Simple Prayers. Simple Words.
Therefore, in this manner you should pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13
Most of us recognize these very familiar scriptures as the Lord’s Prayer. I bet some of us can even recite these words from memory. No doubt, nearly all of us have even leaned on them in times of needed comfort and solace. We might regard this particular prayer or even Jesus’ model of prayer as simple. These simple words. This simple prayer.
And yes, in a way they are simple words. Simple and singular in focus. A foundation of sorts that anchors us to our Christian ancestors who, like us, have daily prayed for divine authority to be expressed on earth, divine provision to ease our daily need, divine forgiveness to absolve our tremendous guilt, and divine protection to overshadow our obedient faith.
But simple does not necessarily mean powerless, less effective or less important. No one believes that. In fact, we simplify all sorts of things in order to draw out what’s most important, powerful and effective. We simplify equations in order to grapple with manageable figures. We simplify scriptures in order to propose life principles. We simplify instructions in order to expedite workflow. We rightly simplify all of life’s enormities in order to take on more, make room for other, or to simply move on.
And here is the point (the point of contrast, that is). We simplify things in order to take on more and more. But that is not what Jesus does here in teaching us how to pray. His words are simple, but his focus is central; his manner of prayer an everlasting process of abiding in God. Jesus does not teach us to ask for more, believe for more, hope for more. Rather he teaches us to pursue what is already ours in the Father and to enduringly abide in that reality.
As familiar as these scriptures are (and ritualistic in their recitation), we are no less indebted to their efficiency in bringing us back to the foundation of our faith—willful, obedient, surrender. From here onward, we need not be frightened or discouraged in approaching our heavenly Father. Doesn’t “he know already know what we need”(Mt6)? Indeed, he does. It’s that simple.