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Teach us to pray

Dr. Luke gives his version of the Disciples’ Prayer in today’s Bible reading. It differs a little from Matthew’s version (Matthew 6:9-13), the version many of us learned growing up in church. And yet the version we learned adds a little to the end, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

Why are there so many versions of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples? The fact that there are different versions only proves the Bible is full of contradictions, right?

Uh, no! The fact that there are different versions just illustrates that different people remembered different things from their life experiences walking around with Jesus. Whoever Dr. Luke used for his source for this version of the Prayer may have only heard it this way. Whereas, Matthew wrote what he heard. Jesus may have been asked this question once and was heard by both people at the same time. Or Jesus may have taught the Prayer more than once and each source simply recorded what they heard on that occasion.

Add to that, the longer version of the Prayer that most of us learned so many years ago actually came from later manuscripts where scribes added some of their own traditions to the Biblical Prayer.

None of this should surprise us; it merely points to the fact that God used regular human beings to put together and preserve our Bible. We need to be careful in applying today’s understanding of recording history to the way the Bible writers recorded history; they recorded history differently than we do. A high view of Scripture allows for each Biblical writer to contribute his unique nuances. Rather than giving us contradictory information, each Biblical writer provides his own complementary information.

Don’t get lost in the minutiae of the differences in the versions or the manuscripts which contain a few more words than another. The Bottom Line is that God has preserved His Word for us over almost two thousand years in a remarkably consistent way. Rather than getting caught up with the differences, look at the similar content and augment that with the different content. And remember that Jesus didn’t teach His disciples to commit to rote memory a few static sentences.

Note, the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Instead, they asked Him to teach them to pray.

Application

Oftentimes we approach prayer as an opportunity to bring our shopping list to God. Over time, we tend to get the “gimmes”: Gimme this. Gimme that. And gimme lots of these other things.

Note that in Jesus’ prayer, only one sentence pertains to requesting something for ourselves. And that request is simply for our needs. Most of the prayer is praising God, asking Him to keep doing what He’s already doing, and confessing of our own shortcoming as we forgive the shortcomings of others.

There’s nothing wrong with asking God for stuff. Actually, we are encouraged to take our requests to God. (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18) Think about it, if God is our Provider, failing to ask Him to provide is to fail to glorify Him as our Provider!

How do your prayers compare with Jesus’? Are your prayers filled with “gimmes”? Are your prayers filled with praise? Thanksgiving? If you tend to spend more time requesting things — for yourself or for others — try spending a little time doing nothing but praising God for Who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done.

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