In Luke’s account of “The Lord’s Prayer,” he relates a time when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The disciples knew about prayer. Prayer was a part of the culture of Judaism. They knew about prayer because the disciples of John the Baptist prayed. They also knew John had the reputation of being a prophet of God and was a man of prayer. They saw Jesus as a person close to God and thought that Jesus’ regular habit of prayer must be a key to His relationship with God. They wanted a closer relationship with God and the blessings of that relationship, so they wanted to learn how to pray. Prayer is the fundamental way man relates to (communicates with) God.
Prayer, is a major part of our relationship with God. When we fail to pray, we leave ourselves open to failure in our walk with God. When we fail to pray we do harm to our Christian lives. Failing to pray results from weak faith. Praying demonstrates that I am relying on God to help me through my day. Praying indicates that I believe God cares about me and is active in the world today. Not praying shows a lack of faith and trust in God. No wonder Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. He gave them a prayer to put into practice – a model prayer. We can learn to pray by practicing prayer.
Jesus’ model prayer has some basic elements that we need to identify: A) Praise for God; B) Prayer for the Kingdom; C) Prayer for our daily physical needs; and D) Prayer for spiritual strength and forgiveness. Take a moment to look at these basic elements.
Praise for God. “Father, hallowed be your name.” At the time Jesus taught this prayer, the idea of gods, or God for that matter, as a father-figure was not common. The predominate gods of the Roman culture at that time were those of Roman Mythology. They did not imagine these gods as benevolent and loving fathers, but more like spoiled children who treated humanity like toys. Even the Jews of Jesus’ day would likely see God only as a national Father and not as a personal Father. Compare Luke 11:11-13 to Matthew 7:10-11 and you will see Jesus teaching that God is a personal Father. Prayer realizes that God is not an impersonal deity but He is the Loving Father to His children. When we have a father-child relationship with God our prayers are a natural part of that relationship and our requests for blessing come from understanding the love that such a relationship fosters.
Pray for the Kingdom. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He was also teaching about the coming Kingdom. They were to pray that the Kingdom would come. We learn from the apostle Paul that through Christ God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-14). We need to know that the Kingdom of God exists in the present as Christ’s Church. How then do we pray for the Kingdom today? First, we can pray that others enter the Kingdom. Second, we can pray that the Kingdom (church) stays pure. We can also pray that we live as children of the King in our daily lives as we pray for our daily needs.
Pray for your daily needs. “Give us each day our daily bread.” We rely on God for our physical blessings. Yes, we bake bread or buy bread in the store, but ultimately our daily bread comes from God. God blesses us with the talents we have that provide the bread. God blesses us by the continuation of seed and harvest so that we have grain, vegetables, as well as meat from the animals that also feed on grain. Notice that Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray for daily bread and not daily steak. Praying for our daily needs not only reminds us of our dependency upon God, but also teaches us that nothing is so common or simple that it is beneath God’s concern. When God demonstrates concern over something as simple as our daily bread, why would I think He does not care about more major areas of my life?
Pray for spiritual strength and forgiveness. The Facebook poster said, “Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way all by myself.” That is not what Jesus meant. Jesus is teaching us to pray for strength to face the temptations that come our way daily. Both our daily bread and our daily temptations are both concerns for our heavenly Father. God wants to help us live for Him. Paul tells the Corinthians,
“No temptation is has overtaken you that is not common to man. ‘God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God will work with us for our success, but only if we ask. Prayer taps into God’s power to help us live life consistent with what He knows is best for us here and best to prepare us for eternity.
Pray for Forgiveness. Jesus makes it simple. We forgive because we need forgiveness. I need forgiveness from the people around me when I injure them. I need forgiveness from God for the times I neglect to follow His will. I need to learn the Grace that God offers me and in turn be gracious enough to those around me that I too am forgiving.