When Praying the Lord’s Prayer is Sin

prayingMore Christians sin while praying the Lord’s Prayer than while doing just about any other activity in life. I know that is a provocative statement. I know it may offend some, but I stand by it. Here’s why.

First of all, a little background: Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer on at least two different occasions (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). Each time it was to show his disciples how to pray.

In its essence, the Lord’s Prayer is a sample prayer – an example of how Christians should pray.

Though the Lord’s Prayer is a perfect prayer, it is not more powerful than any prayer which comes from the heart of a believer. God doesn’t listen to the Lord’s Prayer more attentively than he does to my quiet pleas for mercy or my simple prayers of thanksgiving.

The Lord’s Prayer is not a magical incantation. It does not protect you from demons or vampires. Repeating it over and over again will not bring you special blessings from God.

The Lord’s Prayer is simply a sample prayer. It shows you how you can talk to God with confidence. It teaches you good things for which to pray. As Christians, we can and should pray the Lord’s Prayer, but we can and should also pray our own heartfelt prayers based on its example.

The reason why more Christians sin while praying the Lord’s Prayer than while doing just about any other activity is that so often we mindlessly repeat the words without thinking.

As a guy, I cannot do two things at once. Sometimes my wife will walk into the room while I am watching TV. She will talk to me. I will nod my head and maybe even respond without really paying attention to her or what I am saying.

How do you think that makes her feel?

How do you think it makes God feel when you are mindlessly repeating the words of the Lord’s Prayer while you are thinking about how you want pizza for lunch or how the pastor’s sermon was too long or how the lady in front of you is wearing too much perfume?

You are speaking to the almighty Lord of the universe who gave up everything to win for you heaven, and you aren’t even thinking about what you are saying to him. That offends God. It angers him.

Yet, he forgives you because of Jesus. Our Father does forgive us our trespasses. Our feeble and poor prayers are purified in Jesus’ blood. You are forgiven for all the times you have disrespected God by mindlessly going through the motions of prayer instead of speaking to God from your heart.

But now, in loving thanks, think about what you are saying when you talk to God in prayer. Don’t stop saying the Lord’s Prayer, just think about it.

Recently a member of my church asked me to write down a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer to help him understand and think about what he was saying. Here it is. I hope it helps you think about what you are saying as you pray. God bless you as you speak to him from your heart.

Dear Dad,
Help us and others to treat your name with the respect it deserves.
Come and rule in my heart and life.
Do what you think is best. I trust you.
Please give me today all I need for my body and life.
Forgive me all the bad things I do.
Help me to respond to your forgiving love by forgiving those who hurt me.
Help me to avoid temptation when possible, and when not, give me the strength to resist it.
Keep me safe from anyone or anything that can truly harm me.
Everything belongs to you. You are the only God. You are an awesome God.
This is my true and heartfelt prayer.


  16 comments for “When Praying the Lord’s Prayer is Sin

  1. May 28, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Perhaps it would be good to read Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther does a thorough job of dissecting the Lord’s Prayer and explaining what it means. Thus, it is the standard practice of the Lutheran Church to not only teach our children the Lord’s Prayer, but to explain it to them using the Small Catechism. Alas, modern protestants reject Luther as being “too Catholic”, not understanding that in rejecting Luther, they reject his work to reform the church, thus all but cosigning themselves to an even graver error.

    • schroera
      May 28, 2015 at 7:55 am

      I’ll be honest. Even in writing my paraphrase above, I just put into my own words Luther’s wonderful meanings to the petitions. The instruction I received from the Small Catechism – the meanings I memorized – are a wonderful blessing in my life and one of our greatest heritages as Lutherans.

    • Matthew
      May 28, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Luther is an abominable heretic. His writings are worthy of fire alone. Read instead St Aquinas explanation of the Lords Prayer

      • schroera
        May 28, 2015 at 8:13 am

        As I said in regard to your same comment on Facebook, I don’t mind if you disagree, but please do so in a kinder way. As Christians, we speak the truth in love. Nothing productive comes from such comments. And by the way, have you ever read what Luther wrote about the Lord’s Prayer?

  2. May 28, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Pastor Schroer,

    I understand the concern that people are just repeating mindless words and if that is all they ever did during the Lord’s Prayer that would certainly be cause for concern. However, Paul tells the church in Thessaloniki to “pray without ceasing”. I don’t think this is hyperbole. I think we are truly encouraged to prayer as often as we can. Ex Corde prayers are not always possible for such a goal. Certainly if you are driving down the road it would not be sin but a great and beautiful thing to repeat the Lord’s Prayer even if your mind should wander, and your eyes glaze, and your ears distract, yet there are still your lips….one of your members is engaged in the activity it will engage in for eternity. But again, I understand the concern. Thank you for the discussion.

    -Pastor WIllenbrock

    • schroera
      May 28, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      Thank you for a sincere and balanced comment. I understand you’re concern.

  3. 9Marksfan
    May 28, 2015 at 10:00 am

    This is very helpful, but I was expecting you to say that many Christians sin when praying it, because they don’t forgive those who sin against them, yet hold grudges in their hearts. Jesus warns very specifically about this. Also, why did you say “I trust you” as a paraphrase for “on earth as it is in heaven”? I don’t see the connection. Hope my tone doesn’t come over as unduly critical – it’s a great paraphrase, I just wondered about that line! Thanks.

    • schroera
      May 28, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Thanks for your comment! The “I trust you” is because when we say, “Thy will be done,” we are humbly accepting God’s will for our lives and trusting that it is for our good (even when we don’t see or understand how).

  4. Lance
    May 28, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Thinking about pizza or the intensity of the perfume of the woman in front of me can come rushing into my mind in the midst of any prayer, my attempts to make prayer from my heart alone make no defense against that.

    I suppose my biggest concern in dissuading people from using the Lord’s Prayer frequently is it ignores that very first word “our”. As I pray the Lord’s prayer, I am participating in the unity of the church from the time of Jesus to today. A person’s faith is personal, but it is not private. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s response to the good news of Jesus Christ–not my own response. You know, all that “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” sort of thing.

    Furthermore, there is the underlying idea God needs our heartfelt prayers more than other kinds–as my wife might need my undivided attention. This seems antithetical to the idea of prayer. God knows our hearts and our concerns without prayer. So it’s for OUR benefit that we are given the gift of prayer. Prayer is less of our communication with God and more God’s communication with us.

    • schroera
      May 28, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Thanks for your comments. As to your first concern, I too do not want to dissuade people from saying the Lord’s Prayer. It is a perfect prayer. You aren’t the only one who got the impression from the article that I was somehow dissuading its use or saying ex corde prayers are better. I went back and looked and don’t understand why. The article encourages people to say the Lord’s Prayer, but just to think about what they are saying.

      As to your second point, I also did not say God needs our heartfelt prayers. He wants our heartfelt prayers. You are correct in saying that prayer is also for our benefit. But that stresses all the more why we should think about what we are saying. Finally, I have to disagree with your last statement: “Prayer is less of our communication with God and more God’s communication with us.” That is not Scriptural. Who is speaking to whom in prayer? We speak to God in prayer. He speaks to us in his Word and Sacraments.

  5. Guillaume
    May 30, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Very simply, we should pray all prayers from the heart whether by rote, read or extemporaneously.

    • schroera
      May 30, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Exactly, Guillaume!

  6. Donald
    May 31, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I think that this is a wonderful explanation. It is a paraphrase for our modern times that captures the essence of the prayer that Christ taught. It is a prayer for everyone: Lutherans, Catholics, Protestants and should be in the language that people of our day understand.

    • schroera
      May 31, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Thank you, Donald.

  7. Lori
    June 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I find your blog very uplifting. Specifically, in this blog post, I applaud you trying to get people to think about what they are praying. I thought that was very clear, not that you thought ex-corde prayers were better. Unfortunately, I’ve found emphasis on prayer to be one of the things that disturbs me in the Lutheran church. We pray, but often it seems like we don’t mean it. I didn’t realize this until we attended another denomination of church for awhile and noticed how people prayed for one another both during Worship and outside of it – often asking how they could pray for our family specifically instead of just rote prayers from the hymnal.

  8. Alisa Hodges
    June 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I love this. My husband and I pray from our hearts and we’re trying to teach our 6 year old daughter to do the same. We know that God knows what we need, knows our concerns, and that He wants us to talk to Him through prayer as a way to thank Him, ask forgiveness, and ask Him to do things in our lives if it is in His will. When I pray, I like to pray God’s word, the Bible, because everything written in it is the TRUTH and When I ask God for things that He says He will do in the Bible, I know these things will happen, because God said he would do it. Here is an example of a prayer that we prayed when we were homeless:

    Dear Father God,
    Thank you so much for this beautiful day, for this food, and for my family and friends. Lord, we ask for strength, peace, protection, and for you to help us with finding jobs and housing. Lord, we know and we believe that you will provide these things for us because you said you would in the Bible Lord. In Matthew 6:25-34 you tell us that we’re far more important than the birds and flowers, yet you feed them and clothe them, therefore we should not worry about what we will eat, what we will wear, or where we will sleep because we know you will provide these things for us Father. We love you Lord. We thank you for giving us another day and we thank you for humbling us. Lord, we ask that you forgive us for (insert sin here) and help us to forgive those who have done us wrong. Lord we ask you to help us be more like you each and everyday, to guide us, comfort us, and to carry us when we can no longer walk. We love you God. This is in Jesus’ name we pray! AMEN!

    My testimony:
    My husband and I used to be atheists and we once had everything. I let our daughter stay with my father and step-mom who are devout Christians. Our daughter came home talking about how Batman was a fake super hero, but Jesus was a real one. My husband and I (God forgive us) didn’t want our daughter to think Jesus was just going to jump out of the bushes and save her (much like a super hero would if someone was in trouble) so we told her that Jesus was not flesh and blood, but a spirit that lives in your heart and that the Bible was a book of stories that you should live your life by to make you a good person, but the stories didn’t really happen. Essentially, we convinced our daughter that God and Jesus were not real. Remember when I said that we had everything? My husband had a job making $18 p/h, which is really good in SW Florida. I made okay money working under the table at a gas station, but not enough to pay for everything by myself. We had 2 vehicles and we lived in a 3 bedroom 1 bathroom house. I was also going to school part time working on my Associate’s Degree to eventually be a mental health counselor one day. What my husband and I didn’t realize is that God, our Lord and Savior, gave us these things. Our loving Father in Heaven gave us everything we had and we took it all for granted. We learned a very hard lesson, God gives, but God can also take away. One thing after another vwe lost everything. First, my husband lost his job, which left me to try and pay all the bills working a 40 hour work week while trying to handle school and running a household. I had to drop out. During this time an old man tried to abduct our daughter from our carport where she was playing by holding a pink teddy bear out of the window from his car. I thank God everyday my husband is responsible and will not and has never let our daughter play outside by herself. I also thank God everyday that our daughter is aware of “stranger danger” and called for her daddy who was hidden from the abductor’s view. I called the police when I got home from work, filed a report, and it ended up on the news. After all of this, our electricity got shut off for non-payment and we received an eviction notice from the landlord because I couldn’t make rent. My dad and mom conspired together and had DCF (Department of Children and Families) show up at our house because they thought my husband and I were selling our daughter’s new clothes and toys, our daughter showed up to school in her pajamas, we didn’t have any food in the house, and that I was a double felon living in a house with a firearm (only half of that last one is true). DCF and the accompanying sheriff found that our daughter still had all of her brand new clothes and toys (we had a yard sale and sold things she didn’t play with, clothes that didn’t fit her, and things she didn’t use at all so we could try and pay some bills), we had ample food in the house, she went to school in black leggings that she sometimes wore as pajamas because it was cold and she kept complaining that all of her other pants were itchy (so hubby let her wear the pants she wore to bed because he wanted her to be comfortable) and our daughter had told my mother on a visit that daddy let her wear pajamas to school, and that I am not a double felon (but yes we did have quite a few firearms in the house that were locked up safely). However, because our electricity was off our daughter could not sleep there. In the state of Florida it is required by law that you provide food, water, shelter, & and electricity for your children. I was at work when this happened, so my husband called his mom and he basically had to sign a paper stating that if he and I were not able to provide something for our daughter, then his mother was obligated to do so by law (this is called custodial rights to the child). This piece of paper screwed things up for us later on, but that’s later on. So our daughter went to stay with my husband’s mom and step-dad. They applied for food stamps, medicaid, and cash assistance for our daughter and themselves, which we had no problem with because we felt that they were entitled to those benefits for housing our daughter. When my husband and I were finally officially evicted from our house we ended up living in my car. Remember in the beginning that we used to have two vehicles? We sold one of them on Craigslist so we could pay rent and the other one’s engine hydrolocked because we got stuck in a flooded street in the middle of a storm. So, what vehicle am I driving? Well, I financed a pre-owned vehicle through a student credit union when I was working at that gas station under the table. Well, a new owner bought the place and got rid of everyone in order to bring in his own staff. However, my older brother-in-law got me a job at a franchise 7-Eleven and I wasn’t making nearly enough to pay for anything. My boss would let us work all of the overtime hours we wanted, on condition that we would only get paid straight time (I would only get 45 hours a week). My boss also kept promising me an assistant manager position and a raise (I finally got 50 cents after a year of asking and busting my butt doing all of the manager’s duties, but I never got that promotion). My boss would also let us borrow money from him and take it out of our payroll deductions. And because he knew my husband and I were living in my car he let us park in the parking lot of the store I worked at so we wouldn’t get bothered by the police or harmed while we were sleeping. Well, my boss let me borrow a substantial amount of money so I could buy my prescriptions (I had a really bad upper respiratory infection that the caught from my mother-in-law. My husband knew I was uncomfortable so he asked his mom if we could stay the night for a few nights and shower) and renew my tag on my car (I also had to purchase insurance to renew my tag because I let it lapse, like I said a lot of money). My boss also paid for some of my husband’s medical bills. Around this time one of my regular customers got my husband an under the table gig doing metal framing. Well, the same day I fixed my tag we went back to my Hubby’s mom’s apartment. My hubby is sitting in the driver’s seat listening to music and I was upstairs in the apartment trying to take a nap on the couch because I had a super bad headache. All of a sudden my mother-in-law slapped my forehead really fast about 4 times and shoved her cellphone up to my ear. My husband is screaming at me to get downstairs because my car is getting repossessed. I raced down there and the tow truck driver told me to get my husband out of the car (the tow truck driver rammed the back of my car, took out a bush, and about ran a lady over because he said my husband tried to run) or he would call the police. I told him that he can call the police and that he might as well call an ambulance too because my husband’s neck was injured when he rammed my vehicle and his insurance will be footing the bill. He finally relented when we came to the agreement that my husband will vacate the vehicle when he drops my vehicle from his truck so we can empty the contents before he takes it. I still to this day have no idea what towing company took my car because the tow truck was just plain white with no additional markings. It got towed in July 2014, but when I contacted the financial institution who financed my car, they ordered it repossessed in April 2014. Apparently they had such a hard time finding it that they sold the defaulted loan to a private investigator, the name was not documented, and they found us while we were staying at my mother-in-law’s on the same day that I re-registered it, which is weird because I didn’t use her address on anything. Anyway, my in-laws decided it would be okay if we stayed there. My MIL took me to work in the morning, dropped my husband off at the shop, and watched our daughter. She would have done it all for free, just like my own mother and father would and just like my husband and I would and will do for our daughter when/if the time arises. However, my MIL is married to an addict and she covers for him. He has her brain washed that to say that he only makes $8 p/hour working full-time at Wal-Mart in the deli and that they were only getting $250 in food stamps for all three of them (our daughter, Hubby’s mom, and Hubby’s step-dad). I don’t know if she’s just that naïve and she actually believes this, or if she just chooses to lie for her husband because she’s afraid to be without him. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I know in my heart that the latter is the TRUTH because my own mother is the exact same way (she’s married to a child molester, my step-dad (who touched his own daughter, has done horrible and unthinkable things to me, tried to touch/did touch my soon-to-be sister-in-law, and from my knowledge has touched that sister-in-law’s niece). Both of these women are co-dependent upon these abusive men and were made to think that they’re nothing without these men and no one will ever love them if they leave, and now these women are afraid to be alone. If they knew Christ, they would know that they’re never alone. Alas, we are getting off topic. Back to us living at my husband’s parents’ apartment. His step-dad used to have his own sprinkler business and they used to own their own house. They also had about $50,000 saved to go towards retirement (I still wonder why my husband and his little brother went without or with the cheapest product his parents could afford, but their older half-brother got pretty much whatever he wanted/needed). Getting off topic again. His step-dad lost everything over a pill problem. My husband and I are no saints. We went down that road before I got pregnant and had some issues with addiction after we had our daughter. The difference between us and his step-dad is that through the Grace of God we are clean. We pray for his step-dad everyday that he will overcome the demon of addiction and we believe that it will happen, but not yet. My husband’s step-dad hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. I pray that he and my mother-in-law don’t have to go through what we did and they probably won’t so long as his mother is alive to bail him out and enable him. Anyways, these people were hitting up all of the food banks, getting $250 in food stamps just for our daughter plus cash assistance, trading our daughter to my mother (I wouldn’t let my daughter stay over there without me because of my mom’s husband) for food and cash, and throwing the pity card out to anyone who would listen