If we seek to meaningfully pray the Lord’s Prayer, start with why we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Makes a world of difference.

In his 2009 TED Talk, Simon Sinek drew a circle with three rings and noted that effective organizations start in the center with why. The second ring is how, the third, what. Praying effectively works this way. It starts in the center with why.

Judaism knows this. She knows her why. Jews are recipients of God’s love, his betrothed (Hosea 2:19). Jesus’ disciples were Jews, so it seems safe to say betrothal was a given for them. They knew why they prayed (they’re betrothed) and only asked Jesus how to pray (Mt.6:9-13)—the second ring.

The church was mostly Jewish for her first 300 years. She knew her why. The church is the recipient of God’s love, his betrothed, Jesus’ bride (II Cor.11:2; Eph.5:32). This makes the two rings—how we pray and what we ought to pray—meaning-full.

Our center ring, why we exist, is love. God is love. Love is the enjoyment of another and the desire to expand the circle of love. The Triune God seeks to expand the circle by having the Son “marry” a bride—us! The Bride is the central metaphor for Judaism and later, the church. As the bride, the Lord’s Prayer reflects our deepest longings for our husband. It’s how two become one, beginning with recognizing his Father as our Father.

Our Father… When Kathy and I got married, my father became our father. Believers are betrothed, married to God’s son. His Father is our Father.

… who dwells in the heavens. That’s right—heavens, plural. In the Hebrew mindset, there are three basic heavens (remember how Paul was “caught up to the third heaven?” c.f., II Cor.12). The first heaven is the embodied world, beginning at the bottom of our feet and extending up and through the top of our head. A loving bride’s deepest longing is for intimacy with her husband, having him in her body, which is why nuptial union, the husband in his wife’s body, is a transcendent experience.

… holy is your name. Two become one as we do what our bridegroom did in creation—properly name reality. Naming begins with God, who is holy, which includes the idea of being other, transcendent, mind-blowing.

We want your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as it always happens in heaven. Jesus began his preaching with, “The kingdom of the heavens (plural) is now available” (Mt.4:17). Two become one as his bride longs for what the bridegroom longs for—his kingdom to be manifest on earth (as it is always manifest in heaven).

Give us this day our daily bread… Jesus is the bread of life (Luke 6:35). In the Eucharist, we feast on our husband’s body, the bread of life, so that we will never hunger and thirst for false and fleeting pleasures and become adulteresses (James 4:4). Catch the feminine word? Only a married woman can be an adulteress. We are married to Jesus. This is why the Eucharist is the centerpiece of the corporate worship service. It’s when we “taste” our husband’s body and “see the Lord is good” (Ps.34:8).

… and forgive us our debts, to the degree that we also have forgiven our debtors. As Jesus’ bride, we share a mystical union with his body. Two become one as we forgive others to the degree that Jesus, our bridegroom, forgives those he created to be his bride.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one… Lucifer hates Jesus and hates Jesus’ bride. In the garden, he sought to kill the bride by appealing to her bodily appetites (again, ours’ is an embodied faith). We died spiritually, but God deemed that his Son would save us (no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend). So Lucifer sought to kill the Bridegroom—in infancy, in the desert, on the cross. He ultimately failed, so Lucifer turned his seething hatred back on us, Jesus’ bride (Rev.12).

For yours’ is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Lucifer tempted Jesus with kingdom, power, glory. Jesus yielded to his Father. The Father delivered him from evil. As Jesus’ bride, we are tempted by the same three. Like our bridegroom, we yield our temptations for conquest (kingdom), control (power), and fame (glory) to our Father.

Start with why and the Lord’s Prayer will never feel rote. Kathy and I repeatedly tell each other I love you. It’s only rote if we forget why we’re married—love. Praying the Lord’s Prayer only feels rote when we forget why we pray. This is why Jesus isn’t against repetitive prayer. He’s against meaningless repetitive prayer—how without why.

So start with why. For instance, being the bride of Jesus explains how we “pray unceasingly” (I Thess.5:17). Theresa of Avila defined prayer as longing for God. She saw the church as the Bride of Christ. When we long for our Bridegroom unceasingly, we’re praying unceasingly.

Starting with why also explains the outer ring, what. Paul wrote that we do not know what we ought to pray for (Rom.8:7-27). “Thy will be done” yields a bride who rests in her husband’s embrace. If he reveals what to pray for, good. If not, good. All good. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer reflects a loving wife’s deepest longings. She longs most deeply for intimacy with her husband so that two become one.

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