Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Jesus devoted much time to prayer during His earthly life. His days were extraordinarily busy, yet He often slipped away to commune with His Father. Prayer was His source of comfort and connection with heaven.
As Jesus’ disciples observed His prayer life, they recognized that they didn’t really know how to pray. So they asked Him to teach them how to pray. The sample prayer He gave them is simple, comprehensive and beautiful.
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Your’s is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.
Wait! Did you actually read the Lord’s Prayer? Or did you skip over it because you already knew what it said?
Go back and read it again. Slowly.
Ponder each phrase. There is a depth of meaning here that we often miss.
The Heart of Jesus’ Teaching on Prayer
Jesus first gave the Lord’s prayer as part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6). He gave it again when the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11).
Jesus began His teaching on prayer by comparing true prayer to the meaningless prayers of the hypocrites and pagans.
True prayer is not a showy, wordy business, Jesus said. True prayer is a quiet, sincere conversation with your Heavenly Father. It’s caring about His priorities, surrendering all to Him and trusting His goodness. It’s much more, and yet much simpler, than we realize.
So what can we learn from the Lord’s prayer? Here are six transformative truths that it teaches:
- Who We Pray To: Jesus begins by inviting us to call God “Our Father”. We may talk to God as simply and naturally as we would to a loving, caring earthly father. But our earthly fathers sometimes hurt us and let us down. So Jesus reminds us that we are speaking to our Father in Heaven. This is the Father who loves us unconditionally, and will never hurt us. This is a Father we can trust completely! “For the Father Himself loves you.” John 16:27
- How to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer is only 53 words long. Jesus’ other recorded prayers are also simple and brief. The Lord’s prayer is a wonderful assurance to all of us who feel like we don’t know how to pray very well. It’s ok to simply tell God what you need. God welcomes your heartfelt, stumbling prayers. You don’t have to impress your Heavenly Father. “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us…” Romans 8:26
- Our Priorities in Prayer: How often do you pray about yourself – your needs, your sins, your wants, your people? Our prayers tend to be self-centered, don’t they?! Jesus’ prayer shows us the importance of reordering our priorities. He prays that God’s name is honored (“hallowed”), His kingdom near, and His will done. Does the work of God matter more to you than the pile on your desk? Do you want His will more than your own? “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
- Our Attitude in Prayer: Though He doesn’t state it explicitly, Jesus is calling us to an attitude of surrender in prayer. Consider: Can you pray for God’s will while you pursue your own plans? Can you pray for His kingdom to come if you’re trying to be king or queen of your own life? How can you pray for forgiveness if you won’t surrender your favorite sins? Jesus’ prayer shows us that our prayer attitude must give God full permission to guide our lives. It is only then that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20
- Our Cooperation in Prayer: Jesus’ prayer teaches us our need to work with Him for the answer of our prayers. When He tells us to ask for our daily bread, He does not mean that we should expect food to magically appear in the fridge. We are to join our efforts with His. When we ask for forgiveness, we must extend forgiveness to others. When we plead for deliverance from sin, we must also walk away from temptation. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
- Our Assurance in Prayer: Jesus ends His prayer with confident conviction in God’s position and power. He is the all-powerful, all-good, glorified ruler of the universe. And He is the one who is listening to our prayers! “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
After repeating the Lord’s Prayer for His disciples, Jesus told a story about a man who begs his neighbor for bread at midnight for an unexpected visitor. His neighbor is annoyed, but finally gives him the bread to get rid of him.
“I tell you,” Jesus said, “even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Luke 11:8
Jesus doesn’t tell this story to show what God is like. He tells it to show the persistence and intense desire that should characterize our prayers. He actually is commending the man for his “shameless audacity.” He invites us to pray with “shameless audacity” in this well-loved promise:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11
Dig Deeper: Pray the Lord’s Prayer
Have you ever used Jesus’ prayer as a guide for your own prayers? It’s a useful practice that gives structure and inspiration to our personal prayers.
Try using each phrase as inspiration for your prayers. You’ll be blessed and encouraged as you pray about each phrase and its application in your life.
Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version