The YouVersion study on The Lord’s Prayer we did earlier in Lent started with a story about a French monk named Bernard of Clairvaux. Whenever Bernard tried to say the Lord’s Prayer, he’d get distracted. He’d start praying and suddenly find his thoughts had wandered in other directions.
Bernard complained about this to a friend, but the friend thought Bernard was being ridiculous. “It’s not that hard, Bernard, you just have to concentrate.” In response, Bernard said he would give his friend his horse if he could pray the Lord’s Prayer without getting distracted.
The friend eagerly took the bet, cleared his mind, and began praying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Before the next line, he stopped and asked, “Wait, does the saddle come with the horse?”
This morning, I caught myself dividing people into us and them while saying the Lord’s Prayer! I’d preached on the line “lead us…not into temptation but deliver us from evil” last Sunday. One of my points was that we petition God to “lead us” not just lead “me,” as an individual. One of the ways we can fall prey to evil is to divide people up into us and them categories. I hadn’t even gotten to that line in the Lord’s Prayer yet and my mind, influenced by some news item I’d read during breakfast, had already been led into temptation to think of people as “them” rather than “us.”
1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” We live in a world that constantly seeks to distract and tempt us. Knowing in what ways I am susceptible to temptations and distractions—and staying alert for signs of them, can help me to avoid falling prey to them. Staying focused while I am saying the Lord’s Prayer each morning is one way to “discipline” myself and prepare to face the distractions and temptations of the day.