Praying the Lord’s Prayer

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he revealed that the Father expects life to be filled with prayer. Notice the repetition:

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5–8)

Jesus offered very practical direction about how his followers should pray: find a separate place to talk with the Father rather than making a public display of it; be honest to God rather than performing before people; spend time with him and avoid repeating meaningless words; draw close to God rather than pushing him away. He also went on to give us a model prayer—the Lord’s Prayer, which is the disciple’s prayer as well.

Here’s how Jesus taught us to 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 this day 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. (Matthew 6:9–13)

Maybe you are like me and memorized the Lord’s Prayer as a child. I must have recited it countless times before I trusted Jesus as a teenager. Sadly, however, to me it was nothing more than a rote prayer, something I said without thinking much about the words or meaning. Asking Jesus into my life caused these words to come alive to me. As I have grown in my faith and understanding of prayer, I now see that this is also a model prayer, one that draws me closer to God’s heart.

As you seek a walking-and-talking relationship with God, here is how you might use Jesus’ words to make it deeply personal–one phrase at a time:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name: Jesus first turns our eyes to worship, as we exalt Father God for who he is and what he has done. He is Almighty God, Sovereign Lord, King of all creation. He is El Roi (Genesis 16:13), “the God who sees me.” He is the one who loved us so much he sent his only Son to live among us and die on the cross for us. All who have confessed, repented, and trusted in Christ—and Christ alone—are members of his family, the body of Christ. We are his children, and he is our Father. Praise God!

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: God’s kingdom is the realm of his rule. His rule in heaven is perfect and pervasive, and we pray that it will become so in our sin-affected society as well. We pray that the realm of his rule is pervasive in our own lives, then through us and around us, and then beyond us. Not my kingdom, but may God’s prevail.

Give us this day our daily bread: Here we pray for God’s provision. We thank him for all he has provided—physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. As the apostle Peter put it, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

. . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors: Here we pray for God’s pardon. Again, we cannot thank him enough for removing our sin as far as the east is from the west by the blood of Christ Jesus (Psalm 103:12). We must also take seriously Jesus’ addition that we need to forgive as he does—forgive as we have been forgiven. Again, there are to be no barriers in our walking-and-talking relationship with God—and a lack of forgiveness is a huge one!

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: Here we pray for God’s protection. Jesus made it clear that there is an evil one, the devil, Satan. Jesus said this enemy came to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Toward the end of his disciple-making ministry, Jesus warned Peter that the evil one had “demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” but that he had interceded on Peter’s behalf. Jesus prayed that Peter would resolve to stand firm in his faith. Knowing the future, fully aware that Peter would deny him three times (Mark 14:66–72), Jesus added this to his prayers for Peter: that he would be used of God to restore others who experience such a sifting in their own lives (Luke 22:31–34).

It is Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit, who left Jesus’ followers with these heartfelt words, which he learned from personal experience:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8–9).

I am grateful that the words of the Lord’s Prayer went from being rote to alive in me once I trusted Jesus. Christ alone enables all who come to him to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need “ (Hebrews 4:16). God does not have any grandchildren—only children. Each of us must come to the Father through his Son individually, and in so doing become his child. It is then that the Lord’s Prayer moves from being rote to relevant and opens wide the door to a walking-and-talking relationship with God.

Taken from Walking and Talking with God by Dean Ridings (PrayerShop Pubishing 2021).

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