A Bigger Vision: What the Lord’s Prayer Hasn’t Taught Us About Prayer

“Our Father who art in heaven . . .” Thus begins one of the most famous prayers in history. Ever since Jesus taught it to His disciples, Christians around the world have prayed it every day.

In spite of that, there is something very strange about the Lord’s Prayer. In our society especially, that’s not how most Christians pray.

Most prayers are about sickness, jobs, or disasters. These are legitimate prayers, and they fall under one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The address of the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father who art in heaven” teaches us that we have a Father in heaven who is both willing and able to help us. We should never fear to bring to our Father anything that we are struggling with.

The only problem is that there are five more petitions that don’t figure so prominently in our prayer lives. The 5th and 6th petitions are about personal transformation. We pray that He will empower us to forgive others, will enable us to experience His forgiveness, and will extricate us from evil. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd petitions are about God’s kingdom, prayers for the transformation of the world into the place God intended it to be. The Lord’s Prayer contains a very big vision of worldwide transformation that brings God and man together in prosperity, joy, and communion, all to God’s glory!

But does this grand, worldwide vision characterize our prayers? No matter how many times I have asked for prayer requests that fit this character of the Lord’s Prayer, people always respond to my call for prayer requests with: “Pray for Aunt Hilda’s broken toe.” Nothing wrong with that in itself, we’re just missing most of the Lord’s intention for prayer. Why?

It seems to me that there are primarily two things that drive us to prayer: suffering and vision. Consider suffering. People pray when they experience suffering or when they fear that they will suffer. They pray when they fear for their job, health, or relationships. They pray when they get sick or experience loss. And that’s good! Prayer is a great place to go when we experience or fear suffering. It connects us to our heavenly Father and gets us in touch with the One who can help!

The other driver of prayer is vision. When we have a vision for things that is way beyond what we can do, we begin to pray. When we want to start a business, children’s ministry, or a church, we pray. When we have a vision to equip a village with clean water, raise money for a new building, or start a new family, we pray. Prayer grows out of the vision.

May I suggest that we do not pray for moral and worldwide transformation because a vision for these things has not gripped our heart? That’s what the Lord’s Prayer still hasn’t taught us: a bigger vision for what God can and will do in our lives and hearts and in our communities and churches. When we have that bigger vision, we will pray. When we pray, we will not only repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we will bring the spirit of the words into all our prayers. Then, we will have learned the lesson of the Lord’s Prayer.