I’ve been wanting to take a week and talk about prayer; to address it in terms that are simple and to the point. My heart is to encourage Christians, especially those new in their faith. Part of that encouragement is to understand how essential prayer must become for those who follow Christ. I believe prayer is a weapon. Sadly, by neglecting to pray, the weapon becomes dull due to its lack of use. The more we pray, the more we come to understand prayer’s power in our lives.
The disciples must have had similar struggles because they approached Jesus about the topic of prayer (“Lord, teach us to pray"…Luke 11:1). In what has become probably the most well-recognized prayer in all of Scripture, Jesus outlines how to pray in “The Lord’s Prayer”. There are a couple of accounts in the Gospels, but I have selected this passage from Matthew and am using the Holman Christian Standard Bible:
Therefore, you should pray like:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever. Amen Matthew 6:9-13
There are components to Jesus’ prayer that truly make it a model for us to use. We often overcomplicate things and assume that prayer needs to be much more than what it is. I think Jesus’ prayer was simple for a reason: the disciples needed to hear a prayer that modeled how to address God and from there, how to ask Him for what they needed and how to respond to Him. When the prayer is boiled down to its simplest parts, it becomes a framework for how we can pray and a pattern to use when we are perhaps stuck in our prayer life. Let’s look at those elements and how we can adapt our prayers to follow Jesus’ example:
1. In prayer, we need to set God back upon the throne
The Lord’s Prayer starts at a point of who God is and points to His nature: He is in heaven and He is holy. His kingdom is established in heaven but we are asking for His will to be done on earth in similar fashion. Now does that mean His will is going to be done irregardless? Well, yes. But it is an aligning of ourselves to that will and an acknowledgement to God saying “Please have your way on earth. I agree with your ways and ask for your plans and your will to come to pass here as it already is in heaven.” We know heaven is perfect. We know it is divinely-ordered and without sin. The earth was established to be a place where our union with God was perfect but because of sin, the earth is not as it should be. We long to get back to that. We long for the Lord to restore order and bring peace. We want God back on the throne and that starts individually by us confessing and asking for it.
2. Prayer allows us to rightfully ask God to provide
“Give us today our daily bread” is a phrase that can be applied to both physical needs and needs otherwise (financial, spiritual, emotional, etc.). It is an acknowledgment once again of who God is and what He can do. He is Creator but He is also Provider and Sustainer of all things. Jesus goes to the Father asking for His Hand upon His life at many times. Luke 6:12 mentions Jesus praying all through the night prior to going out and choosing His disciples. He has moments where He asks God to strengthen Him as He goes to the cross. And we can assume in the raising of Lazarus, Jesus asked the Father to allow the miracle to occur:
Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so they may believe You sent Me.” John 11:41,42
One thing prayer should not become is simply a “laundry list” of all the things we want God to do on our behalf. If you take time to study the closeness that Jesus had with the Father, you will see that His relationship was not just one way. Jesus' approach was not just “Give me…x, y, and z.” Rather, it was a relationship built upon trust and dependence and what Jesus asked God to do, He asked in obedience and faith. That is how we must come to God as well.
3. We confess sin — grace gets extended to us through prayer
In our daily prayer life, there needs to be a part that recognizes both our need for grace and our need to extend grace. If it was important enough for Jesus to mention it, it is healthy for us to do likewise. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” When we are asking for forgiveness, we are declaring that we realize our sin debt needs to be wiped clean. Did Jesus pay for it completely on the cross? Yes. But we are in a continual process of sanctification which is a fancy word meaning “becoming holy”. Because we live in a constant predisposition to sin, we come to the Lord in prayer needing His forgiveness and our eyes opened to our own sin. We also extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
I considered making a separate point for the verse “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” but really this applies once again to grace being extended. By asking God to keep us from things that will led us astray, we are merely asking for His grace to be poured out. It is not a sin to be tempted but we desire to wholly avoid those circumstances and situations that might cause us to sin more easily. I believe this is God’s will when we ask this and it is totally in line with His desires!
My hope today is that these thoughts on prayer very simply lead and challenge you to consider why prayer is so important. We are shown how to pray by Jesus. It amazes me that we make it so much harder than it needs to be. For the new believer, it can be intimidating and confusing to pray. In reality, we don’t teach enough on how to pray. There’s no greater teacher than Jesus and I’m thankful He took the time to instruct us.
One final note about prayer: Does someone else need to pray on your behalf for God to hear it? No. We have direct access to the Father and Jesus made no claims that any human intermediary is necessary. We still enlist the prayers of others and God can move mightily through a multitude of saints asking in agreement in His Name. But no priest, pastor, or other Christian leader has more direct access to God than you already have. Receive that as an encouragement and motivation to start praying directly to God…He hears you!
God bless today! As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org