Summary: Jesus’ disciple must learn how to pray effective prayers. The Lord’s prayer is a powerful model prayer to help you grow in your prayer life.
In my last post, I talked about how to handle unanswered prayer. In this post, I expound on the Lord’s prayer and how to pray it effectively.
I know many Christians quote the Lord’s Prayer regularly as part of their worship service or prayer time. We call it “The Lord’s Prayer” but many refer to it as “The Disciple’s Prayer” because Jesus’ prayer was in John 17.
I prefer to call it “The Model Prayer” because Jesus tells us how to pray using this prayer structure. Like other prayers throughout the Bible, the Model Prayer lays the foundation for our prayers. Jesus didn’t mean for us to stop only at praying for the things in this prayer.
He wants us to continue in prayer based on the subjects He touched on in the Lord’s Prayer. You’ll see as I go through the prayer what I mean by using this prayer as a guide. Let’s dive in and look at how you can use the Lord’s Prayer to spur your personal prayers onward.
This Is How You Should Pray (Matthew 6:5-8)
Before Jesus gives us the Model Prayer as a template for our prayers, He gives other instruction about the attitude and nature of our prayers. First, Jesus describes secret prayer in our “prayer closets” (Matthew 5:5-6).
He says not to pray in public, but to go into your room and close the door. Then, pray in that secret place so that your Father sees you praying only to Him. This doesn’t mean we can’t pray in public. You see this happen many times in worship services and other venues.
The prayer principle here is to not pray in public purely for the sake of looking spiritual in front of others. We pray for God’s benefit. It’s a two-way conversation between you and God, and no one else.
Next, Jesus lays down the prayer principle of speaking plainly to God (Matthew 5:7-8). He speaks against heaping up words as “prayer fillers.” Some people say things just to talk instead of communicating with God.
Having too many filler words takes away from the substance of the prayer. Sometimes, when people pray in public, they fill their prayers with God’s names. This isn’t bad, but sometimes they fill their prayers with some names of God that what they are praying about get lost in the shuffle.
Jesus knows you are talking to Him in your prayers. You don’t need to fill your prayers with different names for God as you pray. When you talk to your friends or other people, do you refer to them by name 16 times in a three minute conversation?
After laying down these two principles, Jesus goes into a model prayer to talk to God. We could easily spend many minutes on each line of the Model Prayer. Below I will layout some of the avenues of prayer I use as I pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Who the Father Is (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus tells us to begin our prayers, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” We begin our prayers with praise to God of who He is and what He has done in our lives. Praying, “Out Father in heaven” reminds us that God is over everything in creation.
The first thing we recognize is that God relates to us as our Father. He is not some far-off God. He is not a ruler or dictator over us. He wants us to know Him as our Father. This relational approach helps us to understand God in personal and intimate terms.
We need not wonder if He has the power to answer our requests. He is the Lord of heaven, whose power is readily available to us. This puts our petitions in the proper context of understanding God can and will answer our prayer.
Hallowed is a word for “holy.” We remind ourselves that we are praying to a holy God, separate from His creation. We don’t talk to God as another person around us. We are addressing a God who is greater than us and our problems.
Use this part of your prayer to worship God and give thanks to God and His many blessings and how much you love Him. Thank Him for all that He’s done for you. Thank Him for the great and small things He does for you every day.
Praying for His Kingdom (Matthew 6:10)
When you pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” you focus your thoughts on Jesus’ Kingdom. First, you realize God’s power over your requests. Then, you think of His Kingdom.
God’s Kingdom begins in the hearts of those who turn toward Jesus. His Kingdom is much about living under Jesus’ rule in your life. When you become a Christian, you live for the audience of one. Everything you do turns to glorifying Jesus.
But Jesus teaches us to pray for His Kingdom to come into the world, for His rule and authority on the earth. You are praying for God’s righteousness, holiness, goodness, and salvation mercies to flood this wicked world.
We live in a wicked world controlled by the prince of the power of the air, Satan (Ephesians 2:2). Praying for Jesus’ Kingdom to come to the earth is praying for Jesus to come back. When He returns, He will set all things right. No crime. No war.
As Jesus’ peacemakers living in the world today, we long for God’s peace and mercy to permeate this world and stop all the violence, sin, and wickedness we see every day. Only Jesus can change people’s hearts, so we are praying for that.
Praying for Your Daily Bread (Matthew 6:11)
After focusing on God’s sovereign power and authority in heaven to change our situation, and praying for Jesus’ Kingdom to come to earth, we now turn to our daily physical and spiritual needs. This is where the requests of the Model Prayer begin.
You can take praying for your daily bread on two fronts, and I often pray for both. These are your physical needs, the needs for food, shelter, clothing, and anything else you need. I often pray for needs I have that day.
But I also pray for more of Jesus because He is the Bread of Life (John 6:48). In this part of the prayer, I address my spiritual needs. This can range from anything like pleasing Jesus more through my thoughts, speech, and actions to specific needs of prayer.
We tend to put our personal needs ahead of everything else in our requests. There’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus instructs us in the Model Prayer to pray for physical and spiritual needs. And we know Jesus will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
Praying for Forgiveness (Matthew 6:12)
The next part of the Model Prayer deals with our relationships with God and one another. We pray for the powerful healing effects of forgiveness to permeate all our relationships. If we have wronged anyone else, we ask Jesus’ forgiveness.
Jesus modeled forgiveness even on the cross when His enemies crucified and mocked Him. So, He expects us to forgive others. Forgiveness heals our relationships when we have wronged others or need forgiveness.
By the time you pray using the Model Prayer, you should have already forgiven those who offend you, whether they have asked for your forgiveness or not. Christians should not be a people who hold grudges. Jesus, once again, is our example in taking the insults, mockery, and abuse from others without retaliating.
The Bible teaches us to leave vengeance and judging up to God (Romans 12:19). We must be a peaceful and forgiving people. This is difficult, and it’s so easy to lash out against those who use and abuse us. But it’s up to God to sort this all out.
In this part of your prayer, ask Jesus for forgiveness if you have offended Him with your thoughts, speech, and actions. But also pray for forgiveness from those you have offended. The word for “debts, trespasses” speaks of our sins against other people and God.
Praying against Temptation (Matthew 6:13)
Next, Jesus teaches us to deal with temptation and evil in our world. First, Jesus talks about praying against temptation. Because this prayer is to God, some people may have noticed that this prayer is asking God not to lead us into temptation.
How do we deal with the implications of this verse? James 5:13 tells us God does not tempt anyone. So how can we pray this if God doesn’t do it? The Greek word for “temptation” can mean “tests, trials, or temptations.” Praying this, it may be better to think about tests and trials than temptations.
Although it doesn’t hurt to pray against temptations coming into your life, God does not lead you into temptation. But He tests people (Genesis 22). The second part of this verse is the part of the prayer for God to deliver us from evil.
“Evil” can also be translated “the evil one.” This is a prayer for us to be rescued from the evil, or the evil one (the devil). Here, we can pray against the powers of darkness in this world, spiritual warfare prayer.
Thus, we can take the Model Prayer as a template for our prayers. We can use it as a guide to help us pray through its structure with our personal prayers. Praying through this Model Prayer takes us from knowing God’s power for our requests, praying for His Kingdom to come, to our requests.
Now it’s time for you to apply the Model Prayer to your prayers. Many people memorize this prayer. Take time this week to memorize the Model Prayer, so you don’t have to keep referring to it in your Bible. Use the Model Prayer to go through the template and apply it to your needs.
We have talked about the Lord’s prayer, or the model prayer, we now turn to another powerful prayer, the prayer of faith from James 5:13-16.