↑How to Pray–Lessons from the Lord’s Prayer
Jesus’ “model prayer” has much to teach us; don’t just memorize and recite, but expand on each piece as you pray. ⇔
by Michael Krigline, October 2012. krigline.com ⇔
Originally created as a “group exercise” for people at the Xiamen International Fellowship. The red terms fill in the blanks on a “group worksheet” you can find here: sub-page. The blue questions are for group discussion along the way.
One would think that everyone knows how to pray, but this just isn’t true. The more I hear and read on the subject, the more I believe that most of us struggle with this discipline, which seemed as natural to Jesus as eating or drinking. For Him, it seems to be the chance to communicate with His Father, and thus was as pleasant as a Skype conversation with my own Dad or my grown son.
Today we’ll look at the “model prayer” that Jesus taught his disciples. In doing so, maybe we can take some of the mystery out of prayer, and infuse new life into a prayer that many of us can say from memory without even thinking about the pattern and truths it reveals.
Let’s start with a simple summary of the main ideas in “The Lord’s Prayer”, and then we’ll look at each in more detail.
A model prayer could proceed like this:
1. praise to your holy Father
2. prayer for God’s priorities in your world
3. prayer for your daily needs
4. prayer for forgiveness (and strength to forgive others)
5. prayer for guidance, and help against the unseen enemy
6. praise and thanksgiving
7. in Jesus’ authority (and according to His will), Amen
Here is the NIV translation of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, (for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matt 6:9-13 (NIV)
Now let’s look at it phrase by phrase.
“Our”—We begin with a plural word because prayer is about relationship, with God and also with our brothers and sisters. We either live in relationships with fellow Christians, or we are not living the way God wants us to live.
“Father”—No other religion teaches followers to call God “Father.” We are not praying to an idol, a dead relative or saint, or an impersonal supernatural being. We are praying to our Heavenly Father, who loves us like children who should never fear when asking for help. He has commanded us to boldly come to Him, expecting to be heard.
“in heaven”—God, like heaven, is not limited in any dimension. But this phrase reminds us that God is especially not limited by the things that limit us in our world.
In what ways are we limited?
God is not limited by time and has unlimited resources (we can pray for anything—even far into the future—and for any amount of our time without taking anything from God’s resources, and five billion people can pray at the same time and all be heard with the same level of attention, love and concern). God is not limited by human or supernatural powers (e.g., bosses, governments, angels and demons). God hears us “from Heaven” where He reigns as the unchallenged “king of kings.”
“hallowed be Your name”—After addressing our prayer to our Father, we turn to praise God’s name, i.e., God’s character. God is Holy, and we think that every person and every power should “hallow” Him (recognize Him as Holy). Our praise is like a child proudly bragging about how important his dad is. Praise also has supernatural power that can’t be clearly explained or understood. Praise is glorious, and we were created, in part, to worship God. What a privilege!
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”—Before we bring our own needs to our Father, Pastor Larry Lea says to “Declare that His kingdom priorities (Rom. 14:17) shall be established in yourself, your loved ones, your church, and your nation.” Furthermore, God’s will is done instantly and without question in heaven, and that “perfect obedience” is also His goal for earth. When we pray this prayer, it also opens our hearts to hear Him lead us, showing us how to “bring His kingdom and His will” to our corner of His world (i.e., my family, my school, my job, my community, my nation).
“Give us this day our daily bread”—Now that we’ve focused first on God and His priorities, we turn to our own needs. Again notice that we use the plural tense. Our needs include personal needs (related to “my” studies, job, etc), but we should also lift up group needs—the needs of “our” classmates, workmates, family members, and neighbors. Furthermore, note that we are asking for “daily needs” not continuous “wants”.
What is the difference between needs and wants?
(e.g., cheap gym shoes vs expensive shoes named after a famous basketball star)
Remember that God has promised to provide what you need, not everything you think you want. A loving father knows when his child’s “want” could really hurt the child, and in this situation, NOT giving it is actually the loving thing to do. The key to answered prayer is to pray for the things God has told you to pray about. So, take note of the many prayers and promises in the Bible, which can teach you to pray.
Read James 4:3 (What do you think of this verse?)
“Or when you pray, you do not receive because the reason you ask is wrong. You want things so you can use them for your own pleasures.”
Also notice the two time-words in this sentence: “Give us today our daily bread.” Our loving Father wants a relationship with us every day, not once a week or a few times each year. Yes, prayer puts your future in His hands too, but your great confidence is that God will answer your prayers for “daily bread.”
“Forgive us our debts”—Forgiveness is life’s greatest prize. Without forgiveness, sinful people cannot have a relationship with a Holy God, but (amazingly) God has promised to forgive whoever asks Him! After King David had sinned by sleeping with another man’s wife, and then getting that man killed, he prayed: “Against You alone have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Therefore, we see that even sins committed against other people are really committed against God; so God is the only one who can really forgive us. Because we keep failing, we feel unworthy to keep asking for forgiveness, but remember that this is a daily prayer! Your loving Father knows you cannot be “perfect” on this earth; that is why Jesus went to the cross. It’s amazing, but God loves you that much, so live in thankfulness for the cross and for His unending love.
Read Jesus’ parable (story with a moral/ethical point) in Matthew 18:21-35. What is the point?
“as we also have forgiven our debtors.”—Forgive others. This is simple to understand but difficult to do. God has forgiven all of your sin, and He expects you to forgive every time others “miss the mark” and act in a less-than-perfect way. We can see that this is a serious command, because Jesus repeats it with a strong emphasis in Matt 6:14.
“And lead us…”—ask for guidance. You can’t expect God to guide your life if you are unwilling to go and do what he asks. But if you make Him “Lord” (boss) of your life, and ask for guidance, God will direct you to the place where your life can make a difference.
“lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”—Whether we like it or not, Jesus spoke as if we are all soldiers in an invisible war, and we need help from someone who is “above” the battlefield.
Read Ephesians 6:10-18, then discuss this: In an ancient battle, how would it be helpful if the general were watching from a nearby mountain?
“10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the spiritual power of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle (fight) against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God…”
The general sees that some enemy soldiers are hiding behind some trees, so quickly he sends a note telling his army not to go that way (until they are strong enough to defeat the enemy there).
Remember that your “enemy” is unseen (to you). It is never your roommate, your boss, or your government. Your unseen enemy is fighting God’s authority (and angels); so don’t get mad at the person who is causing you trouble, cry out to God to be delivered from these evil powers. And ask Him to lead you in the path He has chosen for you, and not into situations where you will be tempted to disobey your King. Again quoting Larry Lea: “Pray a hedge of protection [around] yourself and your loved ones (Job 1:9, 10; Ps. 91), and verbally put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:14-18).”
Tell your partner some of the things you are thankful for.
“for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”—end with praise and thanksgiving. Thank God for allowing us to share in His eternal kingdom, power and glory. Thank Him for making you his child. Thank Him for answering your prayers (and be specific!). When you don’t feel like praising God, start thanking Him, and you should find your attitude changing. Both praise and thanksgiving are tools or weapons in the unseen war, so use them! A world of angels worships God, so God doesn’t need our praise but He deserves it. Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us. He saved us and revealed Himself to us, and now it is our duty and delight to give him glory/praise.
Pastor Matthew Henry says, “Praise is the work and happiness of heaven (see Ps. 71:14); and [everyone who] would go to heaven hereafter, must begin their heaven now. Observe, how full this doxology [i.e., prayerful ending] is, ‘The kingdom, and the power, and the glory, it is all Yours.’” So we have a lot to be thankful for, and to be thankful for forever!
“Amen”—so be it, or “let it be as I have prayed.” Ending our prayer with “…in Jesus’ name, Amen” is an old tradition, and a good one. It reminds us that we are praying in the “name” or authority of Jesus (not our own authority). It is like someone in Yunnan using an Imperial Seal (印章) to sign an official document. Jesus gave us the authority to use His name, so we do. (Read John 14:8-14.) To pray “in His name” means to be praying according to His will. This reminds us that we should primarily be praying for the things Jesus wants us to pray about—“things that help His kingdom come and His will to be done on earth,” not selfish desires. And by ending with “Amen (i.e., let it be so)” we are affirming our faith that God has heard us, and will use His Fatherly wisdom and Divine power to answer our prayers, in order to accomplish His will.
To make this more interactive, give group members copies of the above script with holes for them to fill in. You can find the text (with holes) on a sub-page. Don’t forget to pause for discussion questions, and for additional comments.
Scriptures quoted on this website are primarily from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982; also on line at www.biblegateway.com
For more information about Christianity, check out https://peacewithgod.net/
Original content ©Michael Krigline, including photos if noted. For contact info, visit About Us. For privacy info or to make a contribution, see our Website Standards and Use Policy page (under “About Us”). [Titles that start with ↑ point to devotional articles that help us “look up”.]