Among all the prayers in the Bible, none are more famous than the 'Lord’s prayer'. This is found in the books of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, as Jesus’ disciples ask their Master "teach us to pray" (Luke 11:2). I wonder what they were expecting as Jesus' answer? “Do this, stand like that, raise your hands in this way, pray at these times” perhaps?
His answer was revolutionary enough to warrant being written down and remembered. What follows is a little guide on how to pray; not a prescriptive, ceremony-based step-by-step set of instructions, but a model on how to talk with God. Often we tend to pray the Lord’s Prayer as it’s written. This is good, the words are fantastic and powerful. However, it was originally meant as an example. A model of prayer, with Jesus saying in this teaching moment to "pray like this” (Matthew 6:9).
It starts with turning our eyes to God, reminding ourselves of who He is. Then follows a series of requests for God to meet our physical needs, followed by our spiritual needs, and finally to protect us in the midst of temptation and trial. Incidentally, the traditional final sentence we may know as ‘yours is the kingdom, power and the glory forever, Amen’ was added later on. It did not feature as part of the original.
In these passages Jesus is blowing holes in the expectation that religious ceremony is what pleases God. Not at all, God wants us to come to Him as we are. Nothing pleases God more than when we come to him with humility and honesty. When you pray, remind yourself of God’s promises and character; and then, pour your heart out to God. Rant if you will, God’s got broad shoulders. He can take it.
But what of the words? They are wonderful.
“Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honoured; may your Kingdom come;” When we pray this, we remind ourselves that God’s big plan is for his Kingdom to come: that he will bring to himself a family, in a perfect world, with no tears, pain nor anxieties. We pray for his goodness to touch people’s hearts across the world until he comes back.
“May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” A dangerous prayer. Don’t pray it unless you mean it! Here, we acknowledge that God knows better than we do. He knows what we need even before we ask it. Just like Jesus prayed, so do we also pray “not my will but yours be done”. When we show this countercultural level of humility, we become that bit closer to the way God always wanted us to be – good and perfect.
“Give us today the food we need” A prayer of dependence on God’s provision in our lives. One of his names is after all, ‘Yahweh Jireh’, The Lord who provides.
“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us” Now we show spiritual humility. The only way to grow into the people God made us to be is to admit when we’ve done wrong and confess. But here’s a warning – we shouldn’t be asking God for forgiveness if we aren’t ready to forgive others! And He longs to help us with that bit too.
“Keep us from falling when we're in testing times and save us from the hold of evil"* Jesus was himself tempted in weakness many times, he understands what we go through. In praying this, Jesus gives us a way to trust in the Holy Spirit to give us strength in trying times, or even to keep us from them. Here we acknowledge the ultimate source of evil is from the Devil. And through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, we are “more than conquerors” in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). And so, we can pray this with joy, because through Jesus comes deliverance and eternal safety.