Teach Us to Pray
Read Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
Pray then like this: “Our Father 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 have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Have you ever wondered if you are praying about the right things? How can today’s verses serve as a guide to your personal prayers?
Luke 11:1-4 says that one night after Jesus had finished praying, His disciples approached Him and asked Him to show them how to pray. No doubt they had witnessed Jesus praying and noticed that there was something personal and powerful in His words. They knew that Jesus’ prayers were not meaningless repetitions. They wanted to be able to pray as He did. So Jesus gave them what we commonly call “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Matthew also records a version of “The Lord’s Prayer” in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is the version we read in today’s verse. Right before Jesus taught them how to pray, He taught them how NOT to pray. He said, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
In other words, Jesus prohibited rote prayers that are recited thoughtlessly. The pagans would often mindlessly repeat the names of their gods or certain phrases. But prayers are not magical incantations! Prayer is meant to be a way to connect and communicate with God! Our hearts are supposed to be in it! We shouldn’t be on autopilot or just going through the motions.
Jesus was not saying that we can’t ever repeat the same prayer. On the contrary, He encourages persistent prayer as long as it is earnest and heartfelt. In Luke 18:1-8, He told the parable of a widow who kept coming to a judge to ask for justice against her enemy. He refused but she kept on coming to him and asking him the same thing over and over again. Eventually, the judge granted her request because of her persistence. “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
We also don’t have to worry about how long or how short our prayers are. Jesus said that God knows what we need before we even ask Him! We don’t have to worry if we are using the right amount of words or praying for a really long time. We don’t have to stress about using flowery language or big words. We just need to say what we mean and mean what we say. Be sincere!
Then, Jesus gave us a model prayer. He didn’t mean that we have to repeat this prayer over and over again because then we are in danger of mentally checking out and using it as a mindless recitation. But it can be helpful to memorize because it can guide our own prayers. We don’t have to say “The Lord’s Prayer” verbatim every day but we can use it as a prayer framework.
First, Jesus addressed God as “Our Father” and so can we! Calling Him “Our Father” invites us to talk to Him the way we would talk to a loving Father who cares for us. Not that we should casually and carelessly come before Him. In fact, in the very next line, Jesus prayed that God’s name would always be honored and set apart as holy. We should pray reverently. Jesus then petitioned the Father for the continual advance of His kingdom and for His will to be done.
After 3 requests that were directed toward God—His glory, His kingdom, and His will—Jesus changed the focus towards human needs with 3 more requests. First, He prayed for daily provisions. Then, He prayed for forgiveness of sins. Finally, He prayed that we would be kept from temptation and evil. These are the elements of prayer that we should seek to include in our own prayers.
Friends, we don’t have to wonder how to pray. Jesus showed us! First, we should focus on the preeminence of God and pray for His glory, His kingdom, and His will to always be done. Then, we can bring our prayer requests before Him, ask Him to meet our needs, forgive our sins, and continue to sanctify us and make us holy.
Father, to You be all glory, honor and praise! I long for Your Kingdom to come and I submit to Your will for my life. Thank You for loving me and providing for my daily needs. I know that I have sinned. Please forgive me and help me forgive others. Keep me from sin and make me more like You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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