Prayer is one of two daily spiritual practices that are key to keeping spiritually fit. We learned in our last post that prayer is a two-way conversation with God that involves both listening and speaking. We already covered silence as the listening aspect of prayer, this week we will look at our part of the conversation.
The question is: What do we say when we speak with God? This was the very question on the minds of Jesus’ disciples when they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Fortunately, Jesus gave them (and us) an answer, it is called The Lord’s Prayer. Here is the version found in Matthew 6:9-13:
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
The Lord’s Prayer is more than a prayer that we recite in unison as a church. It is, as Scot Mcknight points out in his book, The Jesus Creed, how we live Jesus’ Great Commandment through prayer. Let me explain.
A teacher once asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied with two: “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind …  Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 29) Scot McKnight points out that Jesus’ prayer is rooted in these two commandments. If you examine the Lord’s Prayer closely, you will notice that it follows the same pattern.
The first half of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what it looks like to love God with everything we have through prayer:
- Because we love our heavenly Father, we want him to be loved, honored and worshipped by all people. That is what we are saying when we pray, “hallowed be your name.” May your name be honored and reverenced in a way that you deserve.
- Because we love our heavenly Father, we want what he wants. We surrender to his will. And what is God’s will for our world? That his kingdom, which is fully established in heaven, might make its home on earth. And so we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The second half of the Lord’s prayer teaches us how to love our neighbor as ourselves through prayer. Notice the pronouns in Matthew 6:11-13. It is never “me”, “I” or “my”, but always “us”, “we” and “our”. We don’t pray for my daily bread, but our daily bread. We are not asking for forgiveness only for ourselves, but for the community also. We don’t pray, “deliver me from temptation” only, but also, “help my friend, help my neighbor be freed from temptation.” The Lord’s Prayer does not ignore our personal needs, but it does teach us that prayer is incomplete without concern for our neighbor. Nor is prayer complete when we neglect to pray for ourselves.
And so, because we love our neighbor as ourselves, we pray for:
- What we need to get through the end of the day. The image of daily bread recalls Israel’s experience in the wilderness where God provided them with manna (bread) just enough for one day. The next day, God did it again. He wants us to trust him for our daily needs and we express that trust by praying for our daily bread.
- We ask God to forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. These can’t be separated. Either we embrace the forgiveness of all sins or we place ourselves under God’s judgment. We pray for this for ourselves, but when we pray this for others, we are often asking for their salvation – that they would embrace God’s forgiveness that is offered through Jesus and that this experience of forgiveness will inspire them to forgive others.
- We ask God to protect us from the evil in our world and from the evil that lurks inside of us. Each of us has particular temptations that we are vulnerable to, and we should not be blind to the fact that there is real evil in the world seeking to destroy us.
So, how do we respond to God after listening to him in silence? Pray the Lord’s Prayer as an outline:
- Worship. Tell God why you love him. Pray that others will experience him so that they can worship him too.
- Surrender. Pray that God will accomplish his will in you and in the world today. Surrender to what God wants before you launch into your prayer requests.
- Daily Needs. Pray for what you need to get through the day. Pray for the daily needs of the people in your life that God brings to mind.
- Forgiveness. Repent of your sins and ask God to forgive you as you let go of the wrongs that have been committed against you. Pray for those in your life that don’t yet follow Jesus. Pray that they might put their faith in Jesus Christ and receive God’s forgiveness. Pray also that the experience of God’s forgiveness will inspire them to forgive others.
- Protection. Ask God to protect you from the temptations and weaknesses and from the work of the evil one. Think about the people in your life and how they might need God’s protection also. Pray that God will rescue them as well.
May God bless your conversations with him, as you listen to him (Silence) and respond by praying the Lord’s Prayer.