There comes a moment in everybody’s life when they feel driven to pray to God. This often happens during a time of desperation, like the death of a loved one or the emergence of a life-threatening illness.
However, the Bible makes clear that God wants prayer to be a natural, regular, daily occurrence for us.
The difficulty, though, is that often we do not know how to pray.
This isn’t just a problem with people new in their faith. Knowing how to pray can be a struggle even for believers who are grizzled veterans of Christianity.
Prayer is hard work. It involves the cultivation of a skill. It’s for this reason that Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:2 NIV).
In response, Jesus provides us with a pattern for prayer in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.”
There are two places in the Bible where we find the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. We will consider these passages together as we look at how Jesus teaches us to pray.
However, before we get to Jesus’ prayer, let’s think about prayer in general.
Why does God expect us to pray to him?
Why Do We Pray?
God is a God of communication—he speaks, and he hears.
While it seems that in our society, we have only discovered the importance of good communication in the past century or so, with the rise of psychoanalysis and counseling, God revealed the importance of solid communication millennia ago through his Word.
Prayer is the primary way we communicate with God, and it strengthens our relationship with him. As with any relationship, regular communication is the cornerstone of growing in trust, commitment, and intimacy.
Through regular prayer, we mature in our faith in God. This becomes evident as we look at the specific statements in the Lord’s Prayer.
God’s primary concern is that through prayer, we may know him better.
How to Pray: Six Main Concerns from the Lord’s Prayer
While it’s okay for us to regularly repeat this prayer, for example, in a worship service or before bed, that doesn’t appear to be the intent Jesus had in giving this prayer to his disciples.
A closer look at the prayer reveals a structure that outlines six things that we ought to be concerned about when we pray. We will briefly walk through the six main sections of this prayer, as it is typically recited from Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV) in churches today.
1. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (v. 9).
Jesus reminds us that our relationship with God, our heavenly Father, should be our focus when we pray. All we do should be directed toward his name being “hallowed,” or in other words, honored and worshiped.
2. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 10).
God’s will—his desires and plans—should be our primary concern. We cannot sincerely pray this prayer and then behave any way we want to.
In order to ask that God’s will be done, we must know God’s will. The primary way we do this is by studying and applying his Word, the Bible, to our lives. It also involves turning away from the world’s ideals and values (Romans 12:1-2).
3. “Give us today our daily bread” (v.11).
Jesus reminds us that we are a needy people. We depend upon God’s goodness each and every day.
“Bread” here is a reference to all our material needs, and it reminds us of how the Israelites sought their daily bread from God while in the desert (Exodus 16).
The act of prayer is an acknowledgment that we depend upon God for everything, and we can bring our concerns for material needs to him. There is no place in the Christian’s life for self-determination.
4. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12).
We should also be aware of our spiritual needs. Foremost among these is our need for forgiveness. Through this prayer, Jesus reminds us that we are sinners, but that we can and should ask God’s forgiveness.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection on behalf of anyone who will believe in him for forgiveness, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
In turn, we can forgive those who have harmed us.
We cannot sincerely ask for God’s forgiveness if we harbor resentment toward others, or are blind to our own sinfulness.
Forgiveness is so important that it’s the only item of the Lord’s Prayer that’s expanded upon in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:14-15).
5. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (v. 13).
“Temptation” here means testing.
Jesus understands that the evil one—Satan or the Devil—wants to expose our weaknesses, hoping we will turn from God to our sinful ways. Jesus reminds us that our protection in this spiritual battle comes from God, and we must depend on him for it.
6. “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
This conclusion reminds us that everything in all of creation is awaiting God’s coming kingdom. Our prayers must have this in mind. We should pray for things that will honor God and bring him praise.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer Today
Through this prayer, Jesus rightly orders our concerns. The prayer begins and ends with God’s kingdom and glory. But God knows that we have needs, so the prayer also touches upon our material and spiritual essentials.
The beauty of the Lord’s Prayer is how succinct it is. It’s remarkable how brief the prayer is for touching on all our needs. But this should not surprise us. As Jesus says, those who use wordy prayers and “keep on babbling” (Matthew 6:7) do not recognize that God, our loving and caring Father, already knows our needs and is ready to help us (Matthew 6:8).
As you recite this prayer, ask God our heavenly Father to align your heart with his will for your life. He alone can make the desires of this prayer the foundation for your own prayers.
Why not pray through the Lord’s Prayer today, knowing that the God of the Bible wants a relationship with you?