There is no doubt, that as followers of Jesus, prayer is one of the most important spiritual disciplines that we practice in our lives.
Through the practice of prayer, we make time and space in our lives to prioritize our relationship with God. The goal of all prayer is intimacy with God: to know him, walk with him, to grow in our relationship with him and to be in his presence.
But if we are to be completely honest, prayer can sometimes be really hard and difficult. The reality is that for many followers of Jesus, prayer is a weak point in our faith.
We see in Scripture that the disciples of Jesus found prayer hard too, that’s why they came to Jesus asking him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11).
Jesus responds to them by giving them the Lord’s prayer, to help them grow in their prayer life and relationship with God. In the same way, the Lord’s prayer is a guide for us, teaching us how to pray and connect with our Father.
We find the Lord’s prayer recorded in Luke 11v2-4, and in Matthew 6v9-13:
“Pray then like this: “Our Father 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 lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
In his book ‘How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People’, Pete Greig uses the following acronym, together with the Lord’s prayer, to help us grow in prayer:
P – Pause
R – Rejoice
A – Ask
Y – Yield
PAUSE (Our Father in Heaven – Matthew 6v9)
Before you begin in prayer it is helpful to take a moment to slow down, pause, to stop what you are doing, and focus on God, being fully present with him.
In a culture of busyness, fast paced living and impatience this can be hard to do. We often want to rush through the formalities of prayer so that we can get straight down to “business”. But prayer is first and foremost about WHO we are praying to, and not what we are praying about.
Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we are praying to God, our loving Father.
The Father himself is at the heart of prayer, and for many of us that can be a huge barrier in our prayer lives. Perhaps we have had earthly fathers who have hurt us or let us down, polluting our view of God. Maybe we have believed the lie that we are too sinful to be loved by God or to come to him, and so we are trying our best to get our act together before we approach him.
Scripture however tells a completely different story of a God who loved us so much that he sent his one and only son Jesus to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven, and our relationship with him reconciled. God’s sacrifice shows us just how much he loves us and wants to be near to us.
Through Jesus we are given a new identity as children of God. In Jesus we are given full access to God and can confidently approach him in prayer. Praying to our Father daily reminds us of these truths, and of our true identity in him.
REJOICE (Hallowed be Your Name – Matthew 6v9)
To hallow God’s name means to give him honour and glory.
As we focus on God’s glory, we remind ourselves of his characteristics; that he is a faithful, kind, loving, trustworthy, powerful, sovereign and just Father. As we spend time meditating on his attributes and holiness it leads to adoration and worship in our hearts for him, and thanksgiving for what he has done in our lives.
It is a moment to reflect on the incredible privilege we have of knowing this wonderful and mighty God and being able to enjoy his presence. It reminds us that he is worthy of coming first in our lives, and of being honoured and glorified in and through our lives, and all throughout our world.
ASK (Petition and Intercession)
PETITION (Give us This Day Our Daily Bread – Matthew 6v11)
Daily bread in this verse is a representation of our daily needs. Through the Lord’s prayer, Jesus shows us that God invites us to come to him for help with the things that we need, this is our unbelievable privilege as children of God.
We can come to God knowing that He hears our cries, and responds to them. He is not the kind of Father who ignores his children leaving them to fend for themselves. As followers of Jesus we are called to rely and depend on God for his provision in our lives.
However we need to be careful to remind ourselves that the Gospel of Jesus is not a prosperity gospel. As Pete Greig says, “Daily bread means daily bread. Nutella cannot be guaranteed.” God is incredibly generous with us, and has blessed us profoundly in Jesus and in many other ways, but we have no right to demand or insist upon God giving us our every want and desire, or to become angry with him when he doesn’t.
INTERCESSION (Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven – Matthew 6v10)
Intercession is praying on behalf of other people, places and nations. It is a way for us to love and serve people and our world, and to partner with God in his mission to see all things made new.
Richard Foster says: “if we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them and this will lead us to prayer. Intercession is a way of loving others.”
As we reflect on people’s lives and the world around us we soon realise that things are not as they should be, and that we are in desperate need of God’s renewal, restoration and redemption.
When we pray for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth as it is in heaven we are praying that God’s power would come and make all things new according to his Kingdom principals.
We may at times wonder if our prayers make a difference. Against the sheer scale of the world’s problems we can sometimes feel like our prayers are futile at best and foolish at worst. But all throughout Scripture we see that when God’s people humbly come before him in prayer, circumstances and situations change.
In James 5v16-18 we read: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
As we partner with God in prayer, we can come before him expectantly, knowing that prayer is powerful, and that our prayers make a difference.
As we yield to God, we say yes to his will and his ways, surrendering our will to his.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us four different ways that we can yield to God in prayer:
Matthew 6v10: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”.
Here we are yielding our will to God’s will. We are putting God and his ways first in our lives and praying that his will would be done in our world. Until the day that Jesus returns there will always be sin and brokenness and other wills at play in the world. But this prayer reminds us that Jesus is our King and that our mission is to see his Kingdom advance; first in our hearts and lives, and then through us into the world around us.
In the areas where we are battling to surrender our will to God’s, we can come to him with these struggles, and ask for the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome them.
Matthew 6v11: “Give us this day our daily bread”.
When Jesus makes reference to daily bread, he is not only talking about our physical needs but also our spiritual need for God and his word.
In Matthew 4v4 Jesus says: “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.
In prayer we come to God and yield our lives to his voice and to his words spoken to us through Scripture. Prayer is a two-way conversation where we speak to God and God speaks to us, just like any other healthy relationship.
Each one of us can learn to discern and recognize God’s voice for ourselves through prayer and meditating on God’s word.
Matthew 6v12: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”.
We yield to God’s holiness and his ways through the practice of confession, repentance and forgiveness.
Here we bring our sins before God and ask for his forgiveness, and his help and power to overcome the things in our lives that stand against God and his Kingdom.
We can also ask for his grace to help us forgive the people who have sinned against us. He is a God of reconciliation. If we want to see God’s Kingdom come on Earth we cannot separate that from God’s radical call to forgive those who sin against us.
Matthew 6v13: “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.
We yield to God’s power and authority by asking him to deliver us from evil.
We pray against the influence of Satan, who is our enemy and adversary, and his will in our lives, as well as the influence the world has over us, and the weakness of our own flesh into temptation.
This is the beautiful guide Jesus has given us so that we can learn how to pray like him.
The big idea here isn’t having to pray specifically in this structure, but instead to use it as a framework in our prayer lives.
Praying through the Lord’s prayer might sometimes be brief only taking us a few minutes, and other times we may want to spend more time going through it slowly, line by line.
All that really matters is that we create space in our lives to prioritize God’s presence and our relationship with him. He doesn’t expect us to get prayer perfect, and he isn’t marking us on how well we pray either. He just wants to be with us.
The God who created you loves you and wants to spend time with you. He longs to walk through life with you, and for his relationship with you to grow in intimacy. He loves it when we come to him in prayer.