All Christians pray. All Christians want to pray better. But the question is, how do we accomplish this worthy goal? Some believers want it so badly that they do whatever is necessary to grow in their prayer life. Many others have dedicated themselves to deeper prayer but have failed. How can we all succeed in our efforts for a meaningful prayer life? There is a way, not an easy way, for all believers to pray more and better. It is through the tried and tested way of praying the Lord’s prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is a beautiful, powerful and moving prayer. Most people know it by heart. It is very short as prayers go. It is a mere five verses and fifty-two words long in the ESV. Yet, it is weightier than many much longer biblical prayers, as wonderful as they are. Jesus packs a lot into this short prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer from Jesus to his disciples. It was meant to be be prayed by his people. We see God’s people throughout the history of the church praying this prayer both in public and in their private prayers. The prayer can be prayed exactly as Jesus gave it or it can be a templet for ones more lengthy prayers. In other words, it provides us with the kind of things we ought to pray for and in the order we should pray them.
The first thing we find in this model prayer is to whom we are to address our prayers, “Our Father who is in heaven,” Our prayers are directed to God the Father. He is the one who is able and willing to answer them. The Fatherhood of God was a radical idea when Jesus used it. Jesus always referred to God as Father and taught his disciples to do the same. God is the heavenly Father of every believer in Jesus Christ, But how can the holy God be Father to an unholy people? If we know ourselves at all we know we are unholy. Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God, and therefore God was his Father in a unique way. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He is unique in his person and relationship to the Father. So in and through the cross and resurrection of Jesus we become children of God. This is the biblical teaching of adoption. God adopts us into his family through Jesus. Because we are in Christ, God is our heavenly Father.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer we begin by addressing God as Father because of Jesus, but we can also offer prayers to God about the amazing relationship we have with God as our heavenly Father. We can thank God that he is our heavenly Father and what that means to us. In this way we can enter the experiential presence of God as we begin to pray to him.
The Lord’s Prayer is comprised of seven petitions, seven brief petitions, seven nuggets of gold, seven precious gifts from God. A petition is a request made to an authority for a particular action. In prayer petitions are requests we make to God for him to act in certain ways we desire. God answers those requests according to his perfect and sovereign will. But how do we know God’s will? Can we know God’s will? We can by praying these seven petitions Jesus gave us.
The first petition in the Lord’s prayer is in Matthew 6:9, “Hallowed be your name.” This petition is not primarily a statement about who God is, though that is implied in these words. God is holy. It is a request that God’s name, or his person, would be considered holy. Not everyone considers God holy, in fact, most don’t. Therefore the burden of the prayer is that more people would consider God holy and worship him. It is also part of this petition that those who do consider God holy would grow in their love and adoration for him as holy. In fact, we can and should pray that we would consider God holy in a greater and deeper way. We can wrestle in prayer with God concerning what it truly means that God is holy. How is God holy? What does holy mean? How will my life look like as I grow in my understanding and worship of God as holy? Then we can pray for our family and friends by name that they would grow in their worship of God as holy. The possibilities are vast as to all we can pray for in this first petition.
The Bible says many times that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. People who have a true fear of the Lord revere him.They have due reverence for him. God’s being and his person are represented by his name. God’s person is who he is. God is holy. Those who disrespect God’s name have no reverence for him. The highest reverence we can have for God is to consider his name to be holy, to revere him as holy! A profound reverence for God comes through a profