I read an article a long time ago that told the story of a woman attending a new church for the first time and she found it quite disorienting. Everything was different for her from the way she had experienced church in the past. She did not know any of the songs, the order was strange to her and it rattled her a little until they all said the Lord’s Prayer together. She remarked that it was the only part of the service that connected with her and was familiar.
Her story struck a chord in me and as a result I have included the Lord’s Prayer at the end of all the Praise and Prayer times in the churches I have served. I have been asked about that practice more than once as some people have suggested that by reciting the Lord’s Prayer each week I contribute to reducing the prayer to “words we just say over and over without really thinking about them” and thus cheapen it. In response to that I tell the detractors the story of the woman and my belief is that using the prayer shows how much we value it because if we didn’t value it, we wouldn’t use it.
Beyond being something familiar in the service, it is really the only time when the entire body regularly prays together. I have also found that in times of trials it has a unifying factor in that not only do people from all denominations know, it is familiar to many non-Christians as well. One will often find that at a graveside or during a tragedy like 9/11 it is a prayer that brings comfort where nothing else does.
Many years ago I began using the prayer during my private prayer time and changed all of the corporate pronouns to personal pronouns. “Our Father” became “My Father” and, “Forgive us our trespasses” became “Forgive me my trespasses” et cetera and this made the prayer connect with me on a deeper level than it ever had before.
This Lenten season I encourage you to take the Lord’s Prayer – personalize it and allow it to sink deep into your memory and soul.