Let’s all admit it. Prayer is difficult. That’s why Paul teaches us to labor in prayer. Prayer requires us to be disciplined and focused. This is especially hard in the modern world, where distractions are everywhere.
Nevertheless, Jesus teaches us exactly how to pray. He tells us not to babble on like the pagans do, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Isn’t it interesting that prayer doesn’t have to be long, complicated, and tedious? In fact, Jesus teaches quite the opposite.
He clearly teaches us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. These verses have been known as the Lord’s prayer. As you can see, the first three petitions address God and His holiness and the last four petitions are focused on human needs and concerns. Let’s analyze what Jesus teaches us and how to apply it in our prayer life.
“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.”
Jesus teaches us to begin prayer with Father God. He is the Almighty one. We are to revere and adore His holy name. The word hallowed means holy and awesome.
The Son of God also reminds us that our Father is in heaven. This doesn’t mean He is distant from us. Instead, it shows his placement of authority and His desire to love and guide us. For He is our Father, and our Father is good.
In the next line, Jesus encourages us to pray that God’s kingdom come and His will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. What is the Kingdom of God? I wrote extensively on this subject in a previous article here, but I will just highlight my main point.
The Kingdom of God is a key theme Jesus taught in the New Testament. The word Kingdom appears 162 times and is predominant in the synoptic gospel of Matthew. Oxford scholar R.T. France states:
“Some scholars see it as a Christian lifestyle, some as a method of world evangelization, some as the rediscovery of charismatic gifts, others relate it to no present or future situation, but the world to come.”
I believe the Kingdom of God is a phrase used to describe both the present state in believers and the future state. In theology, scholars call this “the already not yet.”
Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is at hand. He mentions how it is near to all of us. This kingdom is a civilization where God is worshiped and obeyed. As Christians, we are to carry out this great commission by going into all the world and preaching the good news that God saves sinners.
Furthermore, we want God’s will to be done. His will is to save all who call upon His name. The Father’s desire is to share His glory with all of creation. The ultimate desire is to reestablish a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more death, sin, or sadness. Only hope, goodness, and eternal life for all.
In the next part of the prayer, Jesus tells us to ask the Father to give us our daily bread, and forgive those who trespass against us, as we have also forgiven our debtors. What exactly is this daily bread? What does trespass mean?
First, our daily bread is God’s word. It is the manna that came down from heaven. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 4:4 while being tempted by the devil. When the Lord was fasting in the desert, Satan tempted him to turn stone into bread. However, the Son of God said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Moreover, we should ask the Father to forgive us our trespasses or sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If God forgives us of our many sins, we should have the same attitude towards those who sin against us. Do not allow bitterness to harbor in your heart, but be willing to forgive. I wrote an article here on the subject of forgiveness if you want to learn more.
In the last part, Jesus tells us to proclaim, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” First, we know that God does not tempt anyone. James 1:13 states, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
What is happening here is that Jesus is telling us to be on guard for our sinful nature. In other words, we must plead with God to help us avoid temptation and deliver us from evil. 1 Corinthians 10:13 best explains this idea: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
You may have noticed that the last part of the prayer is not included here: “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever.” The reason why is the original Alexandrian text does not include this doxology. It was written later in the didache, a second century text. Either way, it doesn’t change the meaning of the Lord’s prayer. If you want to include this doxology at the end, it still honors the Lord.
I hope this article was helpful in showing you the simplicity of prayer. God has given us the blueprint in His word. He makes the prayer concise, easy to understand, and worshipful. Our focus should always be on God’s Kingdom, that His will be accomplished, and that we are repenting of sin and forgiving others in the process. May the Lord’s prayer help you be more effective in communicating with God. Blessings!