Praying Community Prayers vs. Just Individual Prayers

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven…”

Interesting how one pronoun changes everything. For years, I’ve prayed through the Lord’s Prayer, knowing those lines, and yet I rarely prayed it literally. Funny since, being an evangelical, I’ve been trained to read the Bible “literally.” But though we evangelicals often say that is our way of interpreting Scripture, when it comes to certain passages our sub-cultural traditions take precedence (for instance, in your next Bible study, try asking evangelicals if Jesus really meant the poor when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” in Luke 4, or, “Blessed are you who are poor,” in Luke 6).

So, here we were in our Oasis gathering Sunday night when my friend Miche brings up the fact that when he prays “we” prayers instead of “me” prayers, it radically changes the meaning of his prayers and gives them deeper context, meaning, and practicality.

As evangelicals, in our zeal to promote each individual’s “personal relationship with God,” we have shifted the balance of our prayers toward the “me and God” kind. And then we pat ourselves on the back that we’ve taken the Lord’s Prayer and “personalized it” so that it has more significant meaning.

But then the prayer of the evangelical gets truncated to this:
My Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give me today my daily bread.
And forgive me my debts,
as I also have forgiven my debtors.
And lead me not into temptation,
but deliver me from evil.

I need to remember that The Lord’s Prayer starts out with, “Our Father in heaven.”
Not, “My Father in heaven.”

What would happen to our prayers if we intentionally prayed for “us?” What would happen to our prayers if our “me” prayers were shifted from individualism toward interdependence - my living in the context of “community?” If being human means being relational, then everything we do as Christians is to be done in the context of redeeming all our relationships (with God, with others, and with the Creation).

What would happen if we read the Lord’s Prayer literally?

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Ted Gossard said...

Bob, Great to have you back, blogging!

Great thought here. This is how Jesus said we're to pray. In terms of "us", each other, and not just ourselves. So easy to forget, the way we're conditioned (as you point out), and since the majority of our prayers are done by ourselves (not with others).

sacred vapor said...

good point... I like that the prayer begins... as a foundation of community. That it is not grounded primarily on my goals and aspirations, but it de-centralizes me, forces me into a vocation larger than my own.


Nate W said...

Bob, I thought the subject of this post was amazing, and it is something that I have been wrestling with for a while now. Why do Christians in the West insist that it is all about me? I think we all know the answer to that question, but nevertheless, it is frustrating.

Something I have realized as of late is that most of our "worship" songs are highly centered around "me". I don't deny the significance of a personal lament, but when it seems that everything is centered around me, myself, and Jesus, I think something needs to be said.

Something that I have tried doing in the worship in song portion of our church services is changing the emphasis on "I", "me", and "my" to "we", "us", and "our".

Like your friend, this has given me a greater sense for community, and it is my prayer that we, as the Church of Christ, begin to recognize that there is more to being a Christian than just your own "personal relationship" with God that exists primarily behind closed doors.

Amy Wilson said...

totally agree. something that i've fallen in love with towards this end is The Divine Hours (or more broadly the pracitce of fixed hour prayer). the idea of praying at set times, set prayers that other believers, from other backgrounds, are praying, but directed to the same God has been revolutionary. i admit that sometimes i forget and think i'm alone in my prayers but, especially when i'm feeling blah and disconnected i find so much comfort in knowing that even if i'm just forming words with my mouth, i'm "stepping into a stream" of pray-ers who carry me along as we pray the prayers of David, of Jesus and of the historical church. i know the vineyard church in ann arbor hosts the divine hours online so you can try them out before making the investment in the books...

Ted Gossard said...

I linked to this post as well, though it didn't appear on your link (and I don't know how to do that).

Bob Robinson said...

Blogger automatically searches the internet to find sites that link to this post. It did this with you. Look under "links" at the bottom of the page.
Good thoughts over a Community of Jesus!

Bob Robinson said...


I love the term "vocation." We often forget that being a Christian is a full-time vocation, and part of the "job description" is to pray in the manner of the Lord's Prayer.


Bob Robinson said...


When I was pastoring, I constantly was encouraging the worship team to switch up the wording in many of our songs to a more communal focus (we may have sang it as it was written, with the "I"s and the "Me"s, but at least in the last singing of the chorus or the final verse, we'd change those to "We"s and "Our"s.

This helped us as a congregation to remember that we are in this Christian life together!

Bob Robinson said...


I've finally done it - I just purchased The Divine Hours. Your comment threw me over the brink. Too many people I know have spoken far too highly of praying this way for me to ignore it any longer.


Amy Wilson said...


i hope you meet God through them...a bit of unsolicited advice...i know people who have had bad experiences with TDH b/c they try to do all 4 prayers everyday and end up being discouraged and frusterated and giving up...i've found in my own life and seen in others in my community that TDH works best when its slowly incorporated (morning and before bedtime is a natural way to start) and when plenty the person gives themself plenty of grace with the new discipline...i've heard and its proved true to me that it takes 6 weeks to form a new habit so give yourself a break if it feels awkward or like work at the beginning...i was also given the advice to "leverage existing habits" so if you generally get up at the same time every morning and do something you like (like have coffee) then associate morning prayers with your coffee or whatever (positive) ritual you already have...i'm sure i'm not telling you something you don't already know...and really, lets be honest, i'm sure the holy spirit is better at helping you along than me and my first grade advice...its just the saleswoman in me that can't help herself :)

oh, and if you are stuck at a computer and without your prayer book, here is the link:


you can set it for the particular time zone you are in...

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Amy, for the excellent advice. I will take it!

I already have my "smartphone" set up to connect with "explorefaith.org", which features the "The Divine Hours" by Phyllis Tickle (http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/hours.php).

I see that the prayers offered by the Vineyard Ann Arbor are different. Do you know why? Maybe they are drawing from different books in the series?

Amy Wilson said...

yeah, i noticed that as well on the ann arbor vineyard site--its becuase they are off by a week, those are next week's prayers. i will e-mail their tech guy and have him fix it...i've seen this happen from time to time.

the link you have is correct (in the book we are on the week closest to Jan. 15).

i look forward to a blog post on what you think of TDH...as a side note, great blog...i stumbled onto it from a link from someone I know and am enjoying your writing...