We Evangelical Christians have an aversion to repetition. We prefer our prayers to be “extemporised” and spontaneous not written or repeated. On the other hand, our sung worship is endued with more sacredness when repeated! Of course, there are good reasons to be nervous about empty formalism and vain repetition. We are rightfully concerned that genuine faith is all too easily hollowed out to leave nothing but the empty husk of sanctimonious legalism.

Yet, there remains the opposite danger of tossing out babies with bathwater. We can overlook the valuable formation of our souls that occurs when we borrow the carefully crafted words of others. Or the vital spiritual stretching that comes when we allow patterns of prayer to pull us beyond our personal interests and experiences. I have personally found great spiritual power and freedom through speaking out loud a confession, renouncing a lie or announcing the truth. And we all know the blessing that comes from singing together a familiar line of a worship song.

So, as we study the Lord’s prayer on Sunday mornings I hope and pray that we will not be put off by anxiety about empty formalism. Instead, I hope we can see this prayer as Jesus’ gift to help us embody the life of God. Tom Wright writes:

“The Lord’s Prayer becomes an invitation to share in the divine life itself. It becomes one of the high roads into the central mystery of Christian salvation and Christian existence: that the … Christian is (1) incorporated into the inner life of the triune God and (2) is intended not just to believe that this is the case, but actually to experience it.

N. T. Wright “Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament,

Wow! How amazing that these familiar words could be a portal into God’s presence and a means by which we become more like Jesus!

January is the time to hit the gym and reclaim our physical fitness. So, what about a spiritual workout? These words give us a simple, memorable exercise we can integrate into our lives which will grow our spiritual capacity. I commend it to you. Of course, many of us will already have tools to help our daily spiritual exercises: Lectio 365, Celtic Daily Prayer, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality/ Relationships Day by Day are just three others I can personally recommend. Yet it’s hard to do better than what Jesus has given us. So here is a suggestion of how to use this as a regular, simple spiritual exercise (even as you do your physical exercise!).

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name:

Take time to recall what God has done for us in Jesus, how we have been bought at a great price and adopted into his family.

Thank God for who he is as you recall the names, he reveals himself by.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, as in heaven so on earth.

Pray that what is promised in heaven will become reality on earth in family, friends, community and in the world around: salvation, hope, peace, reconciliation and restoration, and so on.

Give us today our daily bread.

Present your needs to him: physical, wisdom and insight for the day, and the needs of others – it is “our daily bread”.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Seek God’s forgiveness for the places you have failed him and injured others. Release those who have hurt you from your condemnation and vengeance.

Deliver us from evil.

Pray for protection and alertness to enemy temptation and attack.

For yours is the glory

End your prayer in worship and prayer that the Spirit of God’s glory would fill your life today.

One of the great benefits of a prayer pattern committed to memory is that you can use this anywhere: at the gym (!), walking, running, or taking the bus. We’d love to hear how you get on.