We are studying Matthew 6:9-15 for Sunday, February 16 – the Lord’s Prayer! This is a text that most Christians, even most new Christians, will know well.

Although there is a story of three hermits and the prayer that suggests that maybe not all the saints are familiar with it.[*]

Anyway, some notes on the text are here, and here are some questions we might want to think about or even discuss in class:

Verse 9 introduces the prayer with Jesus’s words “Pray then in this way;” does this language mean praying the Lord’s Prayer is a commandment, do we think? Why, or why not? What does our answer say about us, or about the way we read the Bible, do we think?

Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer a lot. What effect does this practice seem to have on Christians as a group? Why do we say that?

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The prayer opens in verse 9 by addressing God as “Our Father in heaven.” What do we understand the words “Our Father” to tell us about God? What do we understand the words “in heaven” to tell us about God?

Are there any things these words do not or cannot tell us about God, or tell us would be untrue of God? What things? Why?

Does this model for prayer leave room for other forms of address to God? Which ones? Exclude some other forms of address? Which ones? Why do we say that?

[More personal: How do we usually address God? Why? What ways would we never address God? Why?]

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It’s common to identify seven petitions that make up the prayer in verses 9-13, three that have to do with God (that God’s name be hallowed, that God’s kingdom come, and that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven), and four that have to do with people (requests for daily bread, forgiveness of debts, avoidance of trial, and rescue from evil).

How do these requests compare with the requests we ourselves most often make in our prayers? (Like the ones we make, different from them, which ones, how …?)

What would change in our prayers if they were more similar to this prayer? What would need to be added? What would need to be left out? What effect(s) do we think that would have? Why?

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The statement in verses 14-15 is addressed to a group of people (“you” plural). What do we think this means? Why? Do we think of forgiveness as something people do individually, or collectively, as a group? Why?

If we had to think about forgiveness as something we must or can do as a group, how would it be the same as forgiveness as something we do individually? How would it be different? What kinds of things would it be offered or asked for, do we think? What would it mean to be part of a group like that? Why do we say that?

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[*] I have seen this story attributed to Tolstoy; the linked version identifies it as a folk-tale; I first found it in a collection of stories published as The Song of the Bird by Anthony DeMello that has it set in the South Seas. Whatever the provenance, it’s a good story, although it implies that heretics and saints may be harder to tell apart than we might think.

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Men in conversation