It’s Wednesday again. There you are, sitting among a small intimate Bible study group. You’re chatting a bit and get your Bible and materials all set. Now here it comes: “Okay, everyone here? Let’s start, who wants to open us up in prayer? Inside, you’re thinking, NOT ME, NOT ME, PLEASE DON’T PICK ME. As you shift in your seat and avoid eye contact, you get that warm and uncomfortable sensation…but you’re just sitting there…
“Ok, [your name here], can you please open us up in prayer?”
Your inner monologue continues: Ugh! Why me? I can’t do this. What if I mess up? What do I say? How do I start?
You close your eyes, bow your head and utter unsurely trying not to stutter, “Um...okay…Dear Lord…um…”
Some of us know the fear of being called on to pray out loud in front of others. For others, it can seem like second nature, but where’s the script to memorize? What about that grand vocabulary we hear a lot of times – I don’t use those words when I talk! What if it’s too short? What if I say something stupid?
Is there a clear-cut wrong and right way to pray? Aren’t we just talking to God?
A prayer that millions of people do have memorized is found in Matthew 6:9-13:
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
The Lord’s Prayer is intended be a guideline for anyone questioning how to pray. It is the example that Jesus gave to all of us to show us what prayer is really supposed to be about, and can be broken down as such...
Step 1: Acknowledge Who God Is
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
As people we like to think that we have things under control. We can handle things on our own with the right resources and planning. Some of us even think we’ve got prayer under control. If this were true, why would we need to pray, and why would Jesus need to teach us? What help would we need if we had it all figured out? One of the most important parts of prayer is admitting and truly believing that we are not in control, God is. There is One that is FAR greater than us who posses all power, knowledge, ability, and authority. We are unable to match Him in any of these areas. Our prayers should acknowledge the position that the LORD holds and our faith that He is the only One qualified to be there. He is our source of all things that are necessary for life, both here on this earth and in heaven.
Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, for to You I will pray. - Psalm 5:2
Step 2: Pursue God’s Provision
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
Prayer is not a time to give God our list of personal wants or demands. It’s not an exchange where we take time to talk to Him, on the condition that He is willing to give us the things we want. Prayer is a time to communicate with God and ask Him what He wants from us or for us. The Holy Spirit should be speaking through us, revealing what the Father desires for us. Our prayer should be reflective of the desire the Holy Spirit gives us to see God’s will fulfilled in our lives; to see God’s purposes and plans fulfilled according to His Word, regardless of our personal ambitions.
Something the Lord always wants from us is humility, and repentance from our sins. We should be looking to Him and asking Him to provide for our daily needs – starting with mercy and forgiveness. There are no magic words or phrases that will make our prayers better. The Spirit should provide our words. Our prayer should come by faith as we open our mouths, trusting the Spirit to speak the Father’s will according to His Word, as exemplified by Jesus.
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 6:7
Step 3: Seek God’s Protection
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Finally, our prayers should acknowledge the work God does on our behalf everyday to keep us from hellfire, condemnation, and other spiritual disasters. God has ultimate control over the spiritual threats that come our way, and without Jesus interceding for us, we would stand no chance against these forces. We should see the value in the eternal things of God and hold the hope and promise of eternal life with Him above everything else. Life might seem like the gates of hell have been opened up against us, but that doesn’t have any bearing on the integrity of God’s promise to preserve our souls. This protection should be cherished more than anything else in life! Our goals should be to serve the Lord and glorify His name in everything that we do, trusting that the difficulties we face in this life are preparing us to meet our Creator face to face. We can’t expect to see any spiritual benefits from anything in this life if we don’t have the protection that only God can provide. Proper prayer acknowledges this truth and glorifies God because of it.
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak. – Matthew 26:41