One of the unexpected things to come out of lockdown has been the number of people searching the internet for how to pray. Perhaps it is natural when we are afraid and feel out of control, even if we are not sure that we believe in God to want to pray for ourselves and those we love. Prayer is the act of pausing, and turning towards God and acknowledging that we can’t do this by ourselves and we need help. And it works – even if we don’t always understand how or why. And many people have discovered that prayer isn’t just something you do in a crisis, but an investment in a better, more balanced and more peaceful life.
Prayer was so central to Jesus life that people who got to know him said ‘Teach us to pray like you’. And his answer was beautifully simple and has gone down in history.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
We call it the Lord’s prayer. It can be prayed quickly from memory, or slowly one line at a time. It is a prayer we can simply say every day, or use as a model to shape our own words of prayer. And that is it. It is simple enough for a small child to pray, and yet profound enough for us never to grow out of it.
Obviously countless books have been written on this, but here are three observations about why this is an amazing prayer.
- It is personal. Before this moment no-one had ever dared to call God ‘Father’, but Jesus shows us that God is patient, kind and loves us unconditionally, just like a father should. And as we pray this we find ourselves part of a vast family along across the world and though history who pray this prayer.
- It reorientates us. It is a prayer that turns us away from ourselves and what we want, and towards God and others. We pray hallowed be your name, not mine, and your will be done, not mine. And in doing so earth becomes a little more like heaven. Like a green plant turning its leaves towards the sun, our turning towards God is life giving and healing.
- It brings things into focus. It teaches us to live one day at at time, and be grateful for ordinary things – daily bread, forgiveness, safety. But also teaches us to become part of a much bigger story of forgiveness, opposition to evil, and of seeking heaven on Earth.
So you are invited to pray. You don’t need to do anything special or be anyone special, you can pray this anywhere and whenever you like. But perhaps find a still quiet place day by day and discover what many others have done that prayer can be the thing that makes all the difference.