How should we pray?
When I first thought about this question, the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 was the very first thing that came to mind. I mean, these are the words of Christ Himself. If they were enough for Him, shouldn’t they be enough for me? But as I thought about it more, I found myself asking: is that prayer a blueprint or a formula for prayer?
Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at this prayer and remember this is one element of how to pray. This is by no means a comprehensive guide on how to pray.
“Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]”
Lets start at the beginning.
This verse is housed within Matthew 6, which is part of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount (which actually starts back in chapter 5). He is speaking to the disciples, as we learn in 5:1-2, but His message isn’t exclusive for the 12 disciples. The message is actually being spoken to the masses that had been following him from city to city, as we see in 4:25 and at the conclusion in 7:28.
Jesus brings this up because as one commentary puts it, the Pharisees had turned their private practice of prayer into a public spectacle to be seen.
If you are following along with our PDFs, write out verse 9. If not, write out verse 9 in your journal or study paper, then look up the following verses:
1 Peter 3:15
What is the general theme running through these 3 verses?
What do “sanctify”, “stand in awe”, and “honor…as holy” mean? If you aren’t sure look them up in a Bible dictionary.
Next, what does hallowed mean? (Again, if you don’t have the Logos Bible app, a concordance, or dictionary of your own, go to back to BlueLetterBible.org and click on the “tools” tab next to the verse.)
The Greek of hollowed is hagiazo (hag-ee-ad-zo), meaning “sacred”. Jesus is saying that God’s name is sacred, bringing us to a place of reverence or respect for the Father in this verse. When we pray, we must pray with respect.
Next write out verse 10.
What do the following verses say in reference to verse 10?
In the end, regardless of our actions, the Lord’s will is going to be done. There is no denying it. And our recognition of His plan and His will and His purpose in our lives is foundational to a healthy prayer life. We can pray for whatever we want, just like a child can ask for every toy in the toy store…but that doesn’t mean we are going to get what we ask for. 1 John 5:14 even tells us this outright. What does it say?
Move on to verse 11. Write it out like you have the previous verses:
Look up Proverbs 30:8 and Matthew 6:25-34.
Will God provide us with enough?
Do we need to pray for abundance?
Is this easy to pray, or even to believe?
If you said “yes”, can we sit down for coffee? I would love to hear your story. In general, this is not easy. It is not easy to relax and leave it in God’s hands. We learn and grow faithful by being stretched and the stretching process is usually not an easy one. But He tells us very specifically not to worry and not to be anxious.
On to verse 12. Write it out and then look up:
Psalms 32:1 and 130:3-4
1 John 1:7-9.
Why is forgiveness necessary? Why do we need to pray about forgiveness?
Lastly, write out verse 13 and look up:
1 Corinthians 10:13
2 Thessalonians 3:3
2 Timothy 4:18
2 Peter 2:9
1 John 5:18
What does it mean to not be led into temptation but delivered from evil?
Ok, so now we have a general idea of what this prayer means. So let’s quickly look at my first question. Would you say this is a blueprint – something to be followed exactly, or is this a formula – something to guide us? Why?
According to scholars this is a formula, a means to guide us in how we should pray.
In verse 9, we see worship, recognition, and respect/reverence of God. Verse 10 reflects belief in His promises and His word and His will. Verse 11 is a request for our daily needs to be met and those things in life that keep our lives going. This is the place for prayer requests, I guess you could say. Verse 12 is for asking for forgiveness for what we have done wrong – a recognition, of sorts, that we aren’t perfect. Including this in the formula reminds us that we need to be diligent in confessing our sins. (This is the hard part for many people. This isn’t the place for pity or self-hatred, beating ourselves up for being wretched, horrible people. No, this is the place to come to the God who loves us so deeply and just say, “I’m sorry, Lord.”) Lastly, verse 13 is a request for Him to be with us and guide us and protect us, just like He says He does in the Word.
So between now and the next part of this study, write that progression of prayer down somewhere. Maybe write it on a notecard you stick in your Bible or tape it to your mirror or put it in the place you pray. That way, on those days when you know you really just need some deep time with God, you have it. On our next blog post, we will look at some specific actions and how-to steps to bring our prayer to the next level and make it more effective in our lives.