Foster on the "Pater Noster"

"For sheer power and majesty, no prayer can equal the Paternoster, the "Our Father" (Pater Noster = "Our Father" in Latin; Matthew 6:9-13)...The Paternoster is the prayer given by the Lord for disciples of the Lord, namely, you and me.
The Paternoster is really a total prayer.  Its concerns embrace the whole world, from the coming of the kingdom to daily bread.  Large things and small things, spiritual things, and material things, inward things and outward things - nothing is beyond the purview of this prayer.
It is lifted up to God in every conceivable setting.  It rises from the altars of the great cathedrals and from obscure shanties in unknown places.  It is spoken by both children and kings.  It is prayed at weddings and deathbeds alike.  The rich and the poor, the intelligent and the illiterate, the simple and the wise - all speak forth this prayer.  As I prayed it this morning when I met with my spiritual formation group, I was joining with the voices of millions around the world who pray in this way each day.  It is such a complete prayer that it seems to reach all peoples at all times in all places."

- Richard Foster, from Prayer, p. 184-185

In the Methodist Liturgy we do pray the Paternoster every Sunday and it is also called for in all four of our Daily Offices (the services of Morning, Midday, Evening, and Nighttime Praise and Prayer as found in our Hymnal and Book of Worship).  This daily use fits the pattern of the earliest Christians: The Didache, one of the earliest Christian writings we have outside of the New Testament states (chapter 8) that the normal Christian practice for the generation of Christians just after the time of the Apostles is to pray this prayer three times a day (perhaps along with mealtime prayers).  It is a prayer that unites all Christians: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, because it is Biblical; praying this prayer together is the truest ecumenism, uniting us to believers in all ages.  It is also a thoroughly Jewish prayer that Rabbi Jesus has given to us.

For several years I attended a "Bible church" that actually never prayed this prayer for some reason, despite the positive command of our Lord in the Bible to do so.  Perhaps there was a fear that praying any memorized pre-scribed prayer was "vain repitition."  Yet not all repititions are vain, some are good and holy habits that we ought to cultivate - thus I tell my wife "I love you" every day. 

Yet it is true that since so many of us know this prayer by heart and say it so often, it may become precisely one of those "religious motions" we go through without giving it much thought.  Yet this can (and should) be a very rich prayer for all of us.  If you are looking for a good resource to help you (re)discover this prayer given by our Lord, so that you may pray it more fervently, I invite you to read The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright.  May the Lord help us to discover great power in the prayer that he gave to us.   

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