Turn the Lord’s Prayer from Boring to Extraordinary
Do you feel your Lord’s Prayer experience has become so routine that it doesn’t benefit you? Do you find yourself reciting the words without truly connecting to their intention? If this sounds like you, it’s time to elevate your Lord’s Prayer experience from boring to extraordinary.
Here are some practical tips for improving your experience of the Lord’s Prayer by switching up the routine to make it more meaningful and effective for your spiritual journey. This post will provide valuable insights and strategies that will help you to deepen your connection to the prayer and the divine. So, if you’re ready to take your Lord’s Prayer experience to the next level, read on and discover how you can make it more powerful and meaningful in your life.
Learn more about the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible
Learning more about the Lord’s Prayer can deepen one’s relationship with the prayer. Understanding the biblical context of the prayer can give us a deeper understanding of what Jesus taught. We can also learn about the meaning of each petition. For example, what are the implications of saying “Hallowed be thy name?” Should we say “debts or trespasses or sins?” What did Jesus have in mind with the phrase “deliver us from evil?” How does that work? By understanding the meaning of these words and petitions, we can gain a deeper understanding of the prayer and its purpose, which can deepen our relationship with the prayer and the divine. Do your research. Find resources online. Here is a link to a sermon series we did at Bay Shore Church exploring these topics.
The 30-day challenge. Pray it three times a day in different locations.
Fr. Aiden Kavanaugh, one of my divinity school professors, challenged our class to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day for thirty days. He encouraged us to pray it in different circumstances and times of the day. The challenge had a profound impact on my relationship to the prayer. Before his assignment, I had only prayed the prayer in worship.
I found that praying the Lord’s Prayer at different times and locations, instead of only in worship, can deepen the experience by making it more personal. It can help to bring the prayer into daily life, connecting it to the world around us and providing flexibility and adaptability to different situations. It can also help to gain a greater understanding of the prayer by seeing it in different contexts and perspectives.
“Lead us not into temptation” took on a new meaning when I’d rather do anything but study. When I was at the department store trying to fill some void with new gadgets, saying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” it led me to think about how much more than “daily bread” I wanted God to provide.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer in Nature
Collin Cornell wrote a beautiful article, “How to pray the Lord’s Prayer with All Creatures.” Praying when outside helps deepen the sense of God’s presence in our lives at all times. Cornell encourages us to include all of God’s creatures in our sentiments when we pray.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer with all creatures certainly means adding their needs to the petitions we bring to God. But it also means joining our praying with theirs — connecting our worship of God with the worship that other creatures render. In other words, the nonhuman realm contains neighbors not just in the sense that other beings share hardship and want with humans, but also in the sense that they, too, have their own relationships with God.
We can be especially mindful of all creation in the petitions: Thy will be done on earth, Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.
Embody the Prayer with Physical Gestures such as opening your palms or lighting a candle.
Using physical gestures or actions when saying the Lord’s Prayer can be helpful as it helps to deepen the sense of reverence and devotion and create a more profound connection between the mind, body, and spirit. This can be beneficial for those who find it difficult to focus or connect with the prayer’s words, and the physical gestures can remind them of the prayer’s intent and meaning. Additionally, lighting candles can help create a sense of atmosphere, which can be conducive to meditation and help to focus the mind and foster a sense of serenity.
Experiment with different rhythms and insert pauses.
Changing the pace or rhythm of the Lord’s prayer can enhance the experience by keeping the mind active and engaged, creating a sense of flow, adding variety, improving emotional connection, and strengthening the feeling of devotion. These changes can help to break the monotony of reciting the prayer, in the same way every time, improving focus and concentration on the words. It can also evoke different emotions and feelings, making the experience more dynamic.
Get your go-to version down pat.
We all need a “go-to” traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer. Say the Lord’s prayer when you don’t know what else to pray. How easily can you recite your version without having a congregation around you prompting you into the next word? It may be more challenging than you think. During COVID when we were recording our services, I had to stop the recording several times because I lost my place. My mind wandered, and I couldn’t recall the next line even though I’d been saying the prayer my whole life. We need a version that comes to us quickly when we need it. It’s how Jesus taught us to pray and connects us to a great tradition of people of faith who have prayed this prayer in their times of need.
The pitfalls of saying it the same way every time.
Constantly repeating a single version of the Lord’s Prayer can make it feel rote and boring, turning it from a heartfelt prayer into just a set of words recited because it is part of the church service. When the Lord’s Prayer becomes a monotonous repetition, it can be challenging to focus on the meaning and intent of the prayer, and it can lose its power to inspire and guide us on our spiritual journey. When our version becomes too routine, we can lose the sense of awe and spiritual connection through prayer.
Furthermore, saying the Lord’s Prayer, in the same way every time, can also limit our understanding of it. We may not take the time to reflect on the meaning of each line and how it applies to our lives, and we may not be open to new interpretations or understandings of the prayer. We may not be available to how the prayer can speak to us in new and different ways. Additionally, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer in the same way, we may miss out on the richness and depth of the prayer found in the different versions, translations, and languages in which it is written.
Experiment with different versions of the Lord’s Prayer.
Using different versions of the Lord’s Prayer can expand our appreciation of the prayer and deepen our experience of it. Instead of coasting on auto-pilot and reciting it from memory, it’s good to use a version that makes us pause and think about what we are praying. Using different versions may help us see things we’ve never seen before.
Rev. Sandhya Rani Jha compiled a beautiful list of variations on the Lord’s Prayer. She has included ancient and contemporary versions from all over the world. Some versions pay attention to how to pray it in different circumstances, including during war or needing healing. Others apply to different church year seasons, such as Advent and Epiphany. These versions expand on the themes and petitions from the original.
Overcome resistance to using different versions of the Lord’s Prayer.
I’ll admit that red flags rose when I first encountered different versions of the Lord’s Prayer. I thought, “They are changing Jesus’ words and adding stuff that isn’t in the Bible. The original Greek uses the language of Abba, which means Father. Is it okay to use inclusive language in the Lord’s prayer? Is this just a sign of ‘political correctness’ taking over?”
But the more I explored, the more I discovered how these objections were off the mark.
First, we don’t have Jesus’ exact words. He likely spoke Aramaic, and the gospel writers translated it to Greek when they wrote their gospels. What Jesus probably said is much more inclusive than the Greek version. Inclusive language may more closely represent what Jesus was getting at. As Suzette Martinez Standring explains:
The Lord’s prayer begins with “Our Father,” a translation of the word, “abba.” But the actual Aramaic transliteration is “Abwoon” which is a blending of “abba (father)” and “woon” (womb), Jesus’s recognition of the masculine and feminine source of creation.
Second, we don’t have to worry about saying it precisely the way Jesus said it because he said it in different ways. Mark D. Roberts wrote:
I’m convinced that Jesus himself prayed different forms of this particular prayer at different times, and that these various forms were passed on in the early church. Clearly, there was not one, set-in-stone form of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and that they memorized word for word. https://depree.org/the-lords-prayer-well-sort-of/
The Bible models using different versions of the Lord’s prayer because the gospels present two versions. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches the prayer to his disciples, saying,
“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 also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Luke 11:2-4 presents a slightly different version.
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
Comparing and contrasting these versions can help us to gain a deeper understanding of the prayer and its meaning. For example, the version in Matthew includes the line “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” emphasizing the importance of aligning our will with God’s will. On the other hand, Luke’s version includes the line “And do not bring us to the time of trial,” which gives the sense that Jesus is referring to something broader than an internal feeling of temptation.
Do you notice what’s missing?
Neither Matthew nor Luke contains the line, “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Jesus never taught this part of the prayer. It is an appropriate way to conclude the prayer, but it’s not even in the Bible. That is why some churches do not recite this ending. The traditional Lord’s Prayer is a mixing of Matthew and Luke’s versions, and it expanded over time. Recognizing this expansion is an excellent way to appreciate how people have translated the prayer in their context over time.
Explore different versions of the Bible.
Looking at multiple Bible translations and paraphrases offers endless nuances in Lord’s Prayer. (Bible Gateway is a great site that easily allows you to look up passages in many different versions of the Bible). Let’s consider the differences in how two Bibles present Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve highlighted a few words in each version that expand on the sense we get from the traditional version.
The New Living Translation (NLT) of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”
The Contemporary English Version (CEV) of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, we honor your name. We ask you to come and be with us, and bring your kingdom. Help us to do your will on earth, as it is done in heaven. Give us the food we need for today. Forgive us for the wrong things we have done, as we forgive those who have wronged us. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil.”
As you can see, praying the Lord’s prayer from different versions of the Bible can help us broaden our concepts of what we are praying.
Write your personalized version of the Lord’s Prayer.
My final suggestion for spicing up your experience of the Lord’s Prayer is to write your own version. After you’ve explored its meaning and looked at other versions, try writing a personalized version. Expand on the concepts and petitions. You will be amazed at your new appreciation for the prayer and how it can become a meaningful spiritual practice.