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. Matthew 6:9-13
As we begin 2018 and focus on the importance of prayer, I cannot help but think of the prayer Jesus used when asked by his disciples about how to pray. In my years of walking with the Lord, I have often said what many Christians say, “I need to improve my prayer life.” Almost every new year I commit to making progress in prayer. At times, it seems so challenging. I fall asleep, or lose interest, or get distracted, or wonder if there is any value to this exercise. Maybe you cannot relate—or maybe you can.
Some years ago, God opened my eyes to see the beauty of the prayer Jesus used for his disciples and it has been a beautiful pattern for me when I pray. I think most prayer issues are covered here and it certainly sets them up in a God-honoring manner. Here are 4 facets of the prayer that have blessed me:
- Confidence because of the One to Whom we pray. Our prayer goes to the supreme, all-powerful and transcendant God who loves us like a father. Our prayers go to “Our Father”—he is tender and loving. BUT– His is also “in heaven.” He is not like us. He is the Lord, the sovereign one. He rules from heaven and can do as He pleases. And He is pleased to be a Father to us—that’s the One to Whom I want to pray! He can do anything and He wants to do what is best for us.
- Confidence in the way we pray. The structure of the prayer is simple but profound. There are 6 major petitions and all are imperatives or commands. We can pray with confidence in prayer when we pray like this. Here are the confident prayers you can pray as a child of God (I put them in the order of the original with the commands first often—they are in bold font):
- Make your name holy (separate, exalted)
- Come your kingdom
- Be Done your will
- Our daily bread (needs) give us
- Forgive us our debts as we forgive
- Do not allow us to be led into temptation but Deliver us from the evil one
- Confidence as we put our prayers in the right order. This prayer is specifically structured so that the first 3 petitions (1/2 of them) are directed toward God. Some have said they are helping us to seek the face of God. It may feel like a waste of prayer time to tell God how great He is (hallowed be your name) or to ask for Him to have His kingdom and will done—after all, I have pressing needs to pray about! But, the more I begin prayer with extolling the glory of our great God the less my issues seem to be primary (they are real, but not primary). The second group 3 petitions are toward us. We need much daily bread and we need forgiveness and deliverance. Our Father wants to give those things to us.
- Since we are confident, be specific. This prayer is a pattern. I have enjoyed being more specific, and the more you practice the better you will become. Let me give you some personal suggestions
- Holy God I see evidence of you in — a beautiful sunrise, a one of a kind baby, Lila (new granddaughter), friends at College Park, in neighbors, etc
- Let your kingdom come as I contribute to the Christmas offering, as I share the gospel with my new neighbors, as College Park looks to plant churches in the Indy area etc.
- Your will be done in my life as I put to death the deeds of the flesh and as I seek to treat Cathy, my wife, as Christ loves the church etc.
- Give us our daily bread as I realize my need for you when I teach to be alert and to work hard to be faithful. I also recognize every meal, clothing item, resource is from you etc.
- Forgive me of my sins of pride, selfishness, etc. that I want to ignore. There are many sins too personal for me to want to share—that may be a problem as well etc.
- Deliver me from the evil one as I am a pastor who wants to follow you but am aware that I could fall like many others
So, when prayer is hard, pray the Lord’s prayer! Notice also the pronouns are plural: “our” Father, give “us”, etc. We need to pray for ourselves and for others also. I guarantee you that if you are a believer, you will have a more fulfilling year as you find yourself more in prayer and in love with the Lord.