Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about Christian prayer amazes me. It is critical to our spiritual life. All cultures have some form of prayer, which reflects an universal yearning to contact a higher power. Through a bewildering array of patterns and protocols people propose worship, requests, confessions, or other communication to God or gods. They do it in public, in private, with words, without words, standing, jumping, kneeling, or prone. With puzzled urgency, we ask...
How Should We Pray
Gratefully, Jesus cleared away the confusion in that centuries old prayer we call, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). It is an instruction to His disciples on the pattern of prayer. I will break it down for you in this essay.
First, Jesus brushed away some wrong ideas in verses 5-8. He said not to show off in prayer, but to sincerely approach with a humble heart and lay our concerns before God in private. Public prayer is fine, but the purpose and attitude is what matters.
In the culture from which Jesus spoke, people often bartered and bargained with God, or tried to impress Him with multiple titles of Deity. He wasn’t impressed.
Then Jesus dropped a bombshell. He established the relationship between Christians and God. He said it was a Father-child relationship! We are not to pray to a stone or a tree, but to a Person – God our Father. He is not a distant CEO, a king, nor the president of something – but He is our Father. And, fathers know that their children have needs, and what they are.
The object of Prayer
Going on to the prayer in verse 9, we learn to pray, “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.”
This tells us that prayer is basically a respectful conversation with God. You can talk to Him! Doesn’t that astonish you? We can talk to the God who created, directs, and sustains the universe!
Jesus said to direct our prayers to God the Father who is located in a place called heaven. If we look at another Scripture, we learn that the only way to gain access to the Father is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1Timothy 2:5). That is what is meant when Christians always tack, “In Jesus’ Name” onto the end of their prayers.
The word “hallowed” comes from “holy” and refers to God as separate from His creation, and perfect in all things. We are to approach Him with an attitude of worship, reverence and gratitude, recognizing His power and position in the universe. Remember, God can snuff us out in a moment, but through His love and grace, we can boldly approach and fully trust Him for our every need (Hebrews 4:16). We have a special relationship to Him. He is our Father.
Submission to His Will
The words of verse 10 say, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God has a plan for you and me, and for this world and universe. His plan incorporates certain promises. This statement expresses our confidence that God will stay true to His word.
The phrase also indicates that we are to submit our lives to His will. Even though we live in a rebellious world that scorns Him, God is not scorned in heaven. And amazingly, Christians are now citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We fall under that jurisdiction; consequently, we need to willingly follow His instructions – just as everyone else does in heaven.
Requests to God
Our very life and existence comes from God. We need Him. He tells us to ask Him for the things we need on a day-to-day basis, “Give us this day our daily bread” (verse 11). This means we carry our burdens to God: finances, relationships, food, shelter, health – everything. Don’t shy away from asking God for what you need. He welcomes our conversation.
Remember, however, to distinguish between your needs and wants. God may not give us everything we want – just as our earthly fathers didn’t always dole out the goodies to our sometimes silly requests.
God wants us to bring our requests to Him so that we can learn the difference between what is important in life, and what is not. We also learn what His will is, and can learn to pray more effectively.
<h3 align="center">Confession of Sin</h3>
Verses 12 instructs us, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is talking about family forgiveness, not salvation forgiveness. When children wrong their parents, fellowship is broken. However, when the child comes to the parent and confesses, then fellowship is restored. Confession means to acknowledge to God our sins.
It is the same with our heavenly Father. When we sin, and we all do, we are to confess it to God, and accept His forgiveness and restoration of family fellowship (cf. 1 John 1:8, 9). Maybe you are confused about what sin is. This is understandable since we live in a world where it seems like good is bad, and bad is good.
Here are some verses you can check out that catalogue some sins: Mark 7:20-23; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10. Of course, we can also compare ourselves against the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Frankly, when I look at those lists, I feel very humbled, chastened, and realize how much I need the grace of God in my life!
But, another issue looms up: our forgiveness of others who have wronged us! That may be harder! In our hearts, we cannot nourish angry bitterness, grudges, and vindictiveness against other people (cf. verses 14, 15).
That would make us hypocrites. How can we expect a perfect God to forgive us sinful children, if in our pride we do not forgive others?
Dealing With Temptation
Jesus said to pray, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (verse 13). God does not tempt us to sin (James 1:13). You and I live in a sea of temptation. We are tempted to sin by the world, our own sinful nature, and Satan with his hordes.
We are desperately weak, and need God’s strength, grace, wisdom, guidance, and correction to wade through the minefields of temptation we daily face. However, sometimes God permits testing in our lives that our faith and character will become stronger (cf. James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:3-9). He wants our growth and development as Christians.
Jesus ended His instruction by saying, “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (verse 13). Praise means to express our admiration, approval or gratitude to Him. The Psalms give abundant illustration on how to praise God.
Finally, God is not embarrassed to hear and answer our heartfelt and sincere prayer that is offered up in persistent faith (James 1:5, 6; 5:13-18). Remember, He is our perfect Father who loves us and enjoys our company, conversation, and fellowship. That is what fathers do.
For further study, I would recommend you study the great prayers of the Bible, such as Daniel 9:3-19, Jesus in John 17, or David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-19. Herbert Lockyer has an older but great book entitled All the Prayers of the Bible.
BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS
1. How does Jesus characterize the Christian’s relationship with God?
2. Why do you suppose God might be interested in communicating with us?
3. Based on the article, and the various verses listed, what are some conditions to answered prayer?
4. How would you describe prayer?
5. What are some benefits to prayer?
6. How often should we pray? (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
7. Did Jesus consider prayer to be important? _____ Explain the reasons for your answer in your own words. (Luke 22:31, 32; 40-46).
8. When would be a good time in your schedule to regularly pray?
9. What most stood out to you in this study? Explain in some detail.
10. How important do you think prayer is to you?
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