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How to Pray - The Lord's Example 

Many people pray to God for wisdom, spiritual guidance, safety, healing, financial deliverance, salvation for loved one, and other reasons to numerous to list.

When first saved, most of us really don’t know how to pray. There are few, if any, instructional curriculums offered to the new convert that would teach them how to pray. We try to listen to others around us and begin to mimic their prayers. After all, they have been Christians for a while and surely know how to pray.

But, Jesus provided us an example when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. We will take a closer look at the Lord’s Prayer, looking at each line of the prayer to offer some insights into the meaning and purpose for the text.  The passages of Scripture that are commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer can be found in Matthew Chapter 6 and Luke Chapter 11, provided here from the King James Version.

    Matthew 6:9-13 - Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

    Luke 11:2-4 - Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Using the Scripture from Matthew lets look at each line in detail.

    Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

    This first line acknowledges to whom we are praying. These words indicated that the speaker understands that God is our Father, that He resides in heaven and that His name is worthy to be respected and revered.

    Acknowledging that someone is your father places them in a position of authority over you.  You give up your individuality, subject yourself to their control, accept their guidance, and pledge obedience to their commands.  You understand that they are the very source of your existence.

    By acknowledging that God is in heaven, we verbalize our faith that God is the creator and ruler of the universe, show that that we believe the Word of God because it refers to His throne as being in heaven, and acknowledge that we understand our relational position with God, since we are not in heaven, but in the earth.

    The last part of this first verse gives honor to God’s name. Merriam’s Dictionary defines the word as an adjective meaning holy, consecrated, sacred, and revered. This acknowledges that we understand that God is holy and sacred and that He should be respected, honored, and revered above all others. This short statement certainly demonstrates our comprehension of just who God really is and how we should regard Him.

    As we put these parts together we soon realize that before we ever start asking for God to do something for us, we first must acknowledge who He is, his place in our lives, and give him the honor and glory that He deserves. While the use of this first line can be sufficient in of itself, we should endeavor to expound upon these three areas by inserting our own words to describe exactly what God means to us and where we place Him in our own lives.

    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

    The second line of the example prayer asks two simple things or rather makes two simple proclamations that further demonstrate that God is the ruler of the universe.

    First, the prayer asks that God bring his kingdom to earth to replace the corrupt nations and governments that are here now. This demonstrates that the individual  knows that God’s rule is much better than man’s and again acknowledges God for who He is and His place in our lives.

    Next, the prayer acknowledges that God’s will is always carried out in heaven, since He is the ultimate ruler there. Once again, this verse acknowledges who God is and His position as the creator of the universe. The prayer asks that the earth conform to the will of God, just as does the heavens, again acknowledging that God’s plan for our lives is much better than we could ever achieve by ourselves. The request also acknowledges that the individual is willing to subject themselves to the will of God, placing them in a position of a servant to an almighty God.

    Again, while this verse could stand on its own, we should endeavor to let God know how personally important it is for us that His kingdom comes into our hearts and lives to change us to be more like Jesus Christ. We should let Him know what we are willing to do to allow His will to be realized in our lives so it will have an effect upon those around us.

    Give us this day, our daily bread.

    Up to this point, the prayer has been about us giving honor and glory to God. Only after we have acknowledged His place in our lives and have confessed honor and glory to Him, do we dare approach His throne to bring our petition.

    This simple stanza signifies all of our needs of which we are asking God to provide. Bread was the basic requirement for survival in the culture of the time. Without bread, one would surely perish. Here is where we bring to God those petitions in which we need Him to show us his mercy. Such petitions can be for food, but can also be for financial miracles, safety for our families, guidance and wisdom, salvation for our lost loved ones, special requests for others (like particular parts of the world), and etcetera.

    And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

    In Luke, this passage is recorded as sins, instead of debts. Either way, here is where we ask God to forgive our transgressions against Him and our neighbors. We should confess our sins and ask God to forgive us. Jesus follows on after his prayer example and provides parables to demonstrate that one should not expect God to forgive our sins if we fail to forgive those who have transgressed against us. It is important that before we ever begin to pray we ensure that we have forgiven, and do not hold bitterness toward, our fellow man for wrongs we feel they may have done to us.

    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

    This verse in the prayer acknowledges that we cannot withstand temptation on our own but must have God to intervene so that we may escape the evil that Satan has planned for us. Once again, we acknowledge that God is our protector and ask Him to guide our walk in this life so that we can avoid situations where we may be tempted beyond our capacity to stand firm upon our convictions and spiritual beliefs. No prayer can be complete without asking God to help us adhere to His laws and commandments.

    We should seek to expound upon this verse to call out those specific situations or temptations in our own lives that we can see would be our downfall and ask God to help us not falter, but grow stronger in our walk with Him.

    For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

    Finally, at the end of the prayer, we once again acknowledge who God is, the ultimate power that He possesses, and His absolute right to receive all honor and glory. Further we must acknowledge that His kingdom, power and glory will exist forever, meaning that there is no one or any thing that is greater than He. Here is our final chance to show God how much we love Him, how much we revere Him, and how much we believe in who He is.

Jesus packed a tremendous amount into this very short prayer that we can use as an example for our own prayers and cautions us to not use vain repetitions in our prayers. It is for that reason that we should use the Lord’s Prayer as a template to be modified to meet our specific and current life situations.

Written by Jeff Swain, September 10, 2007

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