The Lord’s Prayer was once repeated in most Christian services of worship with almost monotonous regularity. This formality was rarely linked with much understanding or feeling. But Jesus intended the prayer in order to teach his disciples how to pray.
This prayer ‘gives shape to the whole life of a Christian’ (p.26). In this superb book Richard Coekin outlines what that shape ought to be. The prayer is not intended for any except committed Christians, because ‘only Christian believers can truly call God their Father’ (p.25) and be described as ‘children of God’.
With these qualifications in place, the author expounds the prayer in a most effective manner. ‘Prayer is not about getting what we want; it is about wanting what God wants…’ (p.36). So prayer begins with concern for God, and the first three petitions are centred upon him.
The fact of God’s sovereignty brings the author to distinguish helpfully between the secret and revealed will of God (pp.88ff). The believer has to learn to accept trials and enter into Christ’s sufferings. With this response ‘the escapism of Buddhism, the fatalism of Hinduism and the submission of Islam compare very poorly’ (p.91).
The author has cogent things to say about knowing and discerning God’s will in our lives. Much is ‘against the grain’, but God’s will usually is. The last three petitions are addressed to the believer’s basic needs: provision of daily food, pardon for sin and protection from the wiles of the devil.
Richard Coekin is refreshingly open in his acceptance of what the Scriptures teach about indwelling sin, God’s wrath, judgement, hell and the activity of Satan –– unlike many professing evangelicals today.
On the vexed question of forgiving others, he does not take the somewhat flawed view that we ought to forgive whether or not the offender has repented. God does not forgive the impenitent, nor should we. But believers ‘must be ready to forgive’, not nurturing enmity but having a spirit of forgiveness (pp.141–144).
The layout of this book is novel. After each section of the prayer, the author suggests in a sentence how we can enjoy God; there then follows a practical application with a suggested scenario to illustrate it.
The book merits the widest distribution. Read it; give it to your minister; and make sure it is on your church bookstall!