Pray Like Jesus
I was at the funeral of a friend of a friend. It was someone I didn’t know well, and someone who died too soon. We were in a church I had never been to before; traditional hard pews, and a pipe organ in the back of the balcony. The minister spoke a few words, and some of the family spoke as well. It’s wasn’t an overly ‘religious’ type of service, but one meant to celebrate the life of someone who was loved by family. And at the end of the service, the minister asked us all to recite the Lord’s Prayer together. (Some may call it the “Our Father”.) Regardless of our church affiliation – or no affiliation at all – we all knew what to do. We were to speak out loud the passage in the Bible found in Matthew 6:9-13.
We all started out in full voice together… “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” And then the voices get a bit quieter, and a bit more unclear, as some of us get a little tangled up in the middle. But as the final line of the passage is spoken, we all finish strong with “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Whew! Made it through.
Have you been there? Like me, have you recited the Lord’s Prayer, going through the motions, not paying attention to the meaning, just trying to get the words right? Some of us recite the Lord’s Prayer in church every Sunday. And I wonder, if we are mindlessly going through the motions, saying the words without really considering what they mean. Don’t get me wrong, repetition can be good. It can help us slow down and remind us of something important. Communion reminds us of the sacrifice Christ made for each of us on the cross. It is done in a specific, prescribed way so that we take the time to remember the cost of our salvation and the price that was paid on our behalf.
Well, Jesus never intended his prayer to be something we mindlessly recite; something we use to go through the motions of prayer. Jesus intended his words to be a model for us to use as we pray. If we take the prayer in context (which we should ALWAYS do with Scripture), we should start back in chapter 5 where Jesus is teaching his disciples about all sorts of things. He describes the types of people who will be in heaven. He explains how to live as an example to the unsaved, he teaches them how to live their daily lives in areas such as marriage, relationships (good and bad) and business. And in chapter 6 he continues to teach, this time on how to pray.
Jesus explains that we should pray private, personal prayers. Our prayers should not be for show or to impress other people. They are our conversation with our personal God who already knows what we need even before we ask. (This should be a great relief to those of us who don’t love to pray out loud.) That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for spoken prayers. Jesus is saying that it’s not about using fancy words, perfect grammar and getting it just right. Incomplete sentences are OK. Short prayers are OK. Even one word prayers are OK at times. It’s not about impressing others around you who are listening to your prayer. Praying to God is about conversation.
Jesus’ Model of Prayer
Jesus didn’t say, “These are the exact words I want you to say when you pray.” Instead, Jesus says, pray “in this manner”, “this is how you should pray”, “pray like this” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus was giving us a model, a template, to be imitated. As I began to think about this, I began to wonder what exactly Jesus was trying to say to the Father in his prayer, and how would I say it if I was to pray in the manner Jesus prayed.
In order to pray like Jesus, I need to understand the prayer better. So, I broke the prayer into six sections, and examined each one:
1. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”
This section is about worshiping our personal Father in heaven. “Hallowed” means holy, sacred, blessed, revered, honored, worshiped, or divine. Jesus is worshiping his Father in heaven in his own words. And that’s where we also begin: calling him by one of his many names or descriptors, and worshiping God for who he is and what he means to us. These are words of worship and praise.
An example might be, “Loving, merciful, gracious God, You have been so good to me. You are more than I deserve, but all I need.” What are some worshipful names for God that you would use?
2. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In this portion of the prayer, Jesus surrenders himself and his will to the Father. He’s acknowledging that God is in control of everything in heaven and on earth. He is welcoming and asking for God’s will to be done in His life, and trusting that God’s ways are better than His earthly desires.
What would this look like if you prayed this in your own life? For me, I would pray “Lord, I trust you and I know that you always have my best interest in mind. No matter what happens today, or what difficult situations I am faced with, have your way in them and in me. Use your perfect will to change me into the woman you have called me to be.”
3. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Jesus is presenting His requests to God. Notice that he is praying only for what he needs TODAY. These are both physical needs, but especially spiritual needs. When we pray this way, we don’t need to worry about the future, and what may happen… we can focus on our needs to get through today and pray for tomorrow’s needs tomorrow.
Take a minute and thing about the things you need today. The financial, the emotional, the spiritual. For me today, I would pray, “Lord, today I am asking you to quiet my soul. I am worried and I ask for your peace that passes all understanding as I go through this day.”
4. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
‘Debts’ are our sins, offenses; the wrong things we have done and that others have done to us. Jesus is instructing us to ask for forgiveness assuming that we are offering forgiveness to others. This is where we repent of our sins and ask God to soften our hearts and help us forgive the people in our lives who have wronged us. If we have an unforgiving heart toward others, we can’t possibly begin to understand the cost or the value of the forgiveness given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. And when we begin to TRULY understand the cost and the magnitude of the forgiveness we have received, we will be quicker to forgive others. When we are able to forgive others, it is only then that we can begin to understand how remarkable the gift of God’s forgiveness is. To ask God to forgive us our sins, if we are unforgiving toward someone else who has wronged us is hypocritical. (Take a look at the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 for an example of one who has received forgiveness but is unwilling to forgive others.) As we all know, this ability to forgive might not be immediate, it may take some time. When we strive to forgive, and pray for God’s help to forgive others, God begins a work in our hearts that we can not achieve alone.
Take a minute to think about unforgiveness in your own life. Is there someone you need to forgive? And then consider the incredible forgiveness that you have been given by Jesus. How does God’s forgiveness toward you change your desire to forgive others? Take some time to pray about this, asking God to help you in your unforgiveness and to forgive you.
5. “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
In this section Jesus reminds us to pray for spiritual protection for ourselves and those around us. Satan is trying to tempt us into sin at every turn. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 But God is the source of all spiritual help. Ask Him to protect your marriage, ministry, children, home, job, mind, etc… from Satan. Ask Him to help you recognize the lies and temptation of the enemy. Ask Him to help you abide in Him and to provide ways out of temptation.
6. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Jesus closes His prayer with an eternal focus. He is acknowledging that the earthly things will pass away, but it is only the things we do for the Lord that will last. Ask God to help you have a Heavenly perspective as you go through your day, and to focus less on the material things that don’t matter in the long run.
Your Turn to Pray
Now that we’ve walked though what the Lord’s Prayer actually means, we can begin to pray this way ourselves. It’s not hard. It may take some thought, especially the first time, but guess what? God won’t judge us if we don’t get it exactly right. You could just pray one section. You could skip around. You could even pray it out of order. Who says you have to pray the whole thing at the same time? You could use different words each time (I hope you will personalize your prayer each time you pray.) There’s no right or wrong way to pray to God as long as we come to Him with an honest, loving heart. Each of these components is good. Each of them will help us see God in his rightful place. They will help us see more clearly that apart from Him, we can do nothing. They will help us draw closer to Him. And isn’t that really why we pray; to feel closer to our God, to hear from our God, to pour our hearts out to God when there’s no one else who understands in exactly the same way? To have relationship with God?
So friend, I challenge you. Find a few minutes out of your day and tackle ONE of these sections and practice praying like Jesus. If you haven’t already done it, download your Prayer Journal. There are lots of good things in the journal to help you develop you stretch your prayer life. In the section called “Learning To Pray Like Jesus” we walk you through each step of the Lord’s Prayer and prompt you to write each section in your own words. Choose any one of the sections and just start. Read the description of the section then begin writing down your own prayer in your own words, modeled after Jesus. I promise you, you will leave your prayer time feeling closer to God. How can we miss when we pray like Jesus?
Just to help you get motivated, here is one of my prayers in my own words, modeled after The Lord’s Prayer.
- “Loving, merciful, gracious God, You have been so good to me. You are more than I deserve, but all I need.
- Lord, I trust you and I know that you always have my best interest in mind. No matter what happens today, or what difficult situations I am faced with, have your way in them and in me. Use your perfect will to change me into the woman you have called me to be.
- Lord, today I am asking you to quiet my soul. I am worried and I ask for your peace that passes all understanding as I go through this day.
- Lord, I am having trouble forgiving Mary for the way she spoke to me. I ask you to help me in my unforgiveness and please forgive me for my hard heart. Soften my heart toward Mary. Help me to forgive her just as you have forgiven me.
- Lord, I ask you to protect my family today. Protect my sons and my husband from the temptations that surround them as men and may they seek the way out that you always provide. Protect my marriage from the temptations of business, isolation and pride. May we all draw close to you, the source of our help.
- As I go through this day today, help me to remember that you are the one I serve. Help me to not get caught up in the distractions of this world, but to focus on the tasks that you put in my path to further your kingdom. May you be honored and glorified by all that I do and say today. Amen.”
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Here are some items I LOVE to help remind me to pray… (affiliate link)