Should We Recite the Lord’s Prayer?

Should We Recite the Lord’s Prayer?

Last week I blogged about saying the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday in church as a kid and my apprehension for doing so. I cited my reason as the phrase “vain repetitions” (KJV) found in Jesus’s warning about how not to pray. The NIV is more colorful in its rendering: “babbling like pagans.”

Though I didn’t get it as a kid, I now know that not all repetition need be in vain. I suppose that just as we can have vain repetition, we can likewise have worthwhile repetition.

So is repeating the Lord’s Prayer vain or worthwhile? I suppose that depends on the person doing the reciting. For some the repetition may be in vain and for others it may be worthwhile.

What I do know is that just a couple verses after Jesus warns against vain repetition and babbling like the pagans when we pray, he teaches us the Lord’s Prayer.

This gives me pause, for it seems like he tells us not to do something and then teaches us how to do what we’re not supposed to do. Is this another of the Bible’s paradoxes?

However, I don’t think Jesus intends us to recite his prayer. I suspect he gives it to us as a model to guide us, not a passage to memorize. That’s what I use the Lord’s Prayer for, not a form to follow verbatim, but an example to steer my words when I communicate with God.

So, yes, I do use the Lord’s Prayer when I pray. I follow it as an outline to inform my prayers, not a refrain to repeat. For if I recite it verbatim, it would indeed become vain repetition—at least for me.

Is repeating the Lord’s Prayer vain repetition or worthwhile repetition? Click To Tweet

How do you use the Lord’s Prayer? What steps to you take to avoid falling into vain repetition? 

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

5 Comments

  • Jeff Ketchledge Posted October 30, 2017 1:12 am

    Thank you. I have felt the same way for years. The true Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where He blessed the Apostles, the Church, the future Church, and Himself. The prayer model He gave them was simply a way to pray as He had warned them against being heard for their many words and also about their faith turning into vain repitions instead of a open dialogue with the Father. But let’s remember the Apostles had a habit in that period of time of getting in their own way when it came to their relagionship with God in Christ. Why should it be any different for us?

    • Peter DeHaan Posted October 30, 2017 10:19 am

      Jeff, you are so right. Even though we refer to this as “The Lord’s Prayer,” a better label would be the “Disciples’ Prayer.”

      I agree that Jesus’s prayer in John 17, would more aptly be the Lord’s Prayer.

  • josh Posted March 16, 2021 4:30 pm

    Our family consists of two adults and three children of varying ages. Not all who pray together in the evening are of the same mental/emotional/verbal/cognitive level. Some prayers are thoughtful, others are spontaneous and simple. One thing we can all do equally is pray the Lord’s Prayer. Even my 4 year old can do it. It is for teaching and instruction, to set an example, but it’s an example because it is so perfect.

    For me, i avoid vain repetition by making it a reflective prayer. I avoid regurgitation from rote memory by thinking about the words and what they mean, and how they apply to me. Obviously, what follows is quite a deep dive into the meaning, and I do not think on every point with each iteration of the prayer, but I do attempt to reflect on some of them each time I pray.

    “Our” – The relationship we Christians have with God is indeed personal, but we aren’t alone. We aren’t supposed to be lone wolf Christians, we aren’t supposed to forsake the gathering of the saints. God is so much more than just my Heavenly Father, He is our Heavenly Father, which means i have a larger family than i see.

    “Father” – He is Father. He is my Father through adoption. He is also the Father of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which makes my Lord my brother. God is also Father in that He is the author of all creation. That makes Him Father, not only of Christians in that special redemptive way, but also the Father of those who are lost in their sins. This is part of why He doesn’t want them to perish.

    “Who” – God is a who. He is personal, not impersonal.

    “is” – God exists. He is real.

    “in” – God resides. The infinite God chooses to reside in a particular locus. Not forced there by some outside condition, but on His own terms.

    “Heaven” – The third heaven. The throne room of God. The destination of the redeemed while they await the new earth.

    “hallowed be” – Sacred, holy, set apart, unique, for special use, not to be profaned.

    “Thy” – It is His name. It belongs to Him, and in belonging to Him it is not for us to use as we please, to be profaned, to use in anger, for the wrath of man does not effect the righteousness of God.

    “name” – A name is an identification, of which God has had many. A good name is worth more than riches. A name is a reputation. A name is also authority, such as when we say “stop in the name of the law”. When we tell someone they shouldn’t do something, they might ask “says who?” Who we use as our source is important, if i appeal to Joe Schmoe the pig farmer as my source for knowledge about astrophysics, it’s a faulty appeal to authority.

    “Your kingdom” – It is God’s kingdom, not Man’s. It will be run His way, not ours. He is the monarch, not us. It’s not a democracy. His kingdom means law and order, protection and provision, hope and life.

    “come” – I desire that God’s kingdom come near, not stay far off. We work to hasten the day, but when that time comes will be by His design.

    “Your will” – God’s will is good and perfect, unlike mine. I am submitting to His will.

    “be done” – It is not a static, vain will, resulting in nothing. His is a dynamic will, effective, productive. It also implies a personal responsibility for me to do it.

    “on earth” – It is here. It is now. It is me. I am asking for God’s will to be done in me. I am asking for God’s kingdom to surround me, and for me to be a part of it’s structure and strategy.

    “as it is in Heaven” – God’s will is perfectly done in Heaven where all are in perfect alignment with His will. I’m asking that God’s will be perfectly done on earth, and that I become perfectly aligned with it.

