“Lord Teach Us to Pray”
Scripture: Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:1–4
Prayer is one of the greatest privileges and blessings of the Christian life. Yet, it is all too easy for our personal prayer life to fall into a stale pattern. Apparently Christ’s disciples were impressed by the uniqueness of His prayer life.
It was so refreshingly different from the ostentatious and hypocritical prayers of contemporary religious leaders, that they came to him with a simple, yet profound request; “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
A closer look at Christ’s lesson on prayer can be very beneficial to all Christians by helping us to focus on the basic elements we should include in our quiet times with God.
First, let’s take a look at the context surrounding our Lord’s lesson on prayer. The Gospel of Matthew places “the Lord’s Prayer” between Jesus’ teaching concerning almsgiving and fasting, so we are not to sound a trumpet or seek a conspicuous place where we will be seen of men when we pray.
Also, it is noteworthy, that although Luke records Jesus as saying, “When we pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven…”, it is doubtful that Jesus meant for his followers to limit their prayers to these words or even to repeat these words each time they prayed.
Christ, our example (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21), regularly spent hours in prayer, and the “Lord’s Prayer” can be said in just 15 seconds. This leads us to believe it is best to understand Jesus’ statement as indicating the elements we should normally include in our praying.
I. The Person of God.
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”
Rather than praying to Jesus, Christ instructs us to pray to the Father. As we begin a time of prayer, our first thoughts are to focus on God who is “our Father.”
Hence our prayers can begin with rejoicing and thanksgiving that we have a Father, a heavenly Father, who cares about us. Praise His name, He cared enough to provide the new birth as a means for our adoption into His family. This awesome privilege is only provided to those who have been born again (cf. John 3:5; 8:44; 1 John 3:10; Mat. 13:36).
The personal pronoun, “our,” speaks of our relationship with God. When we say “our” Father, we are reminded that as His children we are to be submissive and should tell him in prayer, “Lord, I want to be a child You can take delight in.” We need to reaffirm our commitment to obey Him and submit to His authority.
This focus on a heavenly Father also should bring to mind that we are a part of a family, the family of God. We have brothers and sisters in the Lord all around the world, for God’s family is international. This may well cause us to branch out in prayer for other members of this larger family.
The phrase, “which art in heaven,” reminds us of God’s transcendent majesty. Here passages from Job or Psalms may come to mind and we can worship Him “who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind,” (Ps. 104:3), and who sets bars for the sea and commands, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11).
Yet, He is a Father, our Father, the perfection of all a Father should be—compassionate, wise, loving, generous, always accessible, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. After thanking God for the privilege of having a personal relationship with Him, we are to be concerned about His reputation—“Hallowed be thy name.”
God is “hallowed” or holy in all that He is and does. And as His children, we have His reputation in our hands. Our prayer should be, “Search me, Oh Father, I desire to be like your Son in all my attitudes and actions lest I bring shame to your holy name or tarnish your reputation in the eyes of a watching world.
It is my desire that your name (character or reputation) be revered by all people everywhere!”
II. The Purposes of God.
“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
The second element of prayer focuses on the purposes of God. Before we present our personal desires, we need to be in tune with His will and His Kingdom plans.
The petition, “Thy Kingdom come,” emphasizes God’s reign as King. His Kingdom increases as people yield their lives to him and He sets up His kingdom in their hearts.
To pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” is to launch into prayer for the salvation of the lost. This may be members of our immediate family, concerns of our larger church family, or friends and acquaintances we have witnessed to.
This time of prayer should include praise for the salvation and spiritual maturity of those we have seen converted in the past through our prayers. To pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” is also to pray that the fullness of Christ’s life and reign be manifested in us and in each believer.
In Romans 14:17 Paul reminds us that the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” This is also a prayer for Christ’s return, and we should join the hosts of the ages who pray, “Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.”
“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” is a petition that God’s rule be enforced on earth. It teaches us to pray daily, “Lord guide and guard my desires so that I long only for those things which are in harmony with your will.” This eliminates anything that would dishonor His name, delay His kingdom program, or displace His will in our lives. It requires a full surrender of our will to His will.
Further, by focusing on God’s wishes rather than our own, we will be able to obey and do His will as it is obeyed in heaven: quickly, willingly, gladly, fully and constantly. Jesus exemplified this attitude of surrender when He said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30), and “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
The first two elements of the Lord’s prayer protect us from becoming self centered and self-seeking in our praying.
