To be a good listener, it’s good to practice reflective listening. You listen intently to another person’s words to understand their meaning. You then respond by paraphrasing the message in your own words.
Now imagine that the person in conversation with you holds all the secrets of life and desires to bless you with them. He is so far above you that he fills and controls the universe. And he is so near you that he holds you close in a loving embrace.
He shares his words, his life, and himself with you. And when your mind is right, you want him to fill every aspect of your life. Therefore, in intimate conversations, you listen closely to his words. And you respond by reflecting on what you’ve heard, asking him to guide your thinking and actions with his will.
This is Christian prayer.
A pattern for prayer
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals what life in God’s kingdom looks like. In the middle of this sermon, Jesus directs our Christian piety. The central part of this is prayer.
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gives us the pattern for prayer, which we’ve called the Lord’s Prayer (vv. 9-13). Jesus’ 50-word template includes the address, three “you” petitions, and four “we” petitions. His outline has no “I” or “me” petitions—a sharp contrast to our self-absorbed prayers.
Jesus’ guidance is simple enough for a child to understand, yet so complete that he excludes nothing in life from it. His prayer template summarizes the sermon that surrounds it. Indeed, it reflects all of Scripture.
A prayer of praise and petition
When praying through Scripture, Martin Luther practiced reflective listening. He summarized what he read from God’s Word using Jesus’ prayer template. It’s an excellent way to converse with God: Listen to his Word. Meditate on it. Rephrase it. Here is a prayer that tries to do so with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
Heavenly Father, your Son invites us to come to you. If even sinful, earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, we trust that you are even more willing and eager to give to your children who ask, seek, and knock.
Frustrate those who misuse your holy name to back up oaths, cover up false teachings, or trample it underfoot. Lead us to live faithfully as salt and light that others in the world will glorify you.
Reign in our hearts and bring Jesus’ gracious rule to new hearts through the gospel. And when Jesus returns with his kingdom of glory, grant us the eternal blessings he has promised.
Guide us to build our lives on Jesus as our rock by hearing and living out his will, including the hard work of loving our enemies.
Father, you provide all that your children need. Free us from earthly worries so we will seek your kingdom first.
As you have forgiven us in Jesus, use us to share his grace with others. Make your children peacemakers through repentance and forgiveness.
Lead all your children away from the broad road to destruction. Keep us on the narrow path. Strengthen us to take drastic action to avoid temptation.
We will face persecution, trusting that ours is the kingdom of heaven. Our confidence comes from Jesus’ promise to all who build their life on the words of his great sermon. In his name, Amen.
This is the third article in a six-part series about catechism truths found in Matthew’s gospel.
Learn more at forwardinchrist.net/catechism.
Author: James Borgwardt
Volume 110, Number 9
Issue: September 2023