I’ll never forget years ago seeing this Video by Tim Hawkins where there is a clip of his comedy show titled “The Food Prayer”. While the video quality isn’t great, it’s worth a listen if you need a laugh. It perfectly illustrates how sometimes we just don’t know what to pray. Some of the things we find ourselves saying so regularly don’t make a whole lot of sense. Thank the Lord that He gave us a model of how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d]
So much is said in such a short prayer. While we could take much time to dissect each line and word of this passage, I think three things stand out that should inform how we pray and what we should pray.
- God is Deserving of Honor and Glory – As we approach “Our Father”, we immediately recognize who we are in relationship to Him. We are sons and daughters, under the authority of their father. At the same time that statement didn’t end there, because He is “Our Father in heaven”. He’s not like our earthly father, imperfect and flawed…He is in heaven in all His perfection. As we approach the next line, “hallowed be your name”, we recognize God is worthy of our honor and respect. He deserved all the glory we can heap on Him. A name or title represents who someone is. When you speak the name of God, do not do so lightly, as it represents His character – Holiness, Love, Justice, Grace, etc. As we start to pray, it’s all about starting with the right attitude and approach to God.
- Everything Is About God’s Plan – Who’s Kingdom Come? Who’s Will Be Done? You get it, it’s God’s plan and God’s will. The question becomes, is what we’re praying for getting us closer to the return of Jesus? We should be preoccupied with the return of Jesus. Certain things have to happen in order for Christ to return and set up His kingdom. One of those things is tied up in the Great Commission. This is why it’s so important to pray for the lost and a courage and boldness to share the gospel! Each day we live in a world where it’s very evident that everything isn’t the way God designed it and desired it to be. That’s why we pray for His will and His plan to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. We should pray with faith that God’s will is done. We should pray for ourselves to align our own prayers and actions with God’s will. We should pray for God to use us in all circumstances to accomplish His will. God is no doubt sovereign but he allows us to exercise our will here on this earth at this time. Don’t be confused into thinking we have no choice and that God’s will is going to just take place. God is in control but he is permitting things to take place that will ultimately lead to the return of His kingdom. God’s will is taking place in the lives of those that pray for and seek to live out His will.
- Our Requests Recognize God For Who He Is - Once you frame your prayer in God deserves all Glory and Everything is about His Plan; that helps as we move forward with requests/petitions. Even in requests it’s all about recognizing God for who He is! Starting with “Give us this day our daily bread” we see a recognition of God as provider. He’s promised to provide for all of our needs so our requests should center around our needs. It’s important to think about what we really “need”. Do we need the latest piece of technology? Do we need new clothes when we already have a closet full? The we move on to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” which points us towards God as forgiving and gracious. God has given provision for forgiveness through the work of His Son. Forgiveness is conditional on you forgiving others. This isn’t to say that the only way to salvation is by forgiving others. We’re talking about how believers should pray. If someone sins against you, and you don’t forgive them, you can’t have forgiveness from God – No point in asking God to forgive you if you won’t forgive others. Do you have people in your life that you have not forgiven? The focus here is on God’s provision, His work, and His forgiveness. The last thing we encounter is, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. God is in control and when we seek Him, He will lead us. Our desire should be for God as our leader to help guide us, to protect us from the temptation to sin. As we pray for God’s leadership we find that, through the Spirit, God gives us His power to overcome temptation. It all comes back to what God is able to do, we make requests of the Lord based on who He is and what He is able to do.
I don’t know what’s weighing on your heart, what you’re spending time praying for in recent weeks, but it all starts and ends with God. God is deserving of honor and glory and any prayer that doesn’t recognize that goes horribly wrong quickly. Everything is about God’s Plan so any prayer that approaches the Lord with our own plans is missing the mark. Finally, even in the things we request, they’re based on who God is, what God is able to do. How do you pray?