In Matthew 6, there is an admonishment to not mindlessly repeat a prayer.
However, isn’t that what we do when we say the Lord’s Prayer which follows
a few sentences later? How is the Lord’s Prayer different?

In Matthew chapter six, Jesus was not so much attacking the
saying of a prayer mindlessly, as he was condemning the practice of doing
so in order to impress others with how spiritual we are. (Matthew 6:1 “Be
careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men.”) The issue in
Matthew chapter six is the heart of trying to be saved by outward acts
which are hypocritically inconsistent with our inner spiritual life.

Nevertheless, one could make a case (a weak one, if only using
Matthew chapter six) that endlessly repeating prayers by rote, without
having the heart behind the prayers is ineffective and perhaps even
offensive to God. The book of Jeremiah is loaded with such teaching, but
even there, it is the hypocritical heart, rather than the rote saying of
prayers which seems to be the target.

Now, let us get down to the Lord’s Prayer. There is little
doubt that this was intended to be a model for prayer, rather than an
exact prayer to be said over and over again, every single day, as a
substitute for real heart-felt communication with God. Notice, Jesus did
not say this is “what” they should pray, but rather it was “how” they
should pray. Having said that, I do not personally see how it would be
wrong for a person or a group of people to choose to say “the Lord’s
prayer” on a regular basis. I could see the inherent temptation in this
for those involved to have it evolve into meaningless ritual, but this
would not have to be the case. If an individual or group used this prayer
as a starting point for their own meditation on God and prayer to him, who
is to say that there is anything inherently wrong with that? As long as
the person of group of participants were able to keep the spiritual
implications of the prayer before their mind as they said the prayer, who
can say that it is bad to recite “the Lord’s Prayer” on a regular basis?

For myself, I grew up in a setting in which this prayer was in
fact repeated every week, and often more than that, in a setting in which
the great majority were simply repeating meaningless (for them) words.
For me, it would be a bit tough to get used to using this prayer as a
ritual aid to heart-felt prayer. Nevertheless, I hope that I could
overcome such a prejudice and use the practice to the glory of God.

In summary, I am not sure who the “we” you refer to are, who
are mindlessly repeating the Lord’s Prayer. If it is accurate that you or
anyone else are mindlessly repeating the prayer, I would suggest stopping
the practice until you as a group are able to do it in such a way that it
carries real meaning, or perhaps to stop it entirely. The choice is up to
you. However, I do not believe this issue is what Jesus had in mind in
his admonition to the Pharisees in Matthew chapter six.

John Oakes

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