I think its sad sometimes that when someone makes a commitment to follow Christ that we don’t offer them a class in how to pray. It may seem too basic or simple but I think it’s an important piece of our spiritual maturity that is often overlooked or just assumed.
Knowing how to pray is not that easy sometimes. It can be intimidating, daunting, scary… “what if I say something dumb… wrong… unbiblical…” In Luke, chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus “Lord, teach us to pray…” He then gave them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. But before we get to that in Matthew 6:5-8 he gives a little more pre-instruction.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Basically, what He is saying here is we need to have the right mind-set or heart-set not only for what we are praying for but how and why we are praying. Don’t be boastful or prideful in our prayers proclaiming our great works or sinlessness so that others can see how holy we are. The only one that could even claim this was Jesus and even He did not pray that way. So, prepare yourself or your heart for prayer.
As we’ll see, it’s not so much the words spoken as the the motivation for speaking them. There are no magic words. You also don’t have to use big confusing words or King James English. You don’t have to use your “prayer voice.” Just pray, from the heart.
Jesus then says: “This, then, is how you should pray:” He doesn’t say word for word but “HOW” as in here is a model for you to design your prayers around.
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” -Luke 11:2-4 KJV
So let’s break this down.
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” This set the stage for us. We first need to proclaim and acknowledge God’s rightful place. Above all else He is first and foremost. Hallowed means to honor as holy or consider sacred.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” Here’s where things get a little tough for us. Before we even ask anything we have to realize God has a plan that is bigger than all of us and that plan has a direction. What this really means is no matter what I pray for, not my will but Your will be done. That’s a hard one to say and mean. Because God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want them answered. Don’t misunderstand me here, He always answers prayers. His answers are either yes, no or wait. Now, of course, yes is the easy one I’m not even going to talk about that. No, that one’s certainly hard to take. We want that illness to go away, we want people healed, hurts mended, problems fixed but that just might not be God’s will. In the end, He knows what is best and how things should and will work out so in order for His will to be done sometimes the answer has to be no. And wait? well that one certainly stinks too but it all happens in His timing not ours. Gods will comes before our want.
“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Ok, finally the good stuff! The “gimmes.” We usually get this one in the wrong order. We want to say “Father in heaven, gimme my daily bread…” but our wants need to take their proper place because remember “Thy will be done…” not “my will be done…” Notice too He says “day by day” or sometimes it’s “this day” Keep it simple, “Lord, here’s what’s on my heart right now…” Here’s a little hint though, He already knows what weighs heavy on our hearts I think sometimes He just wants us to say it so that we realize it too. Stating it sometimes makes it more real for us. I know I have a tendency to kind of sweep things under the rug or ignore the elephant in the room. So, “here is what I’m asking, Lord”
“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” Now the first part here is pretty obvious the second part is yet another thing we often forget. We are to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. That’s a tough one to remember but probably more important than asking His forgiveness for sins He has already forgiven by dying on the cross for us in the first place.
“And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” God will not lead us into temptation as we commonly think of it. The word temptation can also mean trial or affliction and we will be met with trials and sometimes afflictions along the way and we need to pray for protection against them or the strength to avoid temptations/trials/afflictions. A strength that can only come from God. And through this strength we will be delivered from the evil that can drag us into embracing that temptation.
So, there we go. Keep this in mind when you pray as a model for what, when and how to say it and you may find more focus in your prayer life. I feel like I have.