How Do I Pray? (Part 2)

James Hassell   -  

Let’s continue our conversation about how to pray. We are discussing spiritual disciplines in these summer blog articles. A spiritual discipline may be defined as a Christ-centered practice that builds a joyful and transformative character. The more a person practices spiritual disciplines, the more the disciplines become a natural way of life.

Keep in mind that we are talking about explicitly Christian spiritual disciplines, as well. There are some spiritual disciplines that are found neither in the Bible nor in the life and teachings of Jesus. For instance, we find no evidence in God’s word that practices like transcendental meditation, using crystals, or engaging in new age mysticism can benefit us in any way. It’s best to stick with exactly what Christ practiced.

Prayer is an elemental, Christ-centered spiritual discipline. In the Bible, prayer is defined as reverent communication directly with God. The creature gets to commune with the Creator in prayer. Last Monday, we shared some basic pointers for effectively practicing prayer. Today, we will get into some more specific information as taught by Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer (also known as the Model Prayer) appears in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Let’s examine the Lord’s Prayer in a phrase-by-phrase manner for today’s article, and then we will give more elaboration next week.

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by your name.” – Praying this phrase helps us in two particular ways. First, we remember that God is God, and we are not. God is the personal, Heavenly Father. Yet, God is in heaven. He is above time and space while not being removed from our earthly predicaments. In prayer, we’re not addressing just another friend. We are praying to our God. Second, when we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, we’re asking for his authority and power to be active and noticed in our daily life. In other words, we are not responsible for putting our name in lights—nor are we to behave that way as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Ours is not a faith that promotes our selfish ambitions or popularity. We pray for the Person of God to shine through us in ways that glorify God alone.

“Your kingdom come. You will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we’re remember that God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). This means that we can absolutely cast all of our cares on him, but we must be ready to have our wills bent to God’s. In prayer, we are to aspire not to get our way, but to pray for our will to be subsumed in His. There is much more we can say about God’s will, but one thing is for certain: God’s knows what is best for us, and we can rest assured that his will cannot lead to our destruction or to anything contrary to the nature of God. We can pray with great confidence for God’s will to be done, and then we can proceed to trust him and rest with calm assurance in God’s grace and never-ending love.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” – God cares about our needs. In fact, Jesus remarked that God even knows what we need before the words ever form on our lips in prayer (Matthew 6:8). We don’t serve a tyrannical deity that has to be placated with certain rituals before he will give us food, water, and shelter. God is like a father who, when asked by a son/daughter for bread, doesn’t give a stone (Matthew 7:9-11). If you are in need—even desperate need—you can know that you have a friend in Jesus. He wants to provide for you. We can bring our needs to him, trusting that he is a good father who knows what is best for his children.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Some translations translate the word “debts” as “trespasses” in this particular phrase. The Greek language trends more towards “debts” in this context. The idea is that we should cancel the debts which have accrued between us and our neighbors through a multiplicity of conflicts and hurts—just as Christ canceled our debt by his atoning blood when we came to him by faith. One of Jesus’ most startling illustrations about this very prayer can be found in Matthew 18:21-35. I’d highly encourage you to read it!

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” – This prayer can lead to some confusion if we’re not careful. Jesus seems to infer here that God can and will lead us into a position where it is inevitable to sin. Unfortunately, the true meaning has been somewhat obscured in English translations. God will never tempt someone to sin since such behavior is obviously antithetical to God’s nature and character. The meaning of this prayer actually has to do with our requesting that Jesus keeps us out of trouble! Another way of saying this is, “Don’t let us go off the deep end into sin. Deliver us!” We’re praying to remain astutely aware of God’s voice and direction when temptations come our way.

Next Monday, let’s get into some of the particulars of how we can put the Lord’s Prayer into practice on a daily basis!