May I ask you a question? Does praying come naturally to you? This might seem like an odd question to ask — particularly since this is a prayer devotion — but please hear me out.
When you pray, do you rely on prayer lists or written prayers? How confident do you feel when praying with others? Do you pray out loud, or is it a private conversation in your head between you and your heavenly Father?
And, when you’ve finished praying, do you put away the prayer list and get on with your day, or does what you prayed about linger on in your heart?
We will all have different experiences and preferences when it comes to how we pray. That’s okay! However, something that we can do collectively is explore the Lord’s Prayer to give us an insight into how Jesus advised His followers to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer
Right in the middle of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus guides His people with this prayer:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.’
(Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
We used to recite this at my primary school. But I can’t help wondering if we are doing the prayer an injustice by just reciting it. How much thought goes into its meaning? After all, didn’t Jesus give us this as an example of how to pray, rather than exactly what to pray?
Let’s break it down
Here are some thoughts on what each aspect of the prayer might represent when we pray:
‘Our Father’: We start our prayers with our eyes and hearts fixed on the One who was and is and is to come (Revelation 1:8). And, by naming Him, we recognise once more who we are — His children.
‘Hallowed be Your name’: God is Holy. Are we declaring this because God needs reminding of His holiness, or do we need reminding? It’s good to start with a clear picture of the One to whom we are praying. Doing so fuels our faith and humbles our heart.
‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done’: This is where the challenge starts. Are we praying for our will or His? How often do we pray for something because we want it, rather than look at the bigger picture?
A man in our church recently shared how he’d felt quickened to change his approach to praying when he listened to his wife’s prayers.
Rather than praying for their son to pass his driving test, she prayed that God would tangibly be with their son throughout the whole process.
The son needed to put in the time and practice to enable the driving examiner to regard him as a safe driver. It seems unreasonable to expect God to grant the son the grace to pass if the young man wasn’t yet ‘road-ready’.
‘On earth as it is in heaven’: This is a reminder of the eternal nature of God and His Kingdom. We are called to live countercultural lives and — when we pray — we are encouraged to consider the heart of God for this world.
He desires that all will be restored to Him (2 Peter 3:9), that we would walk in communion with His Spirit and be transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18), becoming witnesses of His goodness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
‘Give us today our daily bread’: This is an exercise of daily trust in God to provide for our needs — He sees them all, emotional, physical and spiritual. To trust Him daily requires us to walk with Him.
‘Forgive us our debts, [or sins,] as we also have forgiven our debtors [or those who sin against us]’: There is definitely a need to participate here. It reminds us that we are all fallible, and it humbles our hearts towards others. It’s also a reminder that we need His grace to walk in daily forgiveness.
‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’: This represents a prayer for protection from anything that would lead us away from Him and a request for His guidance and direction as we navigate daily life.
‘For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever’: We finish the same way that we started, with our eyes on Him; at peace knowing that only Jesus has the power to bring His Kingdom to its fullness on earth (the earliest manuscripts don’t include this part, but the later ones do).
When we see Him, we become like Him
When we come to God with our lists, needs and wants, we miss out on connection with the One who sees the end from the beginning. But when we turn our eyes towards Him — conscious of His goodness and glimpsing a little something of heaven — we pray differently.
All of a sudden, we want His ways to be established here on earth. His goodness to overcome the most hardened of hearts. His mercy to light up the darkness.
Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in prayer. Why not follow the pattern that Jesus presents above? You could even have a go at writing your own version, based on what you’ve read. We’d love to see what you’ve written. Email me at email@example.com
Finally, ask God to show you how you might actually be the answer to some of your prayers.