The Lord’s Prayer. We all know it…but how often do we really stop and think about what we’re actually saying when we recite it? Do we really mean what we’re saying or understand the implications? This is the issue that Dr. R.T. Kendall tackles in his latest book, The Lord’s Prayer: Insight and Inspiration to Draw You Closer to Him.
Dr. Kendall received his D.Phil. from Oxford University, was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years, and has received endorsements from a wide variety of pastors and theologians from all across the theological spectrum.
He insists that the Lord’s Prayer must be done, not simply recited. He says that since it was verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit and Jesus Himself was it’s author, it’s perfectly worded. It’s a revelation of how we should pray, mirroring God’s will for His people. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, this prayer was His response (Luke 11: 1-4). Of course, it can be misused or prayed with wrong motives, but it is a perfect example of how we should pray.
Although it’s excellent to pray it verbatim, it also serves as a pattern or model:
“It is a prayer to be prayed, but the words of the Lord’s Prayer serve also as an outline of appropriate praying. We should see each line of the Lord’s prayer-that is, each petition-as the solid foundation for truly worshipful and selfless praying. Thus, everything we say should be an extension, or filling out, to some degree, of every line in the Lord’s Prayer. Our praying should build on the Lord’s Prayer. How we enlarge on each petition, filling out each one in a way that faithfully reflects what Jesus meant, becomes a superstructure on that foundation. The Lord’s Prayer therefore is the foundation; our own praying is the superstructure.”
The book is divided into five sections:
Part 1: Focusing on God
Part 2: God’s Prayer List
Part 3: God’s Prayer List for Us
Part 4: A Chosen Benediction
Part 5: A Further Reason for the Lord’s Prayer
In Part 1, Dr. Kendall lays the foundation of the nature and purpose of the prayer and discusses the opening lines. Parts 2 and 3 break the prayer down, line by line, examining the intent and meaning of each petition. Here, we see a familiar pattern. The first three petitions focus on God’s glory, the second three are to our benefits, just as the Law had two tables, one focused on God, one on humankind.
Part 4 discusses the benediction, and in Part 5, he wraps the book up with an examination of Jesus’ admonition to forgive others, given immediately after giving the prayer in Matthew 6: 14-15, which he calls Jesus’ “P.S” to the prayer:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive sins.”
Refusing to forgive others keeps us from full intimacy with the Holy Spirit and participation in the Kingdom. For this reason, Dr. Kendall says that teaching about forgiving others is the greatest need in the church today. Jesus emphasized it, both in the prayer and immediately following it, because He knew we would need to hear it again and again. In order to fully receive the benefits of the Lord’s Prayer, we must learn to practice forgiveness.
I’ve never read anything by Dr. Kendall before, but I did enjoy The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a good, solid exposition of the world’s most well-known prayer. With his plainspoken style, he unpacked each line of the prayer in a simple, straight-forward manner. I know that all too often I’ve rattled it off without really giving much thought to what I was saying and it’s definitely given me a deeper appreciation for the meaning behind the words.