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The Lord’s Prayers

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I’ve spent the past few weeks examining and exploring the “Lord’s Prayer” – the prayer that Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9-13. Many years ago, someone pointed out to me that this is a prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, but not one that he could ever pray himself since he would not need to ask for the forgiveness of sins. That comment made me more interested in exploring the prayers Jesus prayed (“The Lord’s Prayers”) to learn from his example. 

There are many places in the Bible where we read that Jesus prayed without being given the content (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:45; Luke 3:21; 5:15; 6:12; 9:18, 29; 11:1; John 6:15; see Luke 22:32 which explains the content but not the wording), but there are also a number of times we are given the content of the prayer. These include the various prayers he offered on the cross (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34, 46), his thanksgiving to God for concealing his truth from the wise and showing it to the ‘“infants” (Matthew 11:25), a prayer of thanksgiving before raising Lazarus (John 11:41-42), a request for God to glorify Himself (John 12:28), and his “high priestly prayer” for his disciples in John 17. The prayer of Jesus that has always intrigued me the most is his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, as we read in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, and Luke 22:39-46. I believe its inclusion in three of the gospels, repetition by Jesus (as Matthew tells us he prayed it three times), and the content as a request Jesus makes for himself means it can teach us some particular insights on prayer.

The Content of the Prayer
Matthew records what Jesus said at two different moments on this occasion (Matthew 26:39, 42) while Mark and Luke only recount one of the prayers (Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42). The first prayer found in Matthew would be the one that parallels the prayers in Mark and Luke. Here is the wording of each so you can see the minor differences that are common among parallel passages in the gospels:

Matthew 26:39 – “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Mark 14:36 – “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 
Luke 22:42 – “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

I’ve not found major significance in the slight variations of the wording, but was struck by how the structure is essentially the same in all the accounts, consisting of four elements:

1.Addressing God as “Father”
2. Acknowledging that God has the ability, if He so chose, to make/not make something happen
3. Asking that the cup (which describes Jesus’s death, with the cup as a symbol for God’s wrath being poured out) be withdrawn
4. Accepting God’s will in these circumstances, even if it is differ from what was requested

I believe the similarity in the structure across these accounts offers us principles to consider in our own prayer life. 

First is the reminder that Jesus invited us to call God “Father,” which was a radical thing at the time. Our union with Christ by faith allows us to cry out to God as Father like Jesus, as we are “in Christ.”

Second, we need to believe God is able to do things when we ask Him, that “all things are possible” for Him when He chooses to do so. 

Third, we should not be afraid to ask God for what we want; Jesus was not afraid or ashamed to make his request known and boldly asked for it. 

Fourth, we should submit our desires to God, recognizing that He may not give us what we want because of the grander plan. (I think we are all happy that Jesus did not get what He asked, as then we would not be saved and could never approach God in prayer.) This should also remind us that disobedience, lack of faith, or lack of faithfulness may not be the reason our requests are not granted; if God did not give Jesus what he asked, He should certainly be able to do the same with us.

The Product of the Prayer
In addition to the similar structure of the prayer, we also see a similar frame for the prayer, as Jesus prays it after he had instructed the disciples with him in Gethsemane to pray (see Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32; Luke 22:40). When Jesus returns after praying, he finds them asleep, which leads to a rebuke and an exhortation to pray that they might not enter into temptation (Matthew and Mark include the phrase “The Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”). Thus, it would seem a product of prayer is being able to resist temptation. In some ways, we see this is true in Jesus’s prayer, especially in the accounts in Matthew and Mark (but not Luke). They highlight how troubled Jesus was when he started to pray, so we see a major transformation happen through prayer. After praying, Jesus is ready to go to the cross and welcomes Judas even though Jesus knew his arrival meant he would be handed over to the authorities. When we fail to pray, we are tempted, but when we pray in the spirit of submission to God’s will, we are able to resist temptation. 

Let us pray how Jesus taught us to pray, and let us pray like he prayed so that we might be able to resist temptation and embrace his calling on our lives and in our world.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also request to receive weekly emails with our blog posts by filling out the information on the right side.

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