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Ben Courson

Peter-John Courson


As far as we know, the disciples never asked Jesus to teach them to preach, to prophesy, or cast out demons; how to worship or witness, how to build a ministry or lead their families. The one thing the disciples asked of Jesus directly was, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’

Why? I believe it is because, after watching Jesus for several years, the disciples were convinced prayer was the secret of His ministry and the foundation of all He did. In Luke 11, Jesus gave His disciples the same prayer, virtually word for word, that He had given two years earlier, recorded here in Matthew. He didn’t say, ‘The prayer I taught two years ago was for the multitudes, but for you disciples, here’s something heavier.’ Or — ‘The prayer I taught in the Sermon on the Mount was at the beginning of My ministry, but now two years later, here is something more meaty.’ No, He said, ‘Don’t you recall what I taught you two years ago?’ as He gave this prayer verbatim to them once again.

This revolutionized my thinking. I had always been under the impression that the Lord’s Prayer was simply an example, or a model — that we could study it and learn from it, but it was not necessarily to be prayed verbatim. While I still believe the Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful model and a perfect example, I have come to believe it is more than that.

I believe it is actually sacramental. ‘Sacrament’ means ‘coming from the outside and working its way in’. Baptism, the Lord’s Table, and the marriage ceremony are all sacraments because they are external demonstrations which signify internal transformation. I have discovered personally that the Lord’s prayer is sacramental — or close to it. That is, by praying the Lord’s prayer from memory word for word externally, there is something wonderful and mystical and beautiful which happens internally.

‘Wait!’ you say. ‘Didn’t Jesus teach against meaningless repetitions?’ Yes, in Matthew 6:7, Jesus did warn about vain and meaningless repetitions. If I say the Lord’s prayer with my mind a million miles away and my heart not sensitive to the Spirit, it will profit me nothing. But, when I say it meaningfully — concentrating, thinking contemplating, and meditating — when I pray this prayer as the Lord gave it to His disciples in Luke 11 and to the masses in Matthew 6, I have discovered it has a very powerful and potent effect upon me personally. I believe it will upon you as well.

There are two things which strike me about this prayer. I am amazed first of all by its completeness. It is wonderful because it covers all of our needs and all of God’s worthiness.

Secondly, I am impressed with its conciseness. 65 words long, it only takes 30 seconds to pray. We have fallen into the fallacy of thinking the strength of prayer is in direct proportion to the length of prayer — even though Jesus went out of His way to say, ‘Don’t think you will be heard for your much speaking.’ Jesus’ prayers were complete, but concise.

If I asked the Lord to teach me to pray, I would think He would give me a book 100 pages long at the very least. But He didn’t. He simply gave a prayer 65 words long.

I am reminded of the time Moses’ sister Miriam was struck with leprosy. He looked to the Lord and said, ‘Heal her now O God I beseech Thee,’ (Numbers 12:13). Eight words. And the Lord healed her.

Now, we also know Moses was so in love with God he spent 40 days and 40 nights seeking His face in the desert. Thus, I’m not discounting or diminishing the importance of those lengthy chunks of time when you seek the Lord. But in our daily prayer life, I think we need a re-adjustment in our thinking.

During the past several days as I have frequently prayed the Lord’s Prayer word for word, I have found a liberty, an empowering, and a joy that has been really special and refreshing to me. I can pause in my car before going to my next appointment (already late) and say,

‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

Then it’s out my door, and into the meeting with the sense that the Lord is with me and the bases are covered. Notice six elements of this prayer:

The first component, verse 9, concerns God’s Person. The second, verse 10, concerns God’s Purpose. Thirdly, God’s Provision is seen in verse 11. God’s Pardon is seen in verse 12. God’s Protection is seen in verse 13. God’s Pre-Eminence is seen in the last half of verse 13.

God’s Person

Our Father . . .

When Jesus taught this prayer, He must have shocked those who were listening to Him when He said, ‘Our Father’. The word for ‘Father’ is ‘Abba’, meaning ‘Papa’.

Keep in mind that in the Old Testament, God was addressed as Elohim, the Strong One; El Shaddai, the Mighty One; Yahweh, the unspeakable word which meant, ‘I Am that I Am’. Why did Jesus suddenly say, ‘When you pray, call God Daddy, Papa, Abba, Father?’ Was He no longer the Powerful, Unspeakable, Omnipotent God of the Old Testament? Did God change? No. God didn’t change. We did.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. (John 1:12)

We were adopted into His family. If you are truly a child of God, He is still the Unspeakable One, the Almighty One, the Omnipotent One — but because you have been adopted into His family, to you He is also Abba.

