Teach Us to Pray

Jesus told us what to say when we talk to God.

Teach us to pray. That is what Jesus’ disciples said to him one day, and it should be our longing as well. Jesus’ answer was the so-called Lord’s Prayer. In it is a world of truth, a pattern of behavior, and a perfect picture of a godly disposition. It is good to let these words sink in…

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Our Father in heaven…

Whenever we pray we should address God in personal terms. We’ve been invited to speak to the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—and so we should. Prayers that address a vague, unknown deity are artificial and uncertain. We’ve got God’s own permission to talk to him as Abba—our loving Father.

Hallowed be your name…

Respect for God is the doorway to genuine prayer. An attitude that is flip or disingenuous makes praying useless, or even destructive. Jesus warned against the “babbling” of pagans who think they will be heard for their many words. He also had stern words for those who wanted to show off in front of others with their prayers, calling them “hypocrites.” God doesn’t ask us to impress him, but to honor him. So when we pray, we should tell God in as many ways as come to mind what we appreciate about him.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

We sometimes add to our prayers phrases like “if it be your will,” as a polite disclaimer or as an expression of agnosticism. But Jesus’ prayer form suggests that where we should start is with an expressed desire to know God’s will in the process. “Your kingdom come, your will be done,” is our way of saying: Lord, I really need to understand your heart and mind. Let my own heart and mind, like soft metal impressed by a die, understand and imitate what you call right and good.

Give us today our daily bread…

God invites us to pray to him about the basic provisions of life. Even when there is little doubt in our minds that there will be food on the table, it is good to ask the Father for life and health so that when we have them our eyes are open to the flow of God’s common grace and we live in a consistent state of gratitude.

Forgive us our sins as we also have forgiven our debtors…

God does not forgive us because we ask him for forgiveness, but because of his sacrificial love turned to action in Christ. But it is still good to ask—and to ask every day—because it makes us realize that we are flawed creatures in constant need of repair. The “as we also have forgiven,” is a great challenge. By inviting us to pray this way Jesus was saying: don’t ask to receive what you are unwilling to give. We will only comprehend the forgiveness of God if we embrace forgiveness by granting it to others.

And lead us not into temptation…

Jesus is saying that it is crucial for us to be vigilant about the many possibilities of failures we face by praying that God would protect us as we go through the strongest forms of temptation. We can’t really ask God to isolate us from all temptation. The Bible tells us that we will be tempted. But we can and must ask God to protect us from the terrible temptation/failure combination. Martin Luther said: “you may not be able to prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from making nests in your hair.”

But deliver us from the evil one…

We can and should pray, every day in our own way, “Father, I know that evil is real. I know there are malevolent forces that seek to bring about injury, deception, and perversion. I know you are infinitely stronger than those forces. Please help me to continually trust in your absolute protection.”

This, then, was the prayer form Jesus set out for us. Every word is gold. It says exactly what any person of any age living anywhere in the world at any time needs to pray. Each petition can be prayed a thousand different ways. Each can be customized to the specifics of our lives. What it does is to set us as mere mortals into a God-ward frame of mind.

Coming mid-April, Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances.

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3 thoughts on “Teach Us to Pray

  1. Brilliant ! It’s good for us to look deeper into the Lord’s Prayer as it was a gift directly from Jesus to his followers. Therefore we can be sure it contains the essential elements that are needed.

    I really look forward to your book. I’ve learnt that it’s very wise to have prayers in our back pocket as we never know what the future will bring and what we will need in future. I saw your mention of caution. However, I think people will be very happy to find a catalyst to help bridge the gaps. It’s also a huge lift to the soul to find that one is not alone in sorrow, need, hurt, despair, joy, thankfulness and all the other reasons we pray.

    The other thing is to be careful what we pray for. There is so much evil and so many lies in the world that we need to actively seek the truth and only then will we know what to pray for, otherwise we may find we have prayed for the wrong side. Even then it’s usually wiser to ask God to solve problems His way, as from my experience, it is often different to the way we expect !

    Best Wishes

    DC

  2. Hello and blessings to you all, i’ve just received your: Prayers for our Lives 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances book, i’ve always needed help with prayers for everyday use and for different situations in life that may bring up something unexpected and random and bad that we do not wish would happen, and this book is going to help a lot, i will surely know what to pray for now and when, Thank you, Mel Lawrenz. Just waiting if and when you will release a Spanish version of this book.

  3. Hello Mel and thank you and bless you for giving us this great reminder for how we should approach a prayer life and relationship with our Father. Not to be presumptuous of God, but I do think He wants us all to crave a deep and loving relationship with him as much as He has shown us through the incredible sacrifice of His Son for our sins.
    CH