    “Give” – A petition for God to give a gift. Not necessarily unmerited, as salvation, but as part of the loyal Patron/servant or Father/child relationship we have with Him. We are asking for something, we have a responsibility to do what is asked of us.

    “us” – A communal mindset. Not simply self interest but also interest for the wellbeing of those around us.

    “this day” – Today. Our needs are eminent. Soon, so that we can readily see the cause and effect of praying to the Living God and magnify His name before others.

    “our daily” – Continuous, day in, day out, concerns. They are unending until our lives end. We will always have need to come before His throne in petition, so it is a reminder for humility.

    “bread” – Certainly food for our stomachs, but also spiritual food to sustain our faith. In fact, every thing we have need of, even those things we do not know, for God knows them before we do, and before we begin to pray.

    “Forgive us” – Asking God to forgive means to remember our sins no more. The debt we owe for our personal sin has been paid by Jesus. His act of atonement has made us at-one with God, bringing us together. As our high priest, Jesus bridges the gap between sinful Man and righteous God. If we confess our sins, our Father is faithful to forgive.

    “our sins” – I petition God to forgive my personal sins, but also I ask for forgiveness for others as well. I cannot forgive them their sin against God, only He can do that, but I can petition on behalf of others that God will show mercy, as Jesus did on the cross. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” God can bring them to a place where they are ready to repent and receive the forgiveness I ask for. Also, no one lives in a vacuum. The sins of my nation will be punished, and it may happen in my lifetime. God may even hold me accountable for not doing more to persuade others of their wrongdoing, or at the very least to warn them of their wickedness so that their blood is not on my head.

    “as we” – In the manner of. Like. Same. To be aware of myself as I forgive. My attitudes and my heart. To show mercy as I have received mercy. To show mercy as I desire mercy. God will deal with me in accordance with my dealings toward others.

    “forgive others” – Forgiveness might seem like a given, taken for granted, something we automatically should do. But in the hardest of pains and personal hurts, forgiveness can be hard. It’s a reminder to take the hard road. Jesus died to forgive sins, is as much asked of us? Forgiveness is at times the starting line of a road toward healing and reconciliation. Sometimes reconciliation never happens, but we ought not confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. I can forgive someone who never wants to be reconciled. I can forgive someone who doesn’t want forgiveness. I can forgive someone who doesn’t see their sin. I can forgive someone with whom it is not safe to be reconciled.

    “who sin” – we live in a broken world. People love sin. They call evil good, and good they call evil.

    “against us” – Some of this sin will be aimed at us. Some of it by the freewill choices of others to serve sin and their flesh. Some of it will be the outward action of a spiritual retaliation against Christ in us. Remember that the world first hated Jesus.

    “lead us” – God has perfect knowledge, and can provide for every contingency. If we are lead by Him, and stay in accordance with His will, the victory is ours. His victory is sure. Many soldiers lay down their lives and never see the victory their side wins. D Day on the shores of Normandy was a bloodbath, and many who fought there never lived to see the end of that day, or the victory over the war that they were integral in winning. Through the eternal life that Jesus promises, we may die and yet live to see the victory.

    “not into temptation” – Temptation can have more than one meaning. It is clear from scripture that God does not tempt man to sin, and does not lead us to desire evil. Temptation can also mean trial, to be tried or tested, as God tested Job’s faith. In such times, we might be tempted to lose faith, or to sin, but this is our own fault, not God’s. Certainly we will be tested, but to be tested by God can at times be a terrifying thing for us who cannot see the end.

    “but” – Instead. A petition against God’s will to test us? Yes. We ask that our Father be easy with us, as a child might ask the parent to help with a task that seems too hard, or to avoid something that seems too painful to endure, like a scary medical procedure that must be done, or like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asking that the cup pass from Him, but only if it is The Father’s will.

    “deliver us” – God is our deliverer, in Him is our salvation. Not only from sin, not only from the condemnation we are under as fallen creatures, but from the attacks of the enemy and the hardships of life. Though some hardship and attacks we must endure, when they end we give God the thanks.

    “from evil” – Some translate this as evil, which can mean calamity. To be delivered out of calamity. The calamity has already happened, and we are taken out of the midst of it. Some translate this as “the evil one”. This is a reminder that evil is personal, an agent that freely works against God. One who was a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies. We ask for deliverance from his attacks, his fiery darts, from the jaws of that lion raging outside the walls of the kingdom seeking who he may devour.

    “for” – And now this, because of the proceeding the preceding can be done. A statement acknowledging truth.

    “Yours is the kingdom” – The kingdom belongs to God. It is His authority. His host of angels. His protection. His provision. His land. His people.

    “the power” – God’s power to do, to act, to make happen. God is effective.

    “and the glory” – Do not forget to glorify God. Glory means honor, renown, splendor. When we praise someone, we give glory. When we give an award, we give glory. When we spread good reputation about them, we glory.

    “forever” – God’s kingdom, power, and glory, will be without end.

    “Amen” – Truly. So let it be. God is The Amen, as Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, and God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. It is as a final stamp of approval, the royal seal, asking that it will be done in accordance with God’s will. It is also the assent of those praying that they agree with all that has been asked for, to be of one accord, of one mind, gathered together in the authority of His name.

    • Peter DeHaan Posted March 16, 2021 5:47 pm

      Josh, this is a most insightful breakdown. Thank you for sharing it!

      • josh Posted March 16, 2021 7:12 pm

        You’re most welcome! God bless.

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