Apr 13, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer: What to Pray or How to Pray?

The so called Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4 has often been used as a prayer to be recited. There is evidence from as early as the second century that Christians would recite the prayer three times a day (Did. 8.1–3). While reciting Scripture is a good thing, was this the Lord’s intention in giving the prayer? Four arguments can be given to suggest that it was not.

First, “like” or “in this manner” (Matt 6:9) seems to suggest this prayer is to be understood as model.

Second, the preceding section condemns formulaic and repetitive prayer (Matt 6:7–8).

Third, Luke 11:1 seems to suggest that the disciples wanted to be taught how to pray.

And fourth, the Lord’s prayer is absent outside of Matthew and Luke. One would think that if the prayer was to be recited habitually, that it would be found somewhere among the many prayer admonitions in the epistles.

At bottom, it seems best to understand the Lord’s prayer more as how to pray than what to pray.

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