Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9)
I remember a time when I used to think prayer was largely pointless and it didn’t really make a difference if I prayed or not. Is God listening? Does He care? Isn’t He just going to do what He wants to anyway?
Over the years of my relationship with God, I’ve come to understand that prayer isn’t about rattling off a wishlist to God of things you want or need. Yes, that may be part of it sometimes, but if you find yourself mostly praying when you need something, then you’re missing out on the point of prayer and the actual relationship He desires to have with us.
Think about being married or the relationship you have with your parent(s). Imagine if the ONLY time you ever spoke to your spouse or to your father or mother, was when you wanted them to do something for you or to give you something. Yah… not cool. That would be an extremely shallow, selfish, and one-sided relationship, with someone who you’re supposed to be closely connected to in love and respect.
But don’t we do that to God? Isn’t that what our prayer life often looks like? Don’t we find ourselves mostly going to Him when we want or need something? This is a one-sided relationship treating Him like a genie-in-a-bottle.
Thus I submit to you that prayer isn’t about what you want, but prayer is about developing the relationship you NEED. It is a reflection of our desire to praise Him and to depend on Him, and a channel to grow our overall communication with Him. It’s not only coming to ask of Him, but allowing Him to speak into us.
Does it mean that it’s wrong to ask for things? No of course not! Ask away! God already knows what’s on your heart and mind, but speaking it to Him develops the essential two-way conversation with Him. And a strong prayer life gives you peace even when your Heavenly Father’s answer is “no” or “not right now” to your requests.
The passage in Matthew 6:9-13 (and Luke 11:2-4) is what people commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. It is an excellent model of what prayer should look like, as instructed by Jesus Himself.
These are the primary components I take from it as I go line-by-line:
- v9 – Praising God (honoring, revering) our Father in heaven (relationship).
- v10 – Seeking His kingdom first, and that His will be done (alignment).
- v11 – Praying for both physical and spiritual provisions and nourishment, including His Word (all necessities).
- v12 – Confessing our sins (repentance) in acceptance of His forgiveness (gospel), and that we would extend that same forgiveness to others (changing our hearts).
- v13 – Praying for His wisdom and guidance as we navigate a fallen world (dependence, surrender), as well as for spiritual protection from the enemy’s attacks (covering, shelter).
- Close – Recognizing God’s sovereignty and rule over all (praise and worship). [The last line of what most people recite as the Lord’s Prayer was often used in declarations of praise to God such as in the Psalms (also see 1 Chronicles 29:11).]
Prayer is not something we mindlessly do or say, or repeat like a script whether we believe in (or understand) what we’re saying or not. To do so is spiritually pointless and deceptive. Likewise, there is no secret power or influence associated to reciting the Lord’s Prayer verbatim, although there is nothing wrong with doing so if you actually mean it. But when we understand the elements of prayer that Jesus gives in this beautiful model, then we can incorporate those into our prayer life every day!
Right before the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to go into a room, close the door, and pray (Matt. 6:6). Not to be taken literally, but the point is that prayer is personal, prayer is worship, and prayer is a key part of the most important relationship we have… our one-on-one relationship with God.
Jesus lays out the model of prayer for us that we may effectively communicate with our Father in heaven.
Pray then, like this.