This, of course, is a lie of the enemy because prayer is really much more about fostering an intimacy with the Lord than anything else, and in listening to it, I'm only robbing myself. Fortunately, for me, the disciples must have had a similar problem because they asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he gave them a very specific template. But does it seem strange to anyone else that Jesus would give such a specific prayer and then in another place warn against vain babblings (Matthew 6:7)? So what, then, are we to learn from the Lord's Prayer about the how of praying?
For me, it's about (1) including everything (2) keeping things in perspective. The prayer is bookended with sentiments of praise and the big picture. In the middle we treat on things that pertain to walking in a sinful world. (We need daily bread, we need forgiveness, we need to know how to treat the people we meet, etc). But at the beginning we remember, before anything, that God is holy and at the end that He's got everything under control.
In thinking about all this, I thought it might be a fun exercise to match them up with some of my favorite songs. Inspired gospel music has always been a launching point for much of my own spiritual reflection, which, insomuch as it is meditating on the Lord, I would certainly count as a form of prayer.
So here's what I came up with.
Just praise, pure and simple! For this I chose my most recent favorite song, which I've been playing almost nonstop the past few weeks, and will probably never get sick of.
Thy kingdom come...
When it comes to Sara Groves music you could play a really fun Christian music game. Kind of like the Kevin Bacon game, except instead of matching any actor to Kevin Bacon in six movies or less, you match any Christian theme to a Sara Groves song in one song or less. She writes about all if it, and all of it hits me where I live. Such a blessing she's been in my life. Really, I could have done this whole list with just her music, but I managed to limit myself to only two.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
This was the only song where I didn't have an immediate candidate. I turned to some friends for help, just to get the gears turning, though in the end I finally remembered this song on my own.
All of my ambitions, hopes, and plans.
I surrender these into your hands...
(It's tough to do sometimes, am I right?)
Give us this day our daily bread.
And here we have the Sara song #2...
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Kind of a two-part sentence. Arguably I could have split it into two songs-- one about God's forgiveness and one about the forgiveness he asks us to demonstrate. However, for me, accepting God's forgiveness is much easier than practicing it myself, so this line always tends to make me focus on the forgiveness I'm called to give. This is probably my favorite (non-Sara) song about human forgiveness, mostly because it expresses so well how unnatural, vulnerable, and sometimes even foolish it can make us feel as humans to practice it.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This song is a masterpiece and hits the nail on the head.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
I cheated here and picked two songs because I just couldn't decide. But hey, it's a a sentence with a LOT to say!
(Let one of the songs be the "Amen"-- how's that?) ;-)