In looking at Spiritual Habits, the whole subject of how to pray is one of the most fundamental things to cover.
I often find it challenging when I think through how to order my prayer life. There are so many things I should be praying for, and it can be difficult to know how best to get through them all. So last week, in exploring how to pray, we used the Lord’s Prayer as a model for our own prayers. After all this prayer was given by Jesus as a direct result of his disciples asking him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
First of all we discussed Luke 11:1-13. This includes the Lord’s Prayer, and then also some extra teaching on how to pray that Jesus gave. From this passage we learn that God wants us to be bold, to have confidence in asking him for answers to our prayers, and to recognise that he is a good Father who wants to give good gifts (especially the Holy Spirit) to us when we pray.
After this bible study we looked at the prayer itself. There are six sections to the Lord’s Prayer. We discussed each section in turn to familiarise ourselves with what they are about.
Our Father in heaven, holy is Your name
The prayer begins by reminding us of who we are praying to. God is our holy Father. Those two words encompass so much. Holiness implies that God is perfect, pure and majestic. He should be approached with awe. And yet he is also our Father – we can come to him with an intimate familiarity, knowing that as a good Father he delights in us spending time with Him.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
After that initial worship and reminder of who we are praying to, the prayer encourages us to pray for more of God’s influence to be demonstrated across the world. The point of this prayer is to be praying for others, that God’s kingdom is made manifest. So we should be praying for our friends, families and work colleagues, where they need healing, guidance, salvation, or anything else. And then we can also pray here for the big issues in the news and in the world; for peace in the Middle East, for a reduction in gun and knife crime on our streets, for an end to crippling poverty around the world, etc. Anything that is not in line with God’s will, we can intercede for, and ask that the situation be changed – that the Kingdom would come.
Give us this day our daily bread
Here is where we pray for provision for our physical needs; money, house, employment, etc. But not only that, we can also use this to be praying for spiritual bread too. Jesus teaches that “Man shall not live by bread alone” – we also need to feed on the words of God to sustain and nourish us. So here we can also be praying for God to speak to us and guide us daily. We constantly need to be hearing from Him in order to maintain a relationship with Him.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us
Fairly straight forward. Here is the place for repentance – for acknowledging our sins and asking for forgiveness. But then there is this linked clause, that we also need to forgive any who have wronged us. Jesus often emphasized this need for us to forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from God. Here is the time to consciously talk this through with our Father, and forgive all those who have sinned against us, no matter how much hurt they may have caused to us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
This naturally comes after repentance. If there are areas we find ourselves continuing to sin, then here we ask not only for forgiveness, but also for grace that God leads us away from temptations, and gives us strength to resist them when they come.
For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen
And the prayer ends again with worship, reminding us that everything ultimately belongs to God.
So we after discussing all of this, we spent time praying together through the prayer. We allowed around 90 seconds for each section, so the whole process took us about ten minutes.
A final thought about the prayer. I’m always struck now by the communal aspect of it. It’s not about “My Father in heaven,” and “forgive me my sins.” It’s rather “Our Father in heaven”, “forgive us our sins”, “give us our daily bread” and “lead us not into temptation.” There’s no room for my, me or I – these are replaced with our, us and we. Is there something in this prayer that should lend us to not only praying it individually, but somehow doing so communally?
One of our couples took this challenge serious. Each morning they resolved to pray through the prayer together, and at each of the six sections giving them space to pray corporately about the relevant themes. You could do this also with your spouse, your family, or a small group of friends.
We’re going to hear back from them next week on how it’s gone for them. I’m looking forward to learning from how they get on.