Some days, prayer is a daunting task. How do you speak to the creator of the universe? Other days, prayer can seem meaningless or useless. If we’re being honest, prayer can often be overlooked in the monotony of day-to-day living. However, God calls us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), be devoted to prayer (Colossians 4:2), and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer shouldn’t be ignored and needs to be part of our lives each day. In Romans 12:12, the Apostle Paul says to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Clearly, prayer is important to God, which is why Jesus teaches us how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer.
What is the Lord’s Prayer?
There are two places in the Bible where Jesus gives similar instructions on how to pray. In Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV), Jesus says,
“This, then, is how you should 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 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 the evil one.
for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Jesus shares a similar instruction when a disciple asks to be taught how to pray in Luke 11:1-4 (NIV).
“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
What does the Lord’s Prayer teach us about prayer?
This instruction from Jesus teaches us six unique steps to prayer.
- Address God appropriately as the Father.
- Praise God for who he is and what he has done.
- Acknowledge that God’s plan is in control, not ours.
- Ask God for what we need.
- Confess how we have sinned and repent with a humble heart.
- Request God’s protection and support in overcoming the evil one’s attacks on our lives.
Each of these moments in prayer gives us a place to stop and speak with God about a specific area or topic. When using this structure that Jesus provides, we can:
- Tell God who he is and what he means to us.
- Praise God for the ways that he blesses our lives, both big and small.
- Release control of our lives and stressful situations to him.
Share specific requests of God for our lives and for others.
- Acknowledge our sins, confess our sins to God, and commit to living differently.
- Prepare our hearts for battle against the ways that the evil one will try to lure us back into sin.
Especially in moments where we aren’t sure how to pray or what to say, Jesus provides a framework where we can fill in the blanks to speak to God.
How does the Lord’s Prayer benefit my life?
As the writer of this Desiring God article mentions, there are many ways that this guide to prayer from Jesus can benefit us. But there are three benefits that we’ll discuss here. First, the Lord’s Prayer turns our focus outward. Where prayer can get very “my” focused, with my requests, my issues, and my sins. This guide to prayer turns our focus outward to an awareness of who God is and his control. It pushes us to think about others and the will of God. This fact forces our prayers to go from insular to inclusive.
Second, this framework gives us something to hold on to and come back to when our mind wanders. There are so many distractions in our lives. Children need to get to school. Emails need a thoughtful response. And social media can take our minds off the task at hand – speaking to God. The Lord’s Prayer not only keeps us focused, but it can be a bookmark to come back to when our mind goes elsewhere.
Finally, utilizing the Lord’s Prayer enables your prayer to have bounds to explore. As mentioned before, Jesus gives us the starting point, but we’re able to go as deep as we want at each point along the way. You can have a rich conversation with God praising him for all the wonders that he has done. In the same way, you may have something on your chest or a situation that you need to talk through with God. A space for confession also provides the opportunity to lay everything at the foot of the cross and thank Jesus for his sacrifice and blood that makes us clean. As you pray, you might be surprised by the depth that is unlocked by not holding anything back from God in each section of the Lord’s Prayer.
An instruction with a warning
Just before the passage containing the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus shares additional instructions related to prayer. In this section of scripture known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides teachings on a variety of topics, like loving your enemy, giving to the poor, and judging others.
As he talks about prayer, Jesus also cautions against prayer that is done out of pride and put on display for all to see. He says to not be someone who is praying to be seen for “they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5 NIV). Their prayer exists for the glory of themselves and does not acknowledge the greatness of God. Instead, Jesus says, “…Go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 NIV). This example that Jesus provides demonstrates how prayer is designed for a humble heart.
God also desires for us to speak as we would to a friend and not to “keep on babbling … [and think we will be heard because of our many words]” (Matthew 6:7 NIV). God knows what we need before we even ask him (Matthew 6:8 NIV). So, don’t think that you need to use fancy or big words to tell him the desires of your heart. Just open your heart and speak.
Getting started with the Lord’s Prayer
If you’re struggling with how to pray or feel stuck in your prayers. Memorize the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. By committing it to memory, your prayer can always feel focused and complete. Humble yourself, and go through the six steps that Jesus lays out for how to pray. In doing so, you’ll start to see how your prayer life will deepen and grow.