How I Can Pray THE LORD’S PRAYER Correctly
Jesus’ disciples were men of prayer. They lived in a culture that took prayer very seriously. They prayed daily in their homes, their synagogues, and often in the Temple. The Book of Psalms gave them examples of how to pray for specific life events, and their daily prayers were recited from a book called a “siddur.” The manner of prayer these men were accustom to was public, pious, and often prideful, for the Pharisees wanted to be seen praying.
Jesus’ disciples did not ask Him to teach them how to preach, perform miracles, or even how to witness to the lost. They asked Him to teach them how to pray!
Jesus was also a man of prayer, but He followed a different pattern. Jesus prayed in private. The gospels record how Jesus would often rise before dawn, find some solitary place and pray for hours. He would even leave the crowds of people who had come to Him for teaching and healing and spend hours in private prayer.
For months the disciples watched Him pray, but they didn’t know how He prayed or for what. What did Jesus talk to the Father about for so long? How could He gain such pleasure and power from His time in prayer? So, they asked Him, “Lord, would you teach us to pray, as John taught His disciples?” And Jesus outlined His pattern of prayer.
First, the negatives:
- “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 street, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Matthew 6:5
- “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.” Matthew 6:7
Then, the positive:
- “Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: 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 forgive our debtors. 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.” Matthew 6:8-13
However, Jesus did not give them what we call the Lord’s Prayer to repeat every time they prayed, for that would violate His warning regarding vain repetitions. Instead, Jesus gave His disciples a pattern, an outline, if you will, of a legitimate prayer that allows the one praying to fill in the blanks.
Certainly, the Lord’s Prayer can be a powerful expression of worship when voiced by a congregation of a unified faith, as well as a method of instruction to the children, but it is of no value to anyone when it is simply recited as a ritual or habit.
- “Our Father” – Father is the Aramaic word for daddy or papa; it was a term of endearment and love. However, while this does mean that we have been adopted into His family, it does not mean we are to cheapen His deity by bringing God down to our level. God is not our buddy! While He loves us deeply and dearly, He is still Holy, and we need to come before Him with reverence and respect, which Jesus explained in the next sentence.
- “Hallowed be Your name” – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)! God is omniscient (all-knowing)! God is omnipresent (He is everywhere at all times)! He is the Creator, Savior, and Sustainer of all things. Yet, He bows down to listen to each one of His children, and He loves us at a depth which we could never comprehend. Reverence is the only adequate response to such an incredible God, and so we begin our time of prayer by worshipping Him.
- “Your kingdom come” – We yield the authority of our lives unto His rule and His reign. Most likely, when we bow before God, there are many areas of our lives that are out of balance or even out of control. Perhaps we, or someone we love, have refused to be governed by God’s will and by God’s ways regarding some issue, and the chaos and confusion are causing harm to others. Our prayer should not be for God to correct things according to our desires, but rather our submission unto His will for our lives, which Jesus explained in the next sentence.
- “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” – Certainly, we should not try to manipulate God to use His power to do what we want, or even what we think is best. On the contrary, we must yield our will unto His will and trust Him to know what is best. In our humanness, we might pray for God to protect those we love from all danger and harm, when it very well may be that fear of the future that drives them to learn to trust in God.
- “Give us this day our daily bread” – No, this is not the time for us to bring our needs before the Lord. This is the time where we trust God to provide what is necessary for daily sustenance and for the future. Just as God provided the mana for Jews in the wilderness, He will also provide for us, and He will do it in such a way that brings glory to His Holy name. Those who have never had to depend upon God for their daily needs will never know of His power to provide.
- “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” – Even though we are saved and assured of heaven, we are also still sinners, and we are still going to sin. Therefore, as a part of our daily prayers, we need to confess those sins, repent of them, seek reconciliation with all those affected by them, including restitution where it is needed. This must be a daily duty, for if we fail to confess our sins and seek God’s forgiveness, not only will it affect our worship, but it will also affect our witness. Likewise, if we aren’t willing to forgive others of their sins against us, on what basis do we expect God to forgive us. Perhaps the weakness and ineffectiveness of today’s church are due to the unconfessed sins of God’s people.
- “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” – Troubles and trials are the primary means of our spiritual growth and maturity. So, while God does not deliver us from them all, He is able to deliver us through them all. In effect, He gives us the means to learn from our life experiences rather than allowing the devil to defeat us through them.
- “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This closing sentence brings us back to the purpose of prayer, which is to worship God and submit ourselves unto His Lordship. God has defeated sin and Satan, and His Kingdom will soon be upon this earth. Even though such peace, power, and authority may not define our personal lives today, because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, we know it will soon be so. That’s why we say “Amen,” or “so be it!”
True prayer is our submission unto God as our Father! However, it is also our recognition of His majesty, His sovereignty, and His authority. When we bow before God with such reverence, He will give us the peace we need at that moment to guard our hearts and minds, regardless of our life’s circumstances, and He will enable us to live for Him in this wicked world, for the purpose of prayer is not to bend God to see things our way, but rather for us to change our lives to see things His way.