How Then Shall We Pray?
Because life seems complicated, it’s easy to assume our relationship with God–the creator of the universe — would be complicated, too.
But the beauty of the gospel is its simplicity.
The gospels teach us to “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7)
The disciples’ relationship with Jesus illustrates this lesson beautifully.
After witnessing the power Jesus found through praying to His father, they made a very childlike request — teach us how to do that, too!
The gospels of Matthew and Luke depict Jesus’ patient response to His seeking friends. Rather than lecturing them on theology or burying them in details, Jesus taught them this simple prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
In fact, it’s so simple that it’s estimated to take a person, on average, just 21 seconds to pray it.
21 Seconds to Change Your World…
Awhile back I read a little book called 21 Seconds to Change Your World. I was encouraged to realize the power in this seemingly simple prayer.
It’s so simple that we teach it to very young children. I was five or six when I learned the Lord’s Prayer, huddled with a friend under a blanket, flashlight illuminating the words, laughing and giggling as we memorized this prayer together to meet a challenge given to us by a Sunday school teacher.
Yet Jesus himself prayed this very prayer.
After reading the book, I took Rutland up on his challenge to pray the Lord’s Prayer at least twice a day.
And here’s what I learned.
The Lord’s Prayer is simple. So simple I can drop my mind into it as soon as I wake up in the morning — before I can make sense of any other thought of my own. Yet it is so full — it’s new every time I pray it.
Here is How You Should Pray…
“Our Father, who art in heaven . . .”
First, we remind ourselves of the nature of our relationship to God — He is our Father.
“Hallowed be Thy name.”
Next, we are reminded that He is holy — even just the sound of His name has power.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done On earth as it is in heaven.”
Here, we invite our Father to come into our world, into our lives.
Some translations ask “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” implying an invitation for God to come into our world. Because we ourselves are made of “earth,” many argue that this request not only asks God to have His will in our world or on our planet, but also to bring His will about in our earthly bodies and in our very selves. In this way, I’m asking Him to change me, to guide my actions; I’m asking my Father to accomplish His purpose in and through me.
Meet Our Needs…
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
This request asks for God’s provision which often extends beyond our physical needs. When I ask for my “daily bread,” sometimes I am asking for resources to meet the needs of my family, but most often the “daily bread” I find myself asking for is strength for the day, knowledge and insight to solve problems, the ability to manage life’s demands.
And don’t miss this: “daily” bread implies that He will give us what we need for now, but that He expects us to return tomorrow to ask again. Jesus doesn’t pray the way I might: “give us enough bread to store up for the future . . .” He wants us to depend on Him and keep returning to Him as our source for all we need.
And by asking for daily “bread,” and not a “daily feast” the phrase also reminds me that I am asking my Father to meet my NEEDS, not to do things my way and fulfill all my wants.
I’ve noticed that the majority of my prayers are of the “daily bread” variety. My prayers are often rushed and tossed up desperately toward God in moments of need, with little recognition of who He is as my Father or a sincere invitation for Him to probe my life with His Holy Spirit and bring His kingdom to life in me. But the prayer Jesus taught us to pray devotes only one short sentence to this request, illuminating the importance of the many other ways we can relate to our heavenly Father.
Next, Jesus prayed,
“Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
I’m reminded that my Father cares about the state of my relationships. I will be forgiven in the same way that I forgive others.
Here I am asking God to keep the channel of grace and mercy open in my life — so that I can offer grace and forgiveness as abundantly and readily to others as my Father offers it to me. I can bring specific relationships to Him and ask for Him to show me how to forgive like Him and then also give me the ability to do it. I can confess my own sins and ask for His forgiveness.
By keeping these two things together in my mind — my willingness to forgive others and my absolute dependence upon His forgiveness for me — He is daily reminding me that this is how the free flow of grace works in our lives: I am not forgiven for myself only; I am forgiven so that I may also extend forgiveness and mercy in all my interactions with others.
“And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.”
The first part of this request has often seemed strange to me. It seemed to imply that we need to ask God not to lead us straight into temptation — as if He would.
