3 Reasons Why Christians Should Recite the Lord’s Prayer at Church
We know prayer is a “must” of worship. Yet, even with something as “safe” as the Lord’s Prayer, we need to think, “Can we do this?” And if so, “Why should we do it?”
Here are three reasons why we should say the Lord’s Prayer in our church services:
1. Jesus told us to use it.
Jesus, in instructing his disciples on the basics of prayer, uses the imperative and tells them to “Pray in this manner!” (Matt. 6:9), going on to then give what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. This has been taken to mean—and rightly so—that the Lord’s Prayer should be used as a template for prayer, that we are to pray like this. This is true. Yet, in Luke’s account, Jesus’ words are slightly different: “When you pray, say this…” (11:2). This shows us that the Lord’s Prayer is not just a guiding principle, but rather a model prayer which should be constantly used.
We can be so easily distracted and misguided in our prayers, and what better way to protect against this than by using words Jesus himself composed for our communication with the Father! As John Calvin noted, “We know we are requesting nothing absurd, nothing strange or unseemly—in short, nothing unacceptable to him—since we are asking in his own words” (Institutes, 2.20.34).
2. The church has historically used this prayer.
The tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in worship goes back long before the Reformation, all the way to the ancient church fathers. The Didache, a guide to Christian life and worship dating back (at least) to the second century, instructed that this prayer be used three times a day! The use of the prayer was a staple in the medieval church, and the Reformers retained the practice. After all, the Reformers were only ridding the church of idolatrous worship—they kept the biblical parts!
The Westminster Assembly’s The Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645) suggests the corporate use of this prayer in service: “And because the prayer which Christ taught his disciples is not only a pattern of prayer, but itself a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the church.”
3. It’s a tool for learning the Christian faith.
If you look at the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms, you will find that they include an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. Why? Because the theologians who wrote these catechisms recognized that learning this prayer was a great tool in teaching doctrine.
Think about this in terms of our children in worship. Admittedly, there will be elements of the service that they will not fully comprehend or be able to participate in. They may not be able to read along with the scripture text completely, or pay attention during the entire sermon, or sing the words to all the hymns. But they certainly learn well by imitation and repetition. By including certain forms on a weekly basis, our children will pick them up in no time and be able to participate in these areas of worship.
There is great theology about our great God behind the brief stanzas of the Lord’s Prayer. By providing an opportunity for that to seep into our minds, we provide one more way for believers to learn about their heavenly Father’s power, provision, and protection—and thus the need to pray to him often.