Question: “What is the Lord’s prayer and should we pray it?”
Answer:The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples inMatthew 6:9-13andLuke 11:2-4.Matthew 6:9-13says, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘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. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’“ Many people misunderstand the Lord’s Prayer to be a prayer we are supposed to recite word for word. Some people treat the Lord’s Prayer as a magic formula, as if the words themselves have some specific power or influence with God.
The Bible teaches the opposite. God is far more interested in our hearts when we pray than He is in our words. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). In prayer, we are to pour out our hearts to God (Philippians 4:6-7), not simply recite memorized words to God.
The Lord’s Prayer should be understood as an example, a pattern, of how to pray. It gives us the “ingredients” that should go into prayer. Here is how it breaks down. “Our Father in heaven” is teaching us whom to address our prayers to—the Father. “Hallowed be your name” is telling us to worship God, and to praise Him for who He is. The phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a reminder to us that we are to pray for God’s plan in our lives and the world, not our own plan. We are to pray for God’s will to be done, not for our desires. We are encouraged to ask God for the things we need in “give us today our daily bread.” “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” reminds us to confess our sins to God and to turn from them, and also to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” is a plea for help in achieving victory over sin and a request for protection from the attacks of the devil.
So, again, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite back to God. It is only an example of how we should be praying. Is there anything wrong with memorizing the Lord’s Prayer? Of course not! Is there anything wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer back to God? Not if your heart is in it and you truly mean the words you say. Remember, in prayer, God is far more interested in our communicating with Him and speaking from our hearts than He is in the specific words we use.Philippians 4:6-7declares, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Do your prayers sometimes become a bit formalized because you think you have to stop whatever you’re doing, bow your head, and then enter the presence of a holy God? When you think that way, exclusively, leaving prayer for a separate, specific time of quiet, you will inevitably pray less – and you may be missing much comfort and support that God wants to make available to you. Though there is definitely a time and place for reverence in your attitude of prayer, you can also just start talking to God throughout your day, like you would your spouse or closest friend. Whatever you’re doing, include Him in your thoughts and decisions. Imagine that God is with you, listening…because He is!
This kind of continual prayer can keep you closer to Him than you’ve ever imagined. Talk to Him while you prepare breakfast and see if your morning isn’t better. Ask Him how to best listen to and speak to your rebellious teen, right in the middle of a conversation that is going badly. He will give you the words that will communicate rather than alienate. We shouldn’t always make the practice of prayer a formal matter. Too many things happen in a day to remember to pray about the troubling things after the fact.
God wants much more than an occasional part of your day. No matter what your situation is, decide to be hopeful and trust God with all the details of your problems. He wants to be included in your tough times, not just your times of rejoicing. Lean on Him as you live through troubles and challenges. Give God your fear. He will replace it with faith. Faith can always defeat fear. There is tremendous strength in faith.
And finally, know that you can rest in the knowledge that your heavenly father is very present and He is looking out for you and protecting you… Feel His presence. Praise and thank Him for his tremendous love…Stand in awe of how privileged you are!
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You…” (Psalm 63)