But the Message translation says here:
“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”
This translation makes great sense to me. I often feel a need to be protected from my own tendency to choose actions that end up hurting myself and those around me.
Maybe the most important part of this request is the fact that we are asking God to lead us.
This request shows that I am prepared to follow, that I am ready to follow His guidance and do what He teaches.
Praying this phrase, I am declaring that following God is the way to avoid temptation. His leading will actually take me another way altogether — freeing me from my tendency to walk toward temptation and leading me a different way.
“But deliver me from evil.”
Again, The Message translation is helpful: “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”
This is a prayer that recognizes that the injuries I sustain in spiritual battle are not always my doing. Sometimes the trouble is simply the result of the presence of evil in the world. This request acknowledges the nature of the spiritual struggle taking place within me.
Early in the prayer, I asked God to come in to my world and to come intimately into my very life. In this request, I’m asking God to completely break my chains, to bring me out of the clutches of evil and bring me into the safety of following Him.
It All Belongs To You…
“For thine is the kingdom . . .”
The “for” here explains why we are making these requests of Him.
Everything is His — it all belongs to Him — and because it all belongs to Him, He is in charge of it. He is my authority, so it is to Him I bring my requests.
“ . . . and the power . . .”
I am asking all these things BECAUSE I believe that my Father has the ability to make these things so. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe He could answer. He has the power to grant these requests and meet these needs.
“ . . . and the glory forever.”
Here I am recognizing that I understand WHY He will meet these needs — to bring glory and honor back to Himself. In my gratitude, I can point back to Him, showing HIm and myself and the watching world that I recognize the reality that I am free because of my Father, and I am fully dependent on Him. I am rescued by Him and saved for His purposes.
The Message translation says “Yes. Yes. Yes.” By lining up my heart with this prayer — this model prayer that Jesus is teaching — I am saying “yes” to all that God is and all that He gives me. I am in full agreement with His plans for me and inviting Him to make those plans reality.
He listens to hear us offer that “yes” — He wants us to line up our desires with His desires. Remember, Jesus himself prayed this way. These are things the Father certainly already desired to do in and through the life of Jesus. But just as He does with us, God wanted Jesus to align his heart with the Father’s plan.
Then He brings His power into our lives and makes it happen as He has designed it to happen from the beginning.
Through this prayer, Jesus found the strength and provision He needed to accomplish — not only through His spirit, but also in and through His physical body — the greatest mission and highest purpose that could ever exist — the salvation of every person created by God.
The Simplicity of Prayer…
Jesus gave us this simple prayer — not because He thought we were too “simple” ourselves to understand more, but knowing that God’s plan, His intentions and willingness to come into my life and make it His kingdom, is a beautifully straightforward plan.
But Jesus also teaches us this prayer because it works. It aligns with the ways God wants to work in our lives.
Jesus is a good teacher; He is showing us how to pray most effectively. These are the prayers our Father stands ready to answer. This is the way His kingdom works and the way He brings it to life in us.
When and if I start praying in other ways (“give us bread for a month, help me rise above others in power, make things go my way, let me flirt with temptation by stay safe from harm”), I will not receive the answers I am hoping for. Those prayers seem to say “here, God, I have this all figured out. Just do things my way, please.” Those prayers proclaim “For MINE is the kingdom, power, and glory,” pushing me out front, leaving me alone and vulnerable rather than standing in my rightful place as a child of God, my Father.
I am thankful for this simple prayer — the promise that when we pray this way, God is ready and waiting to answer us.
I challenge you to make this prayer a part of your conversation with God each day. Ask Him to open your mind and imagination to each part. And enjoy the exciting knowledge that this is a prayer that is never a waste of your time.
This is a prayer that Jesus himself prayed in order to fulfill the most important, most meaningful, and most difficult of tasks –obtaining our salvation and securing our eternity with Him.
If it was good for Jesus to pray this way, then I believe it is also good for me.
“I’m a wife, mommy, teacher, writer, reader, and child of God.”
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