Mrs. Mattie, my fourth-grade teacher, pushed her students to engage with great writers and try to think alongside them. Her favorite maxim went like this: “You don’t understand another person’s thoughts until you can express them in your own words.” She once assigned us to rewrite the Declaration of Independence in our own words. While I’m not sure I did justice to Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece, I finished that assignment with a deeper comprehension of his intent.
Since then, I’ve often applied this practice to other documents, including the Scriptures. Over time, I have written multiple personal versions of The Ten Commandments, 1 Corinthians 13, the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount. Each time I do this, the text comes alive and interfaces with my life in meaningful ways.
Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer ranks among my favorite texts. I return to it often, especially when I need to re-center myself in Christ. Insofar as I can tell, I’ve tried to recast Jesus’ sentences in my own words at least twelve times. A recent effort reads as follows:
“Help me, Lord, to cultivate my awareness of your presence. Teach me to trust you without reservation. Remind me that you are not a tame God. Fill me with a deep yearning for your way of life. Curb my runaway desires, that I might be free to follow you. Lead me to accept your forgiveness. Prod me to forgive others, even as you forgive me. Show me my limits, and help me live within them. Recast my life in the mold of Jesus. Amen and amen.”
Try writing the Lord’s Prayer in your own words to help you better comprehend Jesus’ intent when he taught the disciples to pray this way.
God, who we know best through Jesus Christ, help me better understand Jesus’ prayer and help me make it my own, today and every day. Amen.