Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
What has been commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, has been given a title that doesn’t fit its purpose. Often memorized and recited by people throughout history, this short discourse on how Jesus taught His disciples to pray has been turned into a mantra for the penitent follower.
Catholic priests have used this prayer as a means for sinners to be absolved of sin, others have memorized it as a prayer that supposedly conjures up God’s good graces, while bodies of people corporately recite this mantra as liturgies in service.
If we are to walk with God in truth, we must understand His Word. If there was ever a prayer that truly reflected “The Lord’s Prayer”, it is found in John 17. For now, I’d like to focus on Jesus’ model of prayer.
What can be more important than the systematic study of God’s Word that we might understand the whole counsel of God and likewise coming before His throne in prayer?
A preamble is like an introduction or preparatory statement that describes the documents purpose or gives certain facts about the document.
Jesus gives a short preamble to the the method of prayer by describing first what we should not do.
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
- Prayer is primarily between you and God. There is a time and place to pray corporately, or with another person, since when we pray we are communicating personally to God. Even if other people are hearing our prayer, it’s important to remember that as we pray we don’t make it an opportunity to lecture someone or to be heard for our eloquence of words.
Matthew 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
2. Prayer is most effective when distractions are limited and time isn’t pressing. I’ve had to stop preparing my coffee right before I pray, I know it will get cold the longer I pray so the thought can be distracting and the temptation to end my prayer early is always there. If people are around or the radio is playing, all these things can draw your attention from God onto something else.
Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
3. Prayer shouldn’t be a memorized, structured, recitation of something of which your familiar; the intent may be admirable but the quality of the prayer is lacking. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to repeat ‘set prayers’, and many reformers have recognized the errancy of this practice. It’s best to focus on the quality of the prayer rather than the quantity. A recent trend was the fraudulent recitation of the ‘prayer of Jabez‘. Many books and manuals have been dedicated to this popular trend that uses the prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10, as a formula for receiving God’s blessings. Claims of ‘significant changes’ occuring in 30 days have been guaranteed to those who subscribe to this false teaching.
Roman Catholics have used the repetitious ‘Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s’ as a matter of penance. The number of repetitions is usually correlated to the severity of the sin. True christianity trusts in the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin.
Matthew 6:8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
4. Prayer should be a matter of faith, not coercion before God. We have to remember that when we pray, we aren’t introducing something to God that He doesn’t know or isn’t acutely aware of already. The pride of man sets himself in a position where he thinks he himself rules over his universe and God is just allowed on for the ride. When you pray, remember, God already has a plan, He is just including you into His work. It still amazes me when the Lord calls someone to pray, and then acts on that prayer…it is truly a reflection of His grace. He is likewise building up your faith in Him.
Matthew 6:9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”
The disciples prayer is a model for how to pray and can also be found in Luke 11:2-4. It starts with a recognition of the Father in His position over us, in a realm that is beyond what we can see. The Father’s name is hallowed, or to be revered and honored in our lives. The Father is not an equal, He is in a position of authority as King and when we approach His throne, we must remember our place. We are servants in His Kingdom.
Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.”
Focusing on God’s will draws our attention to His purposes, not our own. Since the Father understands far more than we do, even concerning ourselves, we would be wise to ask for His purposes to be fulfilled. The establishment of the Kingdom of God is the establishment of His church. If we truly desire to see that arise, we will remember that we have a place in God’s divine plan. Going forth and making disciples was the command Jesus gave in Matt. 28:19, what that looks like is for us to be willing to go wherever God leads. Where is God leading you today? Are you being obedient to His call?
Matthew 6:11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”
God’s provision is given as we keep our eyes on Him. If our focus is centered on attaining everything we want or need, we forget the purpose by which we have been sent. Jesus said to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” in Matt. 6:33. Everything diminishes in importance when our priorities are well established.
Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
The reminder to forgive others is the reminder we need to be forgiven. Confession of sin is an important step in recognizing error and learning from our mistakes. Knowing we need to show love to others who have offended us, keeps us from becoming bitter and self-serving. Sometimes we need to ask God to remind us of what we are holding onto, we can easily bury past hurts and hold onto them without even knowing it. This is a huge step in healing.
Matthew 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
God does not tempt people, temptation is the allure of sin. God leads those who follow, and He will lead us away from temptation if we keep our eyes on Him. This part of the prayer is a reminder of our weakness, and the need to rely on His strength. We are also under attack from the enemy, spiritual warfare is real and for those who take it seriously, they are prepared for whatever the enemy throws at them. Ephesians 6 reminds us of the armor of God that He expects us to put on each day.
The final reminder is of God’s Sovereignty. The Kingdom of God is His Kingdom, He rules over it, and it is within this Kingdom He will be glorified because it was by His hand that it was established. We are His servants, we are members of God’s Kingdom but we do not rule over it. The reminder of who is in charge can be vital for shepherds or servants who are given positions of authority. God must be glorified, we must become less—we would do well to remember our place within His plan.
The Lord’s prayer is a powerful tool for how to structure your prayers, no matter what time of the day you choose to do so. Leave enough time to not only pray but also listen. The Lord may be trying to speak to you but if you fill up all the prayer time with your own words, it’s hard to hear His response.
Finally, interceding on behalf of others is critical in times of prayer. We’ve got to get beyond thinking only of our own interests and considering the interests of others. It should be natural for a Spirit filled christian to love others in an intercessory way, the expression of love is a God ordained response for all who draw closer to Him.
So whenever you choose, make an effort to follow this pattern that Jesus laid out for us, don’t get caught up in what He said but understand the structure He was revealing.
Your prayer time will be one of power when it models Jesus’ standard.