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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody


Matthew vi.1-15.

From day to day we gather here and repeat together the Lord's Prayer. One is tempted sometimes to wonder whether in this daily repetition the prayer keeps its freshness and reality. I will not say that even if it becomes a mere form it is useless in our worship. It is something even to have a form so rich in the associations of home and of church, of the prayers of childhood, and the centuries of Christian worship. And yet this prayer is first of all a protest against formalism. |Use not vain repetitions,| says Jesus, and then he goes on to give this type of restrained, unswerving, concentrated prayer.

While the prayer, however, is a protest against formalism it is itself extraordinarily beautiful in form. When a clear mind {202} expresses a deep purpose its expression is always orderly, and the petitions of the Lord's Prayer do not unfold their quality until we consider the form in which they are expressed. Look for a moment at the order of these petitions. There are two series of prayers. The first series relate to God, His kingdom, and His will; the second series deal with men, their bread, their trespasses, and their temptations. The Lord's Prayer, that is to say, reverses the common order of petition. Most people turn to God first of all with their own needs. The Lord's Prayer postpones these needs of bread and of forgiveness, and asks first of all for God's kingdom and His will. Thus it is, first of all, an unselfish prayer. When a man comes here and prays the Lord's Prayer, he, first of all, subordinates himself; he postpones his own needs. He subdues his thoughts to the great purposes of God. He prays first for God's kingdom, however it may come, whether through joy and peace or through much trouble and pain; and then, in the light of that supreme and self-subordinating desire for the larger glory, the man goes on to ask for his own bread and the forgiveness of his own sin.

See also, F. D. Maurice, The Lord's Prayer, London, 1861; Robert Eyton, The Lord's Prayer, London, 1892; H. W. Foote, Thy Kingdom Come, Boston, 1891.

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