Book Bites: The Lord's Prayer
By Cheryl Arnold
Christians traditionally observe Lent with spiritual disciplines that include prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If you want to go deeper in your prayer life during Lent, one way to begin is by studying the Lord's prayer. Jesus used this prayer to teach his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4), and this prayer is part of our worship services as well as the daily offices. Following are four devotional books on the Lord’s Prayer, all of them good and each with a somewhat different approach to developing a deeper understanding of this prayer.
The Lord and His Prayer by N.T. Wright
This book began as a series of sermons preached during Advent. In his introduction, Wright suggests three ways of using the Lord’s prayer during a season such as Lent or Advent. The first is to make it a framework for daily prayer and to pray for particular requests under each phrase. The second is to pray it in the rhythm of your breathing, to calm and nourish your soul. The third is to focus on a different phrase each day of the week in your prayers and interactions. Wright goes through the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase, with a chapter for each phrase. He takes a historical approach and uses it as a lens through which to see Jesus himself. Wright says, “When Jesus gave his disciples this prayer, he was giving them part of his own breath, his own life, his own prayer. The prayer is actually a distillation of his own sense of vocation, his own understanding of his Father’s purposes. If we are truly to enter into it and make it our own, it can only be if we first understand how he set about living in the Kingdom himself.” Wright draws the applications for our own lives from the historical context.
Living the Lord’s Prayer by David Timms
In his introduction, Timms writes, “More than a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer outlines the most fundamental features of the deeper Christian life…It reveals the building blocks for authentic spiritual formation.” He says the building blocks are being with Christ, becoming like Christ, and living for Christ, and he goes on to discuss how the Lord’s prayer teaches us more about these building blocks as well as how to pray. Each chapter is devoted to a word or phrase from the prayer, and he includes a study guide with reflection questions in the back of the book.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer by J.I. Packer
This book is an excerpt from Packer’s longer book Growing in Christ. Packer wants us to see that “speaking to the Father and the Son in prayer is as natural as it was for Jesus to talk to his Father in heaven, or for the disciples to talk to their Master during the days of his earthly ministry.” He says that we are made to pray, and that prayer is a two-way conversation that is similar to the conversations we have with parents or wise friends. Packer offers the Lord’s prayer as a model for our prayers, and he goes through it phrase by phrase, with a chapter devoted to each phrase. Each chapter concludes with scripture passages for further study, as well as several questions for thought and discussion.
On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord’s Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively by Warren Wiersbe
Wiersbe says, “Just as babies learn to communicate in more and more complex ways, so the new believer should move from simply crying out to God to a developed prayer life.” Wiersbe identifies and examines six requests in the Lord’s prayer. He says the first three requests focus on matters concerning God—the glory of His name, the coming of His kingdom, and the accomplishing of His will. The last three requests express the needs of the one who is praying—the necessities of life, personal forgiveness of sin, and victory over trial and temptation. Wiersbe devotes one and sometimes two chapters to each of these requests in the hope that readers will grow into a deeper understanding of how to have a full and balanced prayer life.