Notice also He’s not just my Father, but He is Our Father. He’s the Presbyterian’s Father and the Pentecostal’s Father, the Catholic’s Father, and the Lutheran’s Father. Christians, hand in hand — regardless of their denomination — pray, ‘Our Father’, not only now, but throughout the ages.

I can’t hit like Babe Ruth, paint like Michelangelo or sing like George Beverly Shea. But you know what? I can pray like John Knox, like Martin Luther, like Charles Spurgeon, because I can pray the same prayer they prayed. It is the perfect prayer because it came from the Perfect Pray-er, Jesus Christ. You can pray this prayer daily, hourly, whenever you like. And you will find yourself in incredible company with the great saints of the ages, with believers of all other flavors, who all love God and address Him as Father because of their relationship to the Son.

Which art in heaven . . .

As my Father, I relate to Him. But because He’s in heaven, I reverence Him.

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2

I like that! Solomon reminds us we don’t have to pray with lofty terminology or sanctimonious tones. Yes, we must be reverent because God is in heaven. But we can be real because He’s our Father.

Hallowed be Thy name . . .

‘Hallowed’ is a word which has been lost in our language because the concept has been lost from our lives. It means ‘to make holy, separated, transcendent’. ‘O, Lord, hallowed, holy is Your Name. Everyone around me, everything that touches me, all that is within me has been tainted and eroded by sin. But You are holy. Hallowed is Your Name.’ Secondly, notice not only God’s Person, but  . . .

God's Purpose

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

There are only two kinds of people: Those who are in harmony with God’s purpose, saying, ‘Thy will be done’, and those who live for themselves, saying, ‘My will be done.’

God is terrifyingly fair. If you say, ‘My will be done’, He will allow that to happen. If you say, ‘I don’t want God’, He will allow you to be damned. If you say, ‘I want my way’, He will give you your way.

We have a choice to make. We can either, as the Psalmist says, ‘Be still and know that He is God’, or we can say, ‘God, You be still and know that I am me.’

The prophet Isaiah went to Hezekiah and said, ‘Hezekiah, the Lord wants you to know it’s time for you to die. Prepare your house.’ Isaiah 38 tells us Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and chattered like a bird, ‘Let me live. Let me live.’ Finally, God said, ‘OK, you got it. Your will be done.’ Hezekiah lived 15 more years, and they were the 15 most tragic years of his life. During that time, Hezekiah set the stage for the Babylonian invasion, and he fathered a son named Manasseh — the most wicked king in the history of Israel.

Hezekiah would have been so much better simply praying, ‘Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, Father, on earth as it is in heaven.’ When you pray, is it with a profound simplicity? ‘Father, Thy will be done.’ Or is it with a demanding mentality. ‘You listen to me, God. I want this’?

Ruth Bell Graham said this: ‘I am so glad God did not listen to my foolish demands in my younger years. I would have married the wrong guy fifteen times.’ But she showed wisdom when she ended her prayers with the Lord’s prayer, saying, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.’

God’s Provision

Give us . . .

Notice Jesus did not pray, ‘Give Me My bread,’ but ‘Give us our bread. ‘There are no singular pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer. For me, it’s so freeing to think of my needs as ‘our needs’. If I’m feeling tired, I pray, ‘Lord, give us strength, my brothers and sisters who are feeling fatigued today.’ If I’m sad, I pray, ‘Lord, lift our spirits today.’ There’s wonderful, continual intercession when a person prays, ‘Our Father, give us this day’, forgive us our debts, lead us not into temptation’.

. . . this day . . .

Give us this day — not this month, not this year. Why does the Lord want us to pray day by day? Why can’t we just sort of blanket our requests by saying, ‘Lord, give us this month our monthly needs’ or ‘Give us this year our yearly bread.’ The Lord wants us to pray for our daily needs because prayer in and of itself is our greatest need.

If the Father gave things to us on a monthly basis, we wouldn’t pray very frequently. The Lord wants you and me to come before Him every day. Because He’s on an ego trip? No. Because He has need of us? No. Because we have need of Him. He is our Bread.

. . . our daily bread.

