An Anglican friend asked me: “Why do we recite the Lord’s prayer at every Communion Service?”
Let’s go back to Luke 11. In context, one of John’s disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” The disciple wasn’t asking a generic “how do I pray” question. After all, Jews pray at least three times daily, let alone these devout disciples of John. The real question was, “What is the prayer which will mark us out as your disciples?” During those times, special prayers mark out the different bands of disciples who were following different rabbis. This prayer is not just a lesson in 101 on how one should pray. It is in a nutshell, a prayer which marks out the unique mission and proclamation of Jesus.
And so we have Jesus starting with asking us to address God as “Abba”. That was a common Aramaic term used by a child (even to his adulthood) for his father. It was a simple, natural and familial term. This was novel. Judaism never taught Jews to call God as such. It was first used by Jesus to address God and now in this prayer, he authorises us to call Him in the same way! So, who is a Christian or a follower of Christ? One who is a child of God. No wonder on another occasion, Jesus taught that unless we are children, we cannot enter His Kingdom (Matt 18:3).
The Christian is also “eschatological,” i.e. he looks forward to the future when God’s reign will be fully realised here. And so the rest of the prayer follow. I put it down here again:
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread. [Or our bread for tomorrow]
and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
We pray for His Kingdom to come, as in the last prayer in the Bible “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (or Maranatha in Rev 22:20). We ask that He may give us each day our “bread for tomorrow.” This is how an ancient Aramaic version of the Lord’s prayer was worded. This is not a reference to the next day, but the great Tomorrow, the final consummation. It is the bread of life, the bread of salvation. Jesus taught about this in Luke 22:30, Luke 12: 37 and Matt 26;29. However, our common use of “daily bread” (i.e needs for our subsistence) is also included. For Jesus, bread (as with other material things) are hallowed and carries a spiritual or eternal significance. Every meal anticipates our future Feast with Him.
And with this, we also see the future or wider significance of our asking for forgiveness and the petition to escape trials. Forgive us now, O Lord, not just on Judgment Day. And may we be spared from the final days of Tribulation.
In a world enslaved under Satan, in a world where God is remote, in a world of hunger and thirst, the disciples of Jesus dare to utter this word "today"-- even now, even here, already on this day, give us the bread of life. Jesus grants to us, as the children of God, the privilege of stretching forth our hands to grasp the glory of the consummation, to pray it down, right into our poor lives, even now, even here, even today.
This is a Christian Prayer. It make no sense for non-believers to pray it. No wonder, in the early church, the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Supper were reserved only for the baptised. This was why, from this tradition, the Lord’s Prayer has remained in our communion liturgy.
In brief, I have answered the question asked at the start of this write-up. I will find other occasions to elaborate more on this, especially in our Christian Education courses.