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How to Pray

Written by Derek Joseph on

Are you praying enough?

If you’re a self-aware Christian, you’re probably going to answer, “no” and probably feel a bit guilty about it. None of us pray enough—let alone with the intensity and purity and desire and joy that God is due!

We have circumstances stacked against us. We’re stressed. Our minds are filled with a million different things. We’re physically tired… and we’re easily distracted. In addition, we’re influenced by a culture that loves “authenticity” and “freedom”—and really dislikes structure, repetition, and discipline.

The Discipline of Prayer

The problem is that when we are attempting to be “authentic” and “free” in prayer, we most often end up looking at social media feeds or news or video clips. Or we end up staring off into space thinking about nothing.

What if I told you that my aim in this article is to help you not only pray more, but pray better? And what if I told you that you might also feel less pressure and guilt with respect to prayer?

We’re going to very briefly look at the meaning of the various phrases in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:7-15). Using that prayer that Jesus taught us—even when we’re mentally fried, distracted, or feel like there are a million other things grasping for your attention—we will learn how to pray, phrase by phrase.

Our Father in Heaven

Jesus taught his disciples to pray this way in contrast to how non-Christians pray. See, every manmade religion uses prayer to seek God’s approval. Jesus taught us to pray because we already have approval. God in heaven, in his power, has already adopted us. He’s bought us with Christ’s blood. He’s given us a future in his kingdom in Christ’s resurrection. He’s forgiven us in Christ’s death and vindicated us in raising the Son. So, we don’t pray to get God’s favor. We talk to him because he’s made us his children—and children talk to their parents.

  • Think: what has God done to save us? What has God done to save his people? Thank him for it!
  • Pray: If it’s hard to think right now, just say to him, “Our Father in heaven.”

Hallowed be your name

To be “hallowed” means to be sanctified or set apart. So, when we pray this, we’re asking God to make his name set apart for worship.

God’s name is his self-disclosure. It’s his glory put on display—most notably through the Bible. It’s also our response to his Word, using his Word to worship him.

So, when we ask God to “hallow” his “name,” we’re asking God to make us perceive the greatness of his glory and respond by glorifying him in worship and action.

Here’s how to pray “Hallowed be your name.” First, ask God to show you his glory, especially from what he’s said about himself in the Bible. Ask God to help you pray for his glory. Ask God to help you live for his glory. Ask God to bring other people to worship him.

  • Think: In sum: ask God to glorify himself
  • Pray: “Hallowed be your name”

Your kingdom come

Where is God’s kingdom? It’s wherever God the king is ruling.

Jesus is basically telling us to pray for two things here. He’s telling us to first, pray for his return, like in Revelation 22:20: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Second, Jesus is teaching us to pray that the Holy Spirit will act on earth—particularly for the conversion of sinners.

So, we long for and ask Jesus to return in glory! And, we ask God to give the gift of repentance to people, to save them!

  • Think: Who do you know that doesn’t know Christ? What people groups around the world do you know of where the gospel has not reached? Pray that God would bring salvation.
  • Pray: “Your kingdom come.”

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven 

The angels in heaven obey God perfectly. Here, we ask God to grant us obedience to his commandments. We need him to work in us to obey him. So, we ask him for it.

  • Think about how you might need help obeying what God says in his law
  • Pray: “Your will be done”

Give us this day our daily bread

In the ancient world, people either had enough bread for the day, or they starved to death. In this request, Jesus teaches us to pray that God would give us what our bodies need to obey him. To paraphrase John Piper, we’re to ask God for what we need to obey him. This request doesn’t mean that we should treat God like a butler who might bring us another pillow to make us more comfortable.

  • Think: What do you need right now to obey God? Ask him for it. What’s he given you? Food, money, clothing, a home? Thank him for it.
  • Pray: “Give us this day our daily bread”

…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

God doesn’t disown his children when we break his rules. But we do need to continually ask him for forgiveness when we do. That’s one way we maintain a good relationship with him.

Additionally, we can’t really ask him to forgive us if we fail to overlook the sins of others against us. There are many reasons for that—one is simply because our sins against God are infinitely worse than anything that anyone else has done to us.

So, we come to God and ask him to forgive us for how we’ve sinned.

  • Think: which of God’s commandments have you failed to keep? Ask God to forgive us for those acts of rebellion. Thank him that he has!
  • Pray “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”

And lead us not into temptation,

This request contains two truths: (1) God controls all of our circumstances and our hearts and (2) our hearts are drawn to disobey God in certain circumstances. 

Here, we ask God to control our circumstances and our hearts so that we aren’t drawn to disobey him.

  • Think: God is in complete control of our circumstances

  • Pray: “Lead us not into temptation”

but deliver us from evil.

This is the final request of Jesus’s model prayer. Here, Jesus teaches us to ask that God would rescue us from Satan.[1] Satan’s fundamental desire is to get us to believe false doctrine and to drag us to hell with him.[2]

But God promises to preserve all of his people in the faith. If he didn’t preserve us, we wouldn’t persevere in remaining Christians. But he does, and we’re to ask him to guard us from the enemy of our souls.

  • Pray: We have sinning hearts and a great enemy, but an omnipotent Father
  • Pray: “deliver us from evil”

And That’s it. That’s The Lord’s Prayer  

We thank God for saving us. We ask him to glorify himself. We ask him to make people Christians. We ask him to work obedience in us. We ask him to give us what we need to obey him. We ask him to forgive us. We ask him to protect our hearts and our souls.

Now, I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m just tired. I don’t have even the energy to think. I don’t have words.

Ever feel like that?

At those times, if we know what the words mean, it’s not only ok, but a gift of God, to simply pray the words Jesus taught us. Why not do it right now?

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

 

Amen!


 

[1] Most scholars agree that a better translation would be, “deliver us from the evil one.”

[2] John 8:44

Derek Joseph

Having worked on staff with Cru for ten years and serving for seven years as a Bible teacher in China, Derek has a unique perspective when it comes to global outreach. Currently, he is utilizing that passion by serving at a local church in Zionsville, Indiana.

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