(image courtesy of bing images)
To the question, “Why pray?” I wrote that Jesus Himself prayed, concluding that if the Son of God saw value in praying, you and I should as well. The next question for us to ponder was, “Does anyone listen to my prayers.” Once again, Jesus provides the comforting answer: Yes, prayers are heard in heaven!
Taking these first two examples as being the encouragement to pray, wouldn’t the logical next question be: “How do I pray?”
The disciples of Jesus believed it was. They had followed Jesus for a while and had seen Him go off to pray by Himself many times. They understood, at least partially, that this was a practice they ought to partake in as well.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
Jesus then answered their request with what we have come to know as the Lord’s prayer:
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2-4)
Many people have been taught this prayer (or something close based upon which Gospel and translation you use) at an early age. For me, I learned the words, in their proper order, so that I could recite it when asked to. I have since come to believe that Jesus was after a little more than rote memorization as He answered the disciple’s request to teach them how to pray.
Before I go any further, let me be clear, I am not promoting a formula that must be followed to have our prayers heard. Rather, I am suggesting that we use the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline. Please recall in the first of this series about prayer when we stated that prayer is simply a two-way communication between God and the person praying. Jesus was teaching His followers, both then and now, the great importance of getting oneself prepared to converse with the Almighty.
Thinking along this line, let’s reconsider Jesus’ teaching on how to pray. First and foremost, prayer is all about us recognizing Who it is we are praying to. We are not clicking on a name in our phone book, or chatting with a buddy over coffee, but rather coming to speak and listen to the God of the Universe. Hence, ‘Father’ is a term of deserved respect. We then recognize God’s perfect holiness when we say ‘hallowed be thy name.’ Jesus is teaching that in order to get our hearts ready to pray, we need to approach God with all the reverence we can muster.
Next Jesus says to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come (other gospels add ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’). Praying this is an admittance on our part that the world in which we live needs God! All the centuries of humankind following its own will instead of seeking God’s has left this world in a sorry state.
Jesus then emphasizes the need to further personalize our conversation with the Father. Asking to ‘give us our bread’ is another way of acknowledging that only God can give us what we truly need on a daily basis.
As we state our everyday need of God’s provision, we are then to humbly ask Him to forgive us our sins. Obviously, this extremely personal point will differ from one person to the next. Remember, it is our heart position in respect to God that Jesus wants us to recognize. As we find the perfect forgiveness God extends, we then honor Him by forgiving those who have wronged us. (Easier said than done, I know; but holding on to resentments or unforgiveness only hurts us, not the other person)
Finally, after experiencing the freshness that only God’s forgiveness can bring, we ask God to not lead us into temptation (a more accurate translation of that word may be trials). If we are praying along the lines Jesus instructs us to, we can experience an ever-deepening relationship with our Maker. Praying as Jesus suggests teaches us to keep things in a clearer perspective. If we are making an effort to put God first in our lives, I believe He will help us to do so.
Jesus wants you and me to excel in communicating with the Father. Following His instructions with regard to how we ought to pray will allow us to get as close to God as we desire. I believe that many of the questions and struggles of life can be best met when we do so with the assurance that can come as a result of prayer.
Why pray? Jesus did! Does anyone really hear my prayers? God does! Want to learn how to pray? Use the outline Jesus provides to develop your personal prayer life!