Simon and Tony in the comments on a previous post reflect a fairly pervasive resistance to the regular use of the Lord's Prayer, whether in Sunday by Sunday services, daily or even three times daily as private or personal prayer. Coming from a non-liturgical tradition, Baptists are almost inherently suspicious of anything that sounds like vain repetition. I hope you don't mind Simon and Tony, if I quote some of your words from your comments in order to explore them here:
"...fear of this prayer being a mindless mantra rather than an expression of a real desire to see God's kingdom come..... Perhaps, for some, constant repetition reduces Christ's words to meaningless mumbling. (Tony)
I think it's worth qualifying those hesitations, even subjecting them to some gentle criticism -as in fact Simon and Tony acknowledge in their comments. So these few observations are not so much directed at Tony and Simon's hesitations. Their comments provide an opportunity to say more about why I think regular use of the Lord's Prayer is an important and specific formative practice for those whose life goal is following after Jesus.
1. My experience of extempore prayer in many non liturgical services (in Baptist churches and other traditions) doesn't persuade me that they are a more spiritual, sincere or worthy offering in worship than prayers carefully crafted, formed into language that has beauty and rhythm, and read or spoken from memory. To speak from memory, or read from a text doesn't preclude the heart's responsive love to God nor the mind's thoughtful adoration. Conversely, extempore prayers can themselves become mere repetition of phrases and cliches shared in a particular evangelical sub-culture.
2. The Lord's Prayer in particular is placed in the Sermon on the Mount precisely in the context of contrast with mere repetition. A double irony is possible here. Either we refuse to use the Lord's Prayer lest it be mere repetition; or we use it unthinkingly and make it mere repetition. Both I believe misrepresent the meaning of Jesus' command - "after this manner pray ye....". To pray the Lord's Prayer regularly and meaningfully is nearer the stance of intentional obedience.
3. I trust the instinct of the early church where early on, daily praying of the Lord's Prayer was a formative practice.
The phrase Dunn emphasises, "they knew it because they prayed it", along with that important clause earlier, "the living liturgy of community worship", (Baptists like me take note - liturgy can be living), surely provides sufficient safeguard against reciting the Lord's Prayer from an empty heart and bored mind.
4. I trust also the practice of the church catholic through the centuries, across the world. As a Baptist I belong to a tradition that honours scripture - but then ironically balks at repeating the words of Jesus because they are liturgically embedded. But surely in approaching God as a forgiven sinner who is a follower of Jesus, I also do so as a self- concerned, earth-bound, horizon limited, ethically challenged, trying to be hopeful human being. And at such a time I confess I am more helped by the Lord's Prayer than the ad hoc meanderings of many an extempore pray-er.
5. As a young christian I learned the Sermon on the Mount by heart. I can still recite chunks of it in the Authorised Version! Amongst the benefits of repetition and regularity in reciting Scripture, especially the Lord's Prayer, are the slow absorption into mind, heart, conscience and will, of those essential values that define our discipleship and the way of the Kingdom of God.
These are just some of the reasons why it's important not to devalue repetition of scripture and prayers by prefacing them with 'mere'. Nor is it the case that such repeated enunciation of prayer and praise need be meaningless - in any case, meaningless to whom? It's God who sees most clearly into the hearts of those who mumble prayers - and whatever residue of meaning and genuine longing is there, midst the mumbling, we can be sure will be noticed, and blessed.