We are no longer so busy thinking about what we want, nor are we so burdened with our problems, that we fail to properly worship, adore, and praise God for who He is and what He has done.
III. The Provisions of God.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
The third element of the Lord’s prayer focuses on the provisions of God for our daily living. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are giving recognition of God’s ownership of all things (Ps. 24:1).
The phrase also reminds us of our reliance on God for our daily needs. The phrase, “our daily bread,” includes all of the necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, and strength. The emphasis on “daily” encourages us to not allow the uncertainties of the future to be carried over into this day.
We are to receive each new day with faith in God’s unfailing goodness and rejoice and be glad in it.
IV. The Pardon of God.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”
The fourth element of the Lord’s prayer teaches us the secret of receiving the pardon of God. We must forgive all who sin against us. The next time you bow in prayer, mention by name anyone who has offended you and ask God’s forgiveness to flow through you to touch the life of this other person.
By looking at the account of Job, we are helped to realize nothing touches us but what God permits to come into our lives. Job was not angry at the Sabeans or Chaldeans who stole his cattle. He immediately recognized the hand of God in the reverses he suffered.
The phrase, “forgive us…as we forgive” indicates that we must not only be willing to forgive, but we must not harbor feelings of resentment, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. God’s forgiveness is extended to us in proportion as we forgive others. This does not mean, however, that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. It is the condition for receiving God’s forgiveness.
Failure to forgive others can be likened to covering a plant with a bucket—it isolates it from the life-giving sun and rain. In like manner, an unforgiving attitude toward another person completely blocks us from the forgiving mercy of God.
Forgiveness and being forgiven are inseparable truths (Mark 11:25).
The phrase in Luke 11:4, “forgive us our sins,” raises questions in the minds of some as to whether this is a petition Christians who are victorious over willful sin should pray. It will do us well to remember that Jesus intended His followers throughout all ages to use this prayer.
John Wesley, the preeminent preacher of the holy life, commenting on the statement, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), wrote, “All deviation from perfect holiness is sin” (Explanatory Notes).
Anything in our lives, known or unknown, that falls short of “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), needs the cleansing of His atoning blood.
V. The Protection of God.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
The fifth element for our prayers is a request for the protection of God. We frequently pray for physical protection, as when we plan a long trip on the highways, but how often have we prayed for spiritual protection?
Perhaps the focus of this aspect of prayer needs to be, “Lord protect me, my family, or the missionary families, from the snares and temptation of Satan. Help me to recognize the traps he lays for me. Strengthen me to see sin as you see it so I will be repulsed and not allured by it.”
Such prayer involves a recognition of our own weaknesses and a plea to be rescued from “evil” (literally, “the evil one”). Jesus statement in Gethsemane, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” ties in with this portion of the Lord’s Prayer.
“The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). It also harmonizes with Paul’s injunction, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).
Simply put, I am to ask God to keep me from any tests or trials that I cannot pass. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us God’s help and grace for the trials we do encounter.
We must heed Jesus’ warning and claim His promises of victory over all the power of darkness (Lk 10:19).
VI. The Praise of God.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
The sixth element of prayer focuses on the praise of God. Some have suggested that because these closing words of doxology are not found in the oldest manuscripts (i.e., Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus), they may not actually be part of the Lord’s Prayer.
It should be noted, however, that their counterpart is found in 1 Chronicles 29:11, which reads,
“Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:
for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine;
thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.”
The great value of this conclusion is that it reminds us that the Kingdom belongs to God and not us. Everything we do is to be done by His enabling power and grace and for His glory alone. It is His right to exercise His royal power and authority as He sees fit. And we have the assurance that what He does will always be in harmony with His glorious character.
And we have the assurance that what He does will always be in harmony with His glorious character.
Use the Lord’s Prayer in your quiet times as a guide.
Say each of the six elements of the prayer slowly, thinking about its meaning and shape your prayer accordingly. Begin with the person of God—our relationship and His reputation. Then pray about the purposes of God—His reign and His rule. Then ask for the provisions of God for daily life. Next, seek the pardon of God and His protection.
Conclude your prayer time with the praise of God.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.