The revolutionary power of the Lord’s Prayer

By Alice Burnette Greene

By the time the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray in Luke 11:1, they had complete faith in the Master Teacher. They had already felt his power in their lives: the power of his teachings, the power of his authority and his power to heal.

Yet, they knew they still had more to learn from Jesus. They wanted to follow the example that he set for them. They wanted to learn to pray like he prayed, out of a deep and heartfelt desire to be the best disciples they could be for him. And I’m also sure that they asked him to teach them to pray because they saw him pray — a lot.

It’s clear that at this point in their walk with Jesus, the disciples weren’t asking to pray for their own comfort and security — they had already left all of that behind (Luke 5:10b-11; 27–28). They were not seeking to better their lives in any material way — they had been taught by Jesus not to worry about those things (Luke 12:22–23). They were not asking to pray to receive any kind of special benefit from God that would make their lives easier. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray because they wanted to be able to wield his power to cast out demons in his name, to heal the sick and to teach as he taught. They wanted to strengthen their ability to do the things Jesus wanted them to do. They wanted to be more like Jesus. That was their motivation for making the simple request, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

This significant insight will help us to understand more clearly what we are asking from God when we pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. Because I am convinced that, while Jesus was teaching his first disciples this prayer, he was also thinking about, speaking to and teaching all of us — all who would come to follow him through the ages. We who now proclaim our faith in the risen Lord are included among those disciples. Therefore, this prayer is designed to help us in the same way it helped those first followers of Christ.

We, too, are asking Jesus to teach us to pray. We, too, are seeking to learn how we can be the best disciples that we can be. We, too, want to be strong enough to overcome our challenges. We, too, want to understand how to wield power in Jesus’ name — revolutionary power, transforming power, healing power.

By praying the Lord’s Prayer, we learn how to use our faith to do Jesus’ will in the world. When we open our eyes to the places that Jesus wants to go, when our hearts cry out in pain about the evil that we see, and when we then do something about it, we can bring down Satan and tread on snakes and scorpions. We don’t have to be specially trained or gifted to be conquerors over the evils that exist in our world. We do have to be faithful.

If we want the Lord’s Prayer to be answered, we must be like those first disciples and commit our hearts, our souls and our minds to doing the work that God wants done in this world. We are to live out our revolutionary faith tenaciously, in spite of any obstacles we may face. We are to live like we really mean what we are praying for — like we truly want what we are asking for in this powerful prayer to happen.

Only then will the prayer have the deep meaning and power that Jesus offers to enlighten us and strengthen our work as disciples. Only then can we find God’s answer to our prayers. Only then will Christianity as it exists today be revolutionized into a powerful force for change that will make the world a better place for all, just as Jesus always intended.

Excerpted and adapted from “The Revolutionary Power of the Lord’s Prayer” (Judson Press, 2017) by Alice Burnette Greene. Used with permission of the publisher.

Greene has served churches in the Washington, D.C., and Chicago areas. She also authors the blog “Moving Mountains: The Hope of Faith in Action” at

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.