ONE of the first prayers my parents taught me was the Lord's Prayer. I would close my eyes and think of God as we recited together: ``Our Father which art in heaven.'' Later when I hadn't prayed for quite a while and wanted to start again, I was glad that my parents had taught me the same prayer that Christ Jesus gave his disciples. The Lord's Prayer, found in the book of Matthew, is a good place to start if you feel you don't know how to pray. Christ Jesus had the most experience in praying. That's why we can expect to learn from his teaching how to commune with God.
The Bible often refers to Jesus' praying. Night or day, it's hard to imagine that Jesus ever stopped turning to his Father, divine Spirit. Prayer was the inspiration that ran throughout his entire life -- through his healing, his teaching, and even through his triumph over the cross and the grave. All the healing Jesus did was a result of prayer.
How would you suppose Jesus, as a consummate teacher, would teach his disciples to pray? Wouldn't it be by giving them the essence of the way he himself communed with God? Imagine Jesus giving us the summary of his own prayer! The deep truths, the revelations of God's nature, the underlying assurances of God's care for man -- all contained in the Lord's Prayer -- show us what the Master found important. By pondering and living with the thoughts included in the prayer, we can gain a feeling of closeness to God that characterized Jesus' life. We can discern more of our actual, spiritual selfhood and inseparability from God.
Praying doesn't leave us in one place. We grow in our understanding of God and of who we really are through prayer. Look at what the Lord's Prayer teaches us about spiritual reality. We learn from this prayer that God is supreme, that His nature is good, that He is always present, all-powerful. We find that God's relationship to man is that of Father to child. He gives man constant, daily care. Our relations to each other are to be based on love. Sin and evil are excluded through God's government of man. Far from being a formula for talking to God, the Lord's Prayer helps us explore the depths of our relationship to Deity.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, chose prayer as the subject of the first chapter of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. At the end of the chapter she gives her understanding of the spiritual meaning of the Lord's Prayer. For example, of the line, ``Give us this day our daily bread'' she says, ``Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections.'' The deep spirituality of our Master's petition comes to the forefront in this elucidation of the prayer.
For me, the spiritual interpretation in Science and Health has given a deeper significance to Jesus' words. No longer do I repeat the Lord's Prayer as I did as a child, hoping that the words themselves would have some effect. Now I am discovering that the Lord's Prayer shows what my real needs are and how God provides for them. Even when I'm tempted to ask God for things like money or a change of circumstance, the prayer reminds me that what I need first is the grace and spiritual understanding that satisfy a person's longing as nothing else can.
The Lord's Prayer is so rich in meaning that it can teach us how to pray whether we've been praying for years or are just starting to feel the impulse to turn to God. Following the Master's guidance, we'll learn the essential elements of communion with God and watch them expand into new meaning day by day.