But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8 KJV)
We need to go back to Matthew 5:1 to see who Jesus was talking to:
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, (Matthew 5:1-2 KJV)
Reading one way, the Sermon on the Mount was given on a mountain, away from the multitudes, to the disciples who were considered His. Yet paintings from over the years, as Carl Bloch’s above, indicate the mountain was a vantage point to address a large crowd. Last December, Joel Shurkin wrote an interesting article about what size crowd could hear a speaker without amplification.
Whether there were just disciples or multitudes who heard His words is, to me, a pilpul, a Jewish word indicating a deep analysis which some consider unproductive. I believe looking at the Jesus message here is more productive than determining to whom it is addressed. I believe whoever heard it, just as whoever hears His message today, will benefit from reading, studying and applying it in life. The Sermon on the Mount covers much in understanding Christianity.
One of the best topics is prayer. In Matthew 6:8, Christ tells us that our Father knows in advance what we are going to ask. We’ve seen that in a smaller scale in our families. We have anticipated what our children will ask. Taking into consideration our Father is omniscient, of course He knows what we will ask, just as He knows what is best for us.
The Concordia Publishing House posted the Small Catechism Martin Luther wrote, which includes the Lord’s Prayer and how “. . . the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.” Luther also looked at the individual requests.
It is a good thing to do now, too, and our congregation studied the requests in the Lord’s Prayer last Wednesday night. When we do repeat it, we need to carefully consider our words and not simply repeat them as memorized. Why would our Father pay heed to this prayer if it was simply a repetition without coming from our hearts?
It really doesn’t matter what it meant to Luther, to my pastor or to me when studied by someone else. It only becomes important when prayed from each individual’s heart with their understanding of the words and how it is applied to their life.
I would consider right now, though, that the first two words are of utmost importance.
When I use them, in this prayer or another, I understand that I am a child addressing my Father and He has innumerable other children who love Him as I do. What I request should take them and His love for them into consideration, for they are my family, too.
And, if I begin looking into every following phrase, word, thought, you’d be reading for a very long time – and might miss out on your own understanding. So – take a few moments to read – and pray – the following verses, putting yourself on a mount in Israel at Jesus’ feet hearing the example of what our Lord wants His children to consider when speaking to Him. Listen, please, for His response.
After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our FatherAmen. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)
which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,