I think it’s foolish for people to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, but fail to take Communion. It’s like praying, ‘Lord, send light’, while keeping our eyes closed. ‘For this cause,’ writes Paul, ‘many are weak and sick and even dying unnecessarily,’ (1 Corinthians 11:30).

I believe the ultimate answer to this request is found at the Communion Table, for truly He is our Bread. Don’t let the pendulum swing too far, Fundamental Protestant. Don’t diminish the mystery of the Lord’s Table by saying, ‘I don’t believe Communion is really mystical or miraculous. It’s not really necessary. It’s optional.’ No. It’s foundational. It’s essential. Check out the Book of Acts. Communion was a key component of the Early Church. Jesus Himself said, Do this often in remembrance of Me. Be constantly fed and refreshed in Me.’

God’s Pardon

And forgive us our debts . . .

‘What is found in Christianity which is not found in any other religion?’ That was the question asked at a seminar featuring several prominent Christian theologians. C.S. Lewis, the brilliant thinker and gifted author, was caught in traffic while the rest of the panel puzzled over this question. After about an hour, Lewis arrived, and the question was posed to him. ‘That’s simple,’ he replied. ‘The forgiveness of sin.’ Our past is buried in the sea of God’s forgiveness and forgetfulness. He does not remember our sin anymore. And that is what makes Christianity absolutely unique.

. . . as we forgive our debtors.

In the expression of this prayer is the explosion of forgiveness. I might begin praying the Lord’s Prayer with bitterness in my heart towards someone who hurt me six years ago, or eight weeks ago, or ten minutes ago — but as I pray, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’, suddenly the resentment, the bitterness, the ill-will dissipates from me as I pray this prayer meaningfully.

God’s Protection

And lead us not into temptation . . .

The word, ‘temptation’, does not mean a drawing into sin, but into testing.

Although Scripture records Abraham was tempted with a knife in his hand and his son on the altar (Genesis 22:1), the temptation was not to do evil. It was a testing.

James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man with evil. God does not tempt you. What, then, is Jesus teaching us to pray? ‘Lead us not into testings’? Wait a minute! Doesn’t the Word declare that testings are good? Doesn’t James say to count it all joy when you fall into various testings and trials, knowing that testing produces patience? Doesn’t Peter say that testings purify us like gold purified in a fire?

Why would we pray, ‘Lead us not into testings’? The answer is humility. Which of us would stand up today and say, ‘Lord, test me! I’m ready! Send testing my way, and watch me flex my spiritual muscles.’ Foolish is the person would say such a thing! Thus, it’s in humility that we constantly pray, ‘Lead us not into testing.’

But if I have prayed, ‘Lord lead us not into temptation, then should God take me through testing, I can embrace it joyfully, knowing He will not test me above what I am able (1 Corinthians 10:13).

. . . but deliver us from evil.

Satan is real, and we need God’s protection. George Adam Smith, a wonderful preacher and author, was on a mountain-climbing tour of the Alps. On one particularly high peak, he ran to the very precipice and looked out over Switzerland. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind came up which threatened to blow him over the edge. From several feet away, his guide called to him, ‘Mr. Smith! On your knees, sir!

The only way you’re safe up here is on your knees!’ It has been rightly said that Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, ‘God, protect us. Lead us not into trials and testings. And deliver us from the evil one.’

God’s Pre-Eminence

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

This concise and potent prayer ends in an explosion of praise, literally reading, ‘For thine is the kingship, and the dunamis, the doxa, the heaviness, the weight. It’s all Yours. You are King. You are powerful! Glory! So be it!’ When I consider the Person of God — He’s my Abba, my Papa; the Purpose of God — His will, which is right; His Provision — daily bread and the Bread of Life; His Pardon — I am forgiven, and can forgive others; His Protection — from temptation and the evil one;

I have no other choice but to worship Him. God does not need our worship, but we need to worship, for when I’m at a place where I’m saying, ‘For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever’, with open heart and raised hands, suddenly I’m outside myself, lifted above my cares and worries, my hobbies and toys.

Sixty-five profoundly simple and simply profound words. You can meditate on this prayer for hours, days, months, years, for the rest of your life. But I encourage you to appropriate it right now. Allow this Sacrament to be worked into your life, and you’ll find a whole new dimension of the Lord’s Person and purpose, provision and pardon, protection and pre-eminence worked out through your life.