Jesus Teaches Us How to Pray
Prayer is an extremely important component of our Christian life but many of us struggle with prayer. Even Jesus disciples weren’t sure how to pray, asking him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus replied by saying “This then is how you should pray” (Matthew 6:9) teaching the disciples what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” sometimes referred to as “The Disciples Prayer.”
Think for a moment of the implication of Jesus teaching us how to pray. God considers prayer such an important component of our life that His Son, Jesus, took the time to teach us by giving us his personal example of prayer.
There is much to be learned from an in-depth study of the Lord’s Prayer, so let’s look at some of the components of this short but powerful prayer:
“Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (V.9)
Jesus refers to God as “Our Father”. Notice that Jesus used the word ‘our’ rather than ‘my’. God is open and available to all of us, He is our Father. And the word Jesus used for Father is Abba in Aramaic. This was the term used by Jewish children when addressing their own father; it was a personal, familiar term. It indicates that Jesus doesn’t want us to consider God to be impersonal, aloof, uncaring, but rather loving, carrying, and concerned.
Jesus also acknowledges that God’s name is Holy; that the name of God is to be treated with the utmost honor, respect and authority. The angels say of Him “Holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3) And even God calls Himself holy in Leviticus 11:44 “For I am holy”.
So now we see that not only is God the holy, powerful, creator of the universe, He is also loving and caring, desiring a personal relationship with us. He is accessible, not distant; loving not harsh; caring not indifferent. Meditate on the significance of this concept; once you understand its implications you will have a stronger relationship with God and your prayer life will change. John Stott put it this way, “Further, when we have taken time and trouble to orientate ourselves toward God and recollect what manner of God He is, our personal, loving, powerful Father, then the content of our prayer will be radically affected.”1
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (V.10)
In this portion of the Lord’s Prayer we are submitting our own will and self centered lives to His authority, humbling ourselves before Him, declaring our hope and dependence on Him. His will, not ours, be done. We acknowledge that God is in control: He has a plan for our lives and we will humbly submit to Him. Even Jesus, on the night before he died, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, that if possible to remove the cup of his suffering, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
“Give us this day our daily bread” (V.11)
We acknowledge that God will provide for all our needs. Notice the phrase is not give us this day our daily desires, but our needs. Exodus provides us with a powerful example of God’s daily provisions: for 40 years as the Israelites traveled through the wilderness God provided them a daily allotment of manna. Each morning God rained down bread from heaven sufficient for that day, and on the 6th day, the people were to gather a two day allotment of manna for the 7th day was Sabbath, a day of rest. “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan”. (Exodus 16:35)
Martin Luther said this ‘bread’ was a symbol of “everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government and peace.”2 God also provides for our spiritual needs which He will pour out on us as we pray to Him daily.
“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (V.12)
The clear implication in this verse is that God has forgiven us our transgressions, and we must therefore forgive others. Christ died for our sins, that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God. We need to offer the same forgiveness to others. Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Emphasis added). Don’t harbor anger, hatred and revenge in your heart but instead turn all of the pain, betrayal, hurt over to God, letting Him take care of it.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”(V.13)
In this portion of the prayer we are asking God to deliver us, keep us away from the devil, from evil, from temptations in our lives. Don’t ever think the devil is not there for “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8) Jesus himself prays to God the Father that we will be protected from the evil one “I do not ask that you take them out of this world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
Jesus cared enough to teach us how to pray so let’s follow his example. Our prayers are to be God-centered, acknowledging His glory and holiness yet at the same time recognizing His care and concern for us. We humbly submit our lives to Him, expressing our dependence on God and trusting Him for our needs, asking for forgiveness and for the strength to forgive others, and petitioning God to protect us from temptation and evil. Consider your prayers a conversation with God, and remember He loves to hear our prayers and He will answer them.
- “The Message of the Sermon on the Mount” by John R. W. Stott, Intervarsity Press 1978, p. 146
- Ibid p. 149
All Bible references are from the New International Version (NIV)