about how they were raising their granddaughter whose parents were homeless so people would give them food and money. My husband’s step-dad also gets $10 p/hour and works 40 hours a week in the deli at Wal-Mart. Their rent is $660 per month with water included and the electric bill never goes above $30 because they don’t run the a/c. They pay $50 a month for a cellphone and nothing for the Safelink tracfone that my husband’s step-dad used to call his dope dealer. Oh, and they have a car insurance payment of $87.93 per month. After two weeks of staying there my husband’s step-dad went off on us for not giving them any money to help out with bills (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “we wouldn’t ask if we didn’t need it”). According to my calculations, even after taxes, they should have money left over after bills. My husband’s step-dad wanted $250 a week to cover food, gas, and the electricity we used. First of all, the only one of us that ate there was our daughter and they received more than enough food stamps to cover her food bill. My boss let me take home out dated sandwiches that were going to be donated to the homeless coalition. That’s what my husband and I ate for a long time. I’m sorry they ran out of food stamps because all of their other grandkids would come over (7 in total) and eat them out of house and home. Those kids’ parents should be footing that food bill, not us or my daughter. My husband and I would take 2 15 minute shower a week and we had to share our room with 8 kids. I had no problem putting gas in their vehicle, but every time I did they would mysteriously be out of gas when I needed to go somewhere and wouldn’t let us drive their van, but would let the other son take it anywhere, and of course the step-dad drove it for a long time with a suspended license. Now he has to ride his bike to work (4 miles). Anyway, because my husband didn’t have transportation he was let go because there wasn’t enough room for him in the work van. My husband’s step-dad told us we had to pay them this money or be out by the time he got home from work. After everything was said and done we had my husband’s older brother pick us up (after we had to call the police to get our daughter out of the apartment. Yes, that’s right. His mom went to go pick up his step-dad from work, so we headed out on foot to meet his brother so we didn’t have to wait for him there. His parents saw us, stopped, and his mom acted like she was going to give our daughter a hug goodbye and stuffed her in the van. They sped off to their apartment and wouldn’t answer the door. So we called the police and my husband’s parents didn’t understand the difference between custody and custodial rights, so the police laughed at them and gave us our child, the whole time his parents are yelling that they’re going to call DCF on us. They did too. We slept n his older brother’s SUV that night because his wife wouldn’t let us come up. We made arrangements with his little brother and his girlfriend for our daughter to live there until we got back on our feet. We were allowed to stay until the girlfriend’s daughter came home from her dad’s house up north. It was when the little girl (we’ll call her S to avoid confusion) came back that my husband and I started living outside. The night we left our daughter there the first night we met 3 other homeless guys who gave us some sound advice and 1 of them gave us $5. I had to be to work the next morning at 6am. My husband and I got jumped while we were sleeping, so I didn’t show up and got fired for a no call no show (I would’ve called, by I didn’t have a cell and we had just gotten robbed). My employer didn’t want to hear it. Fast forward through a lot of panhandling, interactions with the police, and lots of prayers, I finally landed a job at McDonald’s. My boss had seen me holding a sign and took a chance on me. My husband’s little brother and his only allow our daughter to sleep there. We pick her up after school, have her until 8 or 9 pm, make sure she has dinner, and she walks with us 4 miles to where she stays the night (sometimes we have the luxury of taking the bus). The girlfriend does do us the huge favor by seeing to it that our daughter gets to school on time (her daughter went to the same school). Then we were told that S is moving up north to her dad’s house and we’ll have to get our daughter to school ourselves. My husband’s mom lets us move back in right before Christmas (that was our continuous prayer, to be in a house all together before Christmas). My husband found another job at a tool store stocking product. Right after I start having anxiety attacks at work and was told not to come back without a doctor’s note. A manager there found out I wanted to be a manager and screamed at me until I cracked. That’s okay my husband was still working, but he wasn’t making what I was. We bought a van with my taxes to make it easier and end up getting in a wreck. My husband sustained injuries and was let go from his job. Let me tell you what though, if not for the wreck we wouldn’t have been able to pay rent. My dad bailed us out a couple times, but the insurance money got us through. I kept putting in applications and landed a receptionist position at a car dealership making enough to support our family on our own, plus I get health insurance and a 401K. Praise the Lord! We’re looking for places to live as I type this because my husband’s parents are planning on asking us for more money and their landlord wants us to either be on their lease or leave. Thank you Jesus for giving us back everything, one piece at a time. Thank you Lots for humbling us and allowing us to send that anything is possible through you, my Lord who gives me strength. Amen.

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