Before I look at The Lord’s Prayer itself I will look at what Jesus said around it when he taught it on the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew’s gospel, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches not just The Lord’s Prayer, but surrounds it with teaching about personal and corporate prayer.
This has only just struck me as I am writing this post, and I shall explain what I mean.
The Jews understood that prayer could be personal, you could pray to God on your own, not just in the company of others. We see this in both the Old and New Testaments, where prayer takes place both on a personal setting, and in a corporate setting. So Jesus teaching on personal prayer is aimed specifically as the Jewish people as they understood this concept. We see this in Matthew 6:5-6.
The Gentiles by contrast, especially the Romans who were then occupying Israel, had no concept of personal prayer, prayer to them was always and only a public affair. So it would be strange to teach about personal prayer by referring to people who had no concept of personal prayer. Therefore we can safely say that Matthew 6:7-8 is about corporate prayer.
Now you may be saying, ‘Can you back this up from the text itself, not just from the context?’. Yes, I can. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus is talking about ‘you’ singular, in the rest of Jesus’ teaching about prayer that is given here is ‘you’ is always in the plural.
The Lord’s Prayer, or more precisely what we can learn about how to pray from it, should be central to both our personal and corporate prayer. It is both a prayer that we can say as it is, and a prayer outline that we can use in prayer. It is also more than that, but you will have to wait for the next post to find out what.
What does the Lord’s Prayer mean to you in your personal and corporate prayer? Have you thought of it only as a personal prayer neglecting its corporate nature? I would love to hear your insights.