Teach Us To Pray?

I saw a tweet by a persom I follow on Twitter that was what I consider an interesting comment:

The idea that someone would have to be taught how to pray to an all-knowing, infinitely powerful, and loving god is absurd.

That made me pause because what I think he is referring to is the scene in. Luke (11:1-4) where we’re introduced the what has become known as “The Lords’ Prayer”. The chapter begins with one of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. This is where Jesus provides the template for prayer. I say template, only because this is the way I was taught. Certainly what’s written is a prayer itself , but the context of the scene is Jesus breaking down for the disciples what is the required (expected?) format of supplication.

And yes, prayer is supplication. Some scholars regard them as different but both have the end result of asking for something. Supplication is humbly begging while prayer is giving thanks or making requests. The difference between the two is simply not worth an argument over and carefully looking at the text of “The Lords’ Prayer” will inform anyone why. I was taught a certain way of understanding this prayer. Others, may have been instructed otherwise. This is the tapestry that is Christianity. This says a lot about my friends quote above.

I think it is possibly too simplistic to think someone might have to be taught to pray as absurd. I believe I understand why this comment is made, I mean, if “god” is all knowing, why wouldn’t needs be already known? I think this has less to do with any attribute of any god and more a protocol for making requests and giving thanks, Not everyone in the ancient world would understand or even have the opportunity to address royalty and who would they consider the greater? Even today, when going to see a high official in government, there are certain niceties expected from the visitor.

The prayer is surprisingly short. It seems strange to us today because we can see preachers of every denomination go on and on. In this case, just reciting this one prater takes less than a minute and if one steps back, it covers everything. It begins by praising the ruler, and exalting the power of the same. The prayer then makes requests (give us this day, our daily bread), as well as forgiveness for any slights (sins) committed (and forgive us our trespasses) because we have learned, from this ruler, to forgive others that have caused offense toward is (as we forgive those who trespass against us). So far, in this short prayer, a lot has been accomplished. It’s then asked that we are not lead into temptation (doing evil) but asks that we be delivered from evil (that is done to us) and then it ends by showing the ruler that all these things can be done because he is all powerful (for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory).

So we’ve come into the throne room, giving praise to the all powerful ruler. We ask that are basic needs be taken care of and forgiveness for anything we may have done to displease him, and also to be protected by his great power. Nothing different than what any of us today would do if we had the opportunity to visit the our President, or our Senator or Congressperson, would it? Just put the words in 21st century context. Anyone would walk into the office of the member of Congress and do what? Of course thank that person for their time and also (because we want something) tell them hat a great job we think they’re doing. Then we ask for what we’re there for (we don’t want to waste this Very Important Person’s time) and after a short chat thanks the person again for their attention to our issue(s). So not much difference is there? We’re not necessarily thinking that person is all powerful, but if we want anything do be done with out issue(s0 a little ego-stroking doesn’t hurt.

So, in a way, ?I do see the need for some sort of instruction here. Not everyone is going to understand particular protocols that need to be met unless they are told and again this single prayer basically lays it all out everything required and if we look at this as a way of approaching leaders in general, one can easily see how this might translate directly. Probably less so today but when in the presence of earthly kings and emperors, a likely way of addressing the ruler.

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