I like to color outside the lines.

I don’t like formulas or outlines. I rarely have a clue what will show up on a page when I sit down to write. My numbered lists (like the 15 things that will happen if you join the Thank You Revolution) usually start with an “X” in place of the number. I might have a general idea of the 4 things you can do to improve your presentations, but the final number is always a mystery.

Praying the Lord's Prayer

So when I stumbled upon a “formula” for prayer that works for me, I was shocked. I think “prayer formulas” and other inventions of the church are ridiculous. The very word formula means, among other similar definitions:

a set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitely or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribed use on some ceremonial occasion.

any fixed or conventional method for doing something

a recipe or prescription:

Meh. Not exactly what I call a conversation, which is exactly what prayer should be.

Instead, we play Christian chef.

Let’s start with some praise. Throw in a little thankfulness. Gotta add some repentance. OK, now time for the good stuff. OK, let’s see. Gotta pray for the sick, yeah, yeah. Check. Oh boy, should I really ask for that? Well, it can’t hurt. Here are my requests. And I don’t think I used enough praise earlier, so sprinkle some more on top, and…it’s soup. Prayer soup. Amen.

But this “formula” (I prefer the term “model”) is one you already know…it’s from Matthew, Chapter 6:

Our Father
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, forever.

The good news is that we all know it. The bad news is that we all know it. Those words easily become easily spoken, difficult to understand words with no meaning.

I know I am not the first to do this, but out of nowhere recently, I wrote my own prayer based on that model. I noticed that, for the first time, I revealed my true thoughts about God and what I truly need from Him (hint: it’s not a bigger house or new client).

I encourage you to do the same thing for the next 40 days through Easter. Don’t share it here. It’s not for anyone else to see. It should be your personal prayer to God.

You can still color outside the lines. You should still pray what is on your heart. But I do believe that this model was given to us for our benefit, so make sure to use it.

If you’ve ever done this, what did you experience? If not, what do you look forward to most?

10 thoughts on “40 Days in the Lord’s Prayer

  1. Carol Dublin says:

    You are so right about knowing the Lord’s Prayer too well – often we just go through the motions. Great idea to craft your own. Might have to try this myself. Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  2. Lily Kreitinger says:

    Love, love, love. A friend of mine shared this from Kay Arthur’s Teach Me to Pray in 28 Days. It is very easy to remember if you follow the path of the Our Father. And it does lead to an amazing conversation. Will use my Couple Prayer students as guinea pigs the next session. Thanks Matt!!!!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I look forward to hearing how it goes.

      I realized by writing this post, I was accountable to doing it for 40 days myself 🙂

  3. Jon Stolpe says:

    This reminds me of praying ACTS – Acclimation (or praise), Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (requests).

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Actually that is the kind of formula that doesn’t work for me. I don’t feel it leads to a conversation. Could just be me though.

      1. Tom Dixon says:

        I was going to mention ACTS, but Jon beat me to it! I agree with Matt, but it can remind us to take time to take time for the parts we like to skip over (like confession).

  4. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    That’s fantastic Matt. It’s awesome to hear this perspective. I’m with you, not a fan of set prayers. The reason is just what you mentioned. Growing up Lutheran, we quoted the Lord’s prayer every single week. Which, there is nothing wrong with. What was wrong is that to this day, I can rattle off the Lord’s prayer without even thinking about it. And when I do it without even thinking about it, it does me no good, and I’ve missed the point.
    Using it as a model, which is exactly what Christ intended, “After this manner therefore, pray ye…” Sounds exactly like it’s intended as a model to me!
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Jana Botkin says:

    Yes, model, not formula. Thank you for the reminder that Jesus’s teaching and words are timeless.

  6. The Lord’s Prayer – or Disciples Prayer – is a wonderful guideline. Another challenge is to take it one further. Write down your prayers using this model. Take it a word or two, or sentence at a time. Writing it down as you think it – and meditating on it is a wonderful experience. Ex: “Our Father” – wow – all of us, those who believe in Christ, He is ours. Not just to a select few,or those perceived as holy – but ours! He is our Father. Not a stranger. Not a cold indifferent god – but our Father. Abba Father. Our author….you can see how you can make it a wonderful conversation between you and God.

    Praying the word is wonderful too. For my friends I like to pray Col. 1:9-12.

    Thanks for the focus.

  7. Wade_Thorson says:

    Thanks for the challenge, this isn’t something I have never done but would be worth the effort. Too often it is easier to go through the motions and not have meaning. But righting your own following the model would definitely have a personal meaning.

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