father. It is a discussion. It is part of a relationship - an Abba relationship that Adam might have in his walks and talks in the Garden (remember he heard the distinct sound of the pre-incarnate Christ coming, Gen 3:10). In other words, it's a relationship where God is really there, where he is really listening, where he is really concerned. One should not just merely say verses (like the Pharisees did), but let the verses "say us," that is, reveal our hearts. We should be real with God so he may be real with us!

So, at times the Lord's Prayer may be a rather short prayer and at other times it will be rather long. Being the sinners that we are many tend to find themselves still at the rather long side of prayer.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).