How to make sure the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t become vain repetition

Do you ever wonder if your praying has become repetitive, meaningless, and powerless? I’ve wondered that about my praying at times. I’m re-energized now, though. I just learned a new way to pray.

Mike Breen in Building a Discipleship Culture encourages disciplers to teach disciples to use the Lord’s prayer as a model. After all, when Jesus was asked to teach the disciple how to pray, He taught the Lord’s prayer. It’s found, of course, in Luke 11:1-4 and in Matthew 6:9-13.

How do we make sure that praying according to the Lord’s prayer does not become “meaningless repetition”? We can pray it phrase by phrase and in our own words – a kind of personalized, amplified version of the Lord’s prayer. I’ve known this and practiced this for many years.

But in his book, Breen taught me something new. “Another way to better understand the Lord’s Prayer is to see it as a circular prayer; each phrase is fully developed by all of the others. Take one phrase, place a colon after it, and then continue with the other phrases. Ask, how is this part of the prayer fully articulated in the rest of the prayer.”

How might this work? It’s not really all that complicated. Consider the six petitions in the Lord’s prayer.

1) Praise: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 
2) Priority: Your kingdom come, 
3) Plan: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
4) Provision: Give us this day our daily bread…
5) Pardon: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…
6) Protection: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Stay focused on one petition each day. Then pray through the other petitions in light of the one.

In the paragraph that follows, I’ll show you how to keep petition #1 as the prayer focus while praying through the rest of the petitions. and explain how to

Monday’s theme: #1 – Praise // Pray that God’s fame as Holy God will grow. Pray # 2 for areas in your life and ministry that His kingdom will come more and more so that His holiness will be seen. Pray #3 for people you know that His will be done more and more so that His holiness will be seen in the lives of His holy people. Pray #4 for your family, career, and ministry that He will give you your daily bread in a way that He will be seen and praised as holy. Pray #5 for you and the pople you know that you would forgive and be forgiven so that He will be known as the holy One who makes His people wholly free from bitterness. Pray #6 for you, your family, and ministry that you would vercome temptation and be delivered from the evil one so that God will be seen as the holy One who gives His people a holy victory.

OK. Now that you get the idea, below is an outline you can follow for the rest of the week. Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as it might look.

Tuesday’s theme: #2 – Priority // Pray that more and more people and cultures would submit to God as King – that His rule and ways would prevail. Then, pray # 3 in light of # 2. Pray # 4 in light of # 2. Pray # 5 in light of # 2. Pray # 6 in light of # 2. Pray # 1 in light of # 2.

Wednesday’s theme: #3 – Plan // Pray that Gods will will be done in your life, in your family, in your ministry, in your city/nation/world. Then, pray # 4 in light of # 3. Pray #5 in light of # 3. Pray #6 in light of # 3. Pray # 1 in light of # 3. Pray # 2 in light of # 3.

Thursday’s theme: #4 – Provision // Pray that God would meet your needs, the needs of your family, and the needs of your ministry. Then, pray # 5 in light of # 4. Pray #6 in light of # 4. Pray #1 in light of # 4. Pray # 2 in light of # 4. Pray # 3 in light of # 4.

Friday’s theme: #5 – Pardon // Pray that as you and others experience more and more of God’s forgiveness that you and others will be free from bitterness and resentment. Then, pray # 6 in light of # 5. Pray #1 in light of # 5. Pray #2 in light of # 5. Pray # 3 in light of # 5. Pray # 4 in light of # 5.

Saturday’s theme: #6 – Protection // Pray that you, your family, and those in your ministry will be able to overcome temptation and be delivered from the schemes of the evil one. Then pray # 1 in light of # 6. Pray #2 in light of # 6. Pray #3 in light of # 6. Pray # 4 in light of # 6. Pray # 5 in light of # 6.

Why not try this method of prayer for a week or so?

Note: On Sunday, you might want to pray through the Lord’s Prayer in a more straightforward kind of way. Or you might want to model your prayers after some other biblical prayers like Paul’s prayers in the epistles (see Philippians 1:9-11).

Question: Have you been able to pray through the Lord’s Prayer without it becoming vain repetition? How?


dual citizenship: 3 ways American Christians must live

I am proud to be an American. Very proud. And I am grateful for those who have served in the military to protect our freedoms.

My dad, Vern Duncan, served in the Navy in the Pacific theatre during WWII. My wife’s dad, Art Catrino, served in WWII, too. My brother, Jerry, served in the Air Force during the Viet Nam era. Several young men from our church are currently serving in Afghanistan and other places in the world. I pray for them.

So, on this Memorial Day, I am remembering those who have served and especially those who served and died. It fosters gratitude and a greater commitment for me to be a better citizen.

Yet, as believers, our first loyalty should never be to the USA.

In the past, I’ve been in some church environments where love for God and country are confused. I’ve heard sermons that were more about commitment to the USA than about commitment to Jesus. And some believers have questioned other believers’ commitment to Christ if they are perceived to be on the wrong side of the American political spectrum. In the heat of a political values debate, some believers forget that our citizenship rests first with the Lord and secondarily with the USA.

The Bible is clear. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven with the Lord, not here. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, ESV).

But our citizenship in heaven ought to be reflected in our being great citizens here. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work” (Titus3:1, ESV).

So, how do we live with the tension of being loyal to the Lord and being proud to be Americans?

1. Inform your citizenship from the Bible.

As Tim Keller says, “Truth doesn’t come from the right or from the left. Truth comes from above.” There will be times when you will support the positions of the government because they line up with the Bible. There will be times when you won’t. And in those times, you have to speak out to other citizens and leaders promoting biblical values via emails, letters, phone calls, and conversations. We don’t blindly support the right or the left. We support the morals and values in the Bible.

2. Pray for your nation and leaders.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (I Timothy 2:1-3, ESV). And while you are praying, thank God that you are a citizen of the USA. In the history of the world, we Americans have been given rare opportunities and freedoms that can be leveraged to build God’s Kingdom.

3. When you see a soldier, thank her or him.

You won’t regret making this a habit. The other day, I was in a restaurant and I saw an older man in a veteran’s hat eating by himself. I politely interrupted him and asked him when he served and where. He was a WWII vet. He was about 85-90. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said, “Thank you.” He smiled and I had the feeling that I made his day.

So, do you ever feel the tension of being a citizen of heaven first and USA second? If you do, how do you handle it?

Let’s go

Yesterday, one of our youth staff members sent me an email about a new series we are beginning at CVC called “let’s go.”  

He wrote, “I think it is going to be cool. I just wanted to share a quick bit about what God has been doing in my heart, and I think something that has been on the hearts of the youth ministry. It may apply to one of your weeks.

God has been showing me the reality of his commandment of us to GO. So often we, as an American church, are asking people go come (to our church, or to come and listen to what we have to say, or to come to our event.) instead of going like the Lord commands us. What can we do to make Brecksville/Broadview Heights know that we love them with no strings attached?

“We have been wondering how we can show the students of this area that we are here, available, and care about them without trying to pitch impact to them. One of our answers is that we are going to spend Wednesday mornings in the summer at the Independence park just shooting hoops, playing baseball and the like with students. So as we go into this new series, is there something that we can do to show this city that we care, without trying to get them here? Is there something we can do so that when we do get opportunities to share our faith, we have something to build on. How can we GO instead of asking people to come?”

* * *

 “What can we do to make Brecksville/Broadview Heights know that we love them with no strings attached?”  Good question.  I’m not sure how to answer it.  Maybe the Lord will give us specifics as we go along in the series.  Do you have ideas for us as a whole church family? 

We are looking for service projects in our Jerusalem.  Recently, I helped a team of guys from our church paint an old man’s house about ¼ mile from our church on Wallings Road.  And we are looking for other “Jerusalem” projects to do.  Gus Supan went by the guys’ house a few days later and shared the gospel with the guy.  He didn’t respond.  But the man sure is grateful that we painted his house.  He keeps saying, “I don’t know how to thank you.” 

As you know, we are to be the church 24/7/365… always on mission.  As Acts 1:8 says, we are to love the world – be witnesses in our Jerusalem, in our Judea, in our Samaria, and to the uttermost…  I think that means that each believer has to go 4 for 4 when it comes to being witnesses in all the arenas – local, regional, national, global.  So, I’m all about going.   

(In fact, Maryanne and I have given our lives up to “going.”  When I was 30 or so and in seminary, I asked God to show me if He wanted me to “go” overseas.  He made it clear to me that global missions wasn’t His plan for us, but that national missions was His plan for us.  That’s why we ended up in Cleveland.  Given where Maryanne and I grew up and where our families live, reaching as many people as possible in NE Ohio has been and continues to be a “national” mission effort for us.  Even though we’ve been here for over 20 years and we feel “at home” and love our church family, NE Ohio is still not “home” to us as much as the South, where our families live, is “home” to us.) 

What God is putting on my heart and what I think we really, really need to remember as a church family is that the neighborhoods and the offices we are already in – the places we are already “going” to – need Jesus’ love.   

In fact, the Greek in Matthew 28:19 is properly translated this way: “As you are going…”  Yes, in this context, the participle “going” does contain the force of a command.  But it is a participle just like “teaching” and “baptizing” are participles in the verse.  Strictly speaking, the only command in the verse is “make disciples.”   

So, I take “as you are going…” to mean this: As CVCers are “going” about their daily lives, we are to make disciples – to show off the love of Jesus in practical ways in order to create, by God’s grace, in people an appetite for the Truth.   

If you think about it, God has already placed each of us in mission contexts.  The lost live and play and work and go to school all around us.  We just don’t see them as lost.  We’ve lost our “missionary eyes.”  We aren’t as concerned about the eternal destiny of souls as we ought to be.  We aren’t passionately praying for them and seeking direction from the Lord about how to love them to Jesus.   

So, I’m wanting our people to start asking, “How can we as individuals show off Jesus’ love in our own circle of influence that God has already placed us in?”  Not necessarily (as you say) to get the lost to come to a service or event, but to simply love them and, perhaps, create in them, by God’s grace, a curiosity.  Then I Peter 3:15 will come into play. 

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.I Peter 3:15 (NASB) 

Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement and prayers.  I’m glad that you guys are thinking strategically and biblically about outreach.  You are an example to the flock and to me.  Awesome. 

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