Many people pray, and some people even pray every day, be it for three minutes or three hours. For Christians, prayer is mandatory and not optional, for as “Jesus Himself said “When you pray…..” (Matthew 6:5).
This post continues on from the previous entitled “How to Pray,” which covered some of the more basic ‘technical’ aspects of prayer for those who are not accustomed to praying on a regular basis.
When the disciples of Jesus saw their Master pray, they came to him, as Luke 11:1 says, and asked Him to teach them how to pray. What they saw, was that Jesus was not demonstrating any ritual prayer style which was common in these days. Jesus then delivered a Master Class teaching on prayer to His disciples. Our post entitled “The Lord’s Prayer” looks at the prayer which Jesus gave His disciples and the variations to it which are to Christians today. Our post entitled “The Lord’s Prayer – A Wider Teaching” looks at the wider aspects of Jesus’s teachings on prayer, explaining how we should position ourselves in prayer as we approach our Father in Heaven in conversation.
Learning to pray does take time and more than that, practice. It is not difficult, but the enemy will do his level best to thwart our efforts and distract us, seeking to drive us away from prayer, even before we start. He knows that once we become regular prayers, his chances against us become less and less by each prayer, as we grow faith in the Lord.
When we first come to pray, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with doubts from the enemy: Are we praying the right way? Are our prayers being answered? Are we even praying to the right person in the first place? This post aims to resolve some of these questions and set a sure foundation for Christian pray, on which to built a conversation and relationship with God.
Certainly there are many different ways to pray. Here we will look at the way Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray. It seemed to work for them, as they got results! However, before we explore the teaching of Jesus, let us look at a couple of other Bible verses to set us in the right scriptural and spiritual direction:
Hebrews 11:6 says: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
God here tell us that without Faith, it is impossible to please Him. We need to have faith in Him and a belief in Him, before we come to pray. If we have no faith or belief in Him, God will simply not hear our prayers, never mind answer them. God is not moved by needs, His is only moved by faith. If God were moved by needs He would be under the control of the enemy, who would continually inflict dire needs on God’s people, but that is not the case. When we come before God in prayer, God knows before we utter a word, just what we are going to say. He is not just listening to our words; He is looking into our hearts and reading them. When we consider praying, we need to know, that we know, that we believe in Him.
In John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by Me.’“
To come before God in prayer, we need to know who God is, and who Jesus Christ is. John 14:6 tells us that the only way we can approach God the Father is through Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son. You need to have faith and belief in Jesus, You need to believe that He is in heaven and He is seated on the right side of God the Father. Jesus is our Lord and Saviour: He is our God and Redeemer and we need to know this and believe this in our hearts. Jesus is also our King and High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. This means, that while Jesus reigns in Heaven as a King, He is also our High Priest and is constantly praying before God the Father, and interceding for us. As we pray to Jesus, He will intercede in our prayer to the Father on our behalf. This is why we need to have faith and belief in Jesus, for who He is and for what He is.
The first part of the teaching on prayer Jesus, Matthew 6:5-8 was covered in the previous post. Let us now look at Matthew 6:9-13, commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” An alternative version is found in Luke 11:2-4.
|The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9–13||The Lord’s Prayer: Luke 11:2-4|
Modern King James Version (MKJV)
|Therefore pray in this way:|
Our Father, who is in Heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil.
For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
|And He said to them, When you pray, say:|
Our Father, who is in Heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
as in Heaven, so also on the earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Our Father in Heaven
In terms of how to address God in prayer, Christians, as children of God through Jesus Christ, have a unique ability to come before Him as His children. We have a right of intimacy with the Father, which allow us to call Him ‘Abba, Father.’ In starting our pray in this manner, we are confirming and acknowledging who we are in Christ and our relationship with God. As his child, we may pray in the language of a child to a father; that is, a personal intimate style of prayer. We can speak to Him about everything and anything we would want to speak to our biological father about, and in doing so, use the same personal intimate language we reserve for him. Though there need be no formalities in the words and phrases which we use in prayer, we still need to recognise whom we are in conversation with, and pay due respect to His position at all times. As we would not say things to disrespect our biological father, the same goes for God, the maker of all things that exist and without whom, nothing would be.
By declaring God is in heaven, we are acknowledging how high He is above us, and where He is seated.
Hallowed be your name
This is the first petition the three petitions directed concerning God.
Hallowed mean ‘holy.’ We are recognising God for who He is; a Holy God; the Holy God. More, we are recognising that not just is God holy, even His name is Holy. Indeed, all about God is holy! If God is holy and His name is holy, what does that say about His Word, the Bible which He has written for us? That is answered in Psalm 138:2 where we read “For You have magnified You Word above all You name.” Here we see that God the Father holds His Word, the Holy Bible, above even His Holy name! This is what makes the Word of the Lord so powerful when we quote it against the enemy in prayer.
Your Kingdom come
Here we acknowledge the new Kingdom of God which is to come to the earth at the end of this age. The new kingdom is the return of Jesus to rule on earth, toward which all Christians are to work. It is the ultimate goal of the Great Commission out-workings, which Jesus gave us. Though the new kingdom of Jesus is beyond our imaginations, it is our goal, for it was God’s goal first.
On earth as in Heaven
The third petition in the Lord’s Prayer is also about God. Here we acknowledge that God is sovereign and reigns in Heaven as we seek Him to also reign in person on the earth. Here we declare to God that we want Him to reign in person here on earth also. We also acknowledge that God has the right to reign on earth as He does in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
The rest of the petitions in this prayer are for us. This petition reminds us and acknowledges to God that, without Him, we can do nothing. We are beholden to God for everything. This petition harkens back to the times of the Israelites in the desert, when God fed them be providing bread, or Manna, daily, to sustain them. But Jesus meant more than just food, as in John 6:35 he says “I am the bread of life.” We need to be filled with Him constantly. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus also reminds us that “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Our petition here to God to feed us not only food and water for our bodies, but His Word, for our spirit, our heart, our mind and our soul. The word of God is our food. As Christians, if we do not feed ourselves on the Word of God, we cannot grow. First Peter 2:2 follows up on this theme saying to the new and immature Christians “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow thereby.” This petition acknowledges that all we have comes from the Lord and it is by his grace, that we have what we have.
And forgive us our debts (sins)
Forgiveness, is at the heart of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Because of the sacrifice which Jesus made on the cross of Calvary, where He became a curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) and took all the sins of man upon Him, we are forgiven. Upon accepting Christ as our Lord and Saviour and our water baptism we become “born-again” and our sins are forgiven. But, because of the fallen state of man, we keep sinning. We need to come regularly before the Lord to seek forgiveness of our sins; those sins we committed intentionally, as well as unintentionally; those sins of commission, as well as omission; those sins we know about, and those we do now know about.
Being a Christian, must require changes not only to our thoughts and behaviour, but our actions and life style. We need to regularly come before God and confess our sins. Indeed, this is the first petition for man in the Lord’s Prayer as given by Jesus. That confirms how important the forgiveness of sin is in God’s eyes.
First John 2:3-6 explains the test of knowing God saying: “And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.”
As we forgive our debtors
The second petition for man is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The combined petitions #4 and #5 read: ” forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Or in other words: “forgive us as we forgive others.” Note the small two letter word “as” in the middle. This is a conditional petition. The condition is this: “If I do not forgive others, DO NOT FORGIVE ME!” Yes, that is what it means, and that is what we pray. I wrote above that forgiveness is foundational in the Christian Gospel and in the Christian life. Indeed, it is so important to God that it is here in the model prayer which Jesus gave us for our use and guidance. It bears repeating: If we do not forgive others when they sin against us, neither will God forgive the sins we committed against him and others!
This warning to Christians is driven home in the two verses immediately following the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14-15 which read: “For is you forgive men their trespasses (sins), your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses (sins), neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
What this means for all Christians, is that if we have something against another brother or sister, we need to deal with that matter and forgive them, before we come to Jesus in prayer, or at the Communion Table of the lord’s Supper. Scripture supports this:
Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received, freely give.”
John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Second Corinthians 2:7 “you ought to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.”
Second Corinthians 11:27-29&31 “Now whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, so let him eat the bread and drink the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement on himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For is we judge ourselves, we will not be judged.”
And do not lead us into temptation
As James 1:13 says, God does not tempt man. However, God may subject man to trials which may expose us to Satan’s assaults, as was the case for Job and Peter (Luke 22:31-32).
But deliver us from evil
This petition expresses the desire to escape the dangers of sin altogether. As God knows what the needs and limits of each person are before even ask, God promises in First Corinthians 10:13 that no one will be tested beyond endurance. Nevertheless, the proper attitude of a believer is to be aligned with this petition. We also need to bear in mind the warning of First Peter 5:8 to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
For Yours in the Kingdom and the power and the glory for ever
As we end our petitions and prayer to the Lord in this, His model prayer, we are confirming to Him just who He is: He is King and He is God; He is all powerful and He is all glorious; He is eternal. Here we recognise the omnipotence, the omnipresence and the omniscience of the Lord, who is the maker of the heavens and the earth and all that which they contain. But in all this, He is our Abba, Father.
Amen means ‘so be it.’
As we come before the Lord in prayer there are a number of other Bible verses which we ought to keep in mind, such that we are always praying in the will of the Lord. As you can imagine, praying outside the will of the Lord, will not and cannot result in answered prayers. But there is a caveat here. Beware what you pray for, just in case the lord grants it to you. It seems that sometimes the Lord will answer prayers as our hearts are really set on something which is not necessarily wholly beneficial for us. It is a hard lesson to then learn and overcome.
Romans 12:19 says “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” We need to leave to the Lord that which is His role.
John 14:12-17 says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these will he do; because I go to My Father. And whatsoever you shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it.” Jesus is not talking about being a provider of all things here. He mean for us to ask for the things which will help us do the work He did, and which are in the Father’s will and which will glorify the Father.
John 14:15 says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This is a definition of a Christian, that we love Him and do His commandments. The contrary is also true; if we do not do His commandments, then we do not love Him and therefore, we are not Christians.
John 14:16-17 says “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither does it know Him: but you know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be in you.” When Jesus returned to heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to live within Christians. As a result, when we earnestly pray and don’t know what to pray, the Holy spirit will help us. We just need to pray – even if we have no idea what we are wanting to say. As we go to our biological fathers just for a chat – we need to develop the same attitude toward our Father in heaven.
The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God. Most prayers unfortunately turn their prayer times into monologues, rather than a dialogues. The important thing, as you can see from Jesus’s model prayer, is to enter into prayer with the right attitude towards God and with a heart for Him. After that, all will fall into place. Yes, The Lord’s Prayer can be prayed just as it is, providing we do not debase it into a religious ritual. But is it only a start; from there, just talk to God about anything which is on your mind and in your heart. If you have a problem, come to the Lord in prayer, then address the problems. If you have a concern, come to the Lord in prayer, then address the concern. The same applies to all those things which are beyond us; but remember, God gave us a brain and an intellect, so He will not do that which is our duty to do.