Teach Us to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the oldest and most widely used short summaries not only of how Christians pray but of what they believe about God, the world, and humankind. Justo González, whose textbooks have taught Christian doctrine and history to thousands of pastors, draws on scripture, the Church Fathers, and his own life experience to make this vital prayer from the Christian past comprehensible for readers who want to understand—and live—Christianity in the present. Teach Us to Pray is for all who are learning or practicing Christian discipleship and ministry, from college students and motivated laypeople to veteran pastors and teachers.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Uses in the Ancient Church
  • 2. Our
  • 3. Father
  • 4. Who Art in Heaven
  • 5. Hallowed Be Thy Name
  • 6. Thy Kingdom Come
  • 7. Thy Will Be Done On Earth as It Is in Heaven
  • 8. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
  • 9. And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our Debtors
  • 10. Lead Us Not into Temptation
  • 11. But Deliver Us from Evil
  • 12. For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever
  • For Reflection and Discussion

Phrase by phrase, and sometimes word by word, Gonzalez leads readers through the meaning and theology of the Lord’s Prayer.  Beginning with the Prayer in the life of the Church and the Christian, G. moves to a very profoundly engaging exposition of what is probably the most important prayer every conceived.  Beginning with the little word ‘Our’, and making use of a personal experience (binding the reader to the writer), G. draws us in to a deeper appreciation for the concept under discussion.

Then, drawing on the early Fathers and discussing their understanding of the word we are taken next to a consideration of the significance of intercessory prayer for the Christian life.  G. recognizes the significance of the Biblical context and background of ‘Our’ and he discusses that in turn.  It is only then that he addresses the key issue present in the little word ‘our’- the priesthood of all believers.

Each chapter follows the same careful outline; i.e., G. explores the materials relevant to each concept contained in the Prayer.  Thus, in the second bit, ‘Father’, he discusses the radical nature of this astonishing claim and the ‘gender’ issue is not skirted either.

And so throughout, with great care and insight into both the biblical text’s own context and the life of the Church writ large, G. takes us far more deeply into the meaning and relevance of the Lord’s Prayer than most books, which tend to focus on one bit or another or which only concern themselves with historical matters without bothering to look into the Prayer’s theology or, vice versa, volumes which concern themselves with the theological content of the prayer without ever setting it in its historical context.

There are, at the end of the book, a brief collection of ‘discussion questions’ drawn from each chapter and a small index of authors and of subjects.

This is, in sum, historical theology at its best.  I heartily recommend it.  I not only think that you will enjoy it, but you will be challenged by it.  Especially ‘Deliver us From Evil’.