patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Saturday, March 23, 2013

a good closet prayer

Although it utterly baffles me why Jesus does it, I really appreciate that, having given us all sorts of advice on how not to pray—not standing up in church, not in a public place, not babbling wordily like a pagan, not asking for anything since God already knows what we need—Jesus then pretty much contradicts himself in giving us what we have come to call the “Lord’s Prayer” (or, in the Catholic tradition in which I was raised, the “Our Father”).

“This, then, is how you should pray,” he tells us:

Oh Father of us all, up there in heaven, your name is holy. Let the end come, so that we can be with you in that heavenly place and, like everyone else does up there, do what it is you want us to do. In the meantime, please make sure we have what we need from day to day and forgive us when we mess up, just as we forgive—or at least try to forgive—those who mess up in our lives. Protect us from being tempted to do the wrong thing, as we are so prone to do. (my paraphrase of Matthew 6:9-13).
It is, surely, the most commonly prayed prayer. One hears of people automatically reciting it in response to some emergency or disaster. Believers often pray it corporately—usually standing in church, I might point out—but it also makes a good closet prayer. It covers everything there could be to say to our Father in heaven: praise for his holiness and that he deigns to be our Father in the first place, eagerness to join him in heaven, and acceptance of his will, and it closes—despite Jesus’ prohibition against asking for things God already knows what we need—with three comprehensive requests: for daily provision, for forgiveness, and for protection against our own messed-up-ness.

Nevertheless, when overcome—as I often am—by prayer-inertia, I often forget that I can pray this prayer. That Jesus takes care of even that for us, the praying, just as he did on Gethsemane.


  1. I, too, use the Lord's Prayer as a model for prayer at times - usually when I am feeling diconnected. I like your paraphrasing. It is similar to how I commonly end up paraphrasing but different - less wordy and more honest.

  2. I love your paraphrase. That is a prayer that takes account of what life is really like. It takes account of God's sovereignty, of our need, and of our capacity to do damage to others and of theirs to do damage to us. Thanks.

  3. I'm not sure I read Jesus' comment as a prohibition of asking for what we need, by the way. Doesn't the "Do not be like them" refer to the heaping up of words as though that would make it more effective? It seems to me he does want us to ask him for what we need. Paul tells us with prayer and supplication to let our requests be made known to God (though clearly they are already known to him, too).

  4. This morning I read a chapter called "Getting to Remorse" from Easy Burdens to the Admissions staff--an unexpectantly huge group of people, like twenty or so--in lieu of the devotional I had been asked to lead them in. It occurred to me, as I read, that not a one of them looked like they'd ever harbored illwill against anyone, which is mainly what my reading was about. They all looked so fresh faced and earnest and kind. After my "devotional"--which they apparently do every morning?! during the application process--we prayed for each of the new applicants, by name, which they also do every morning. I was so impressed with their prayer habits, as a group. It made me impressed, too, with JBU--proud to be a part of it.

  5. That is really cool to know, and impressive. I find it hard to consistently do personal devotions, and whenever I've been in a setting where collective devotions are imposed, they sometimes become enough of a cause for my harboring illwill. Haha. But if we were given stuff as sharp as yours, that would probably keep me cheerful, too. I have a friend here who says he thinks the whole world would burst into great chaos if it weren't for the prayers of the faithful. Fun to think of these admissions folks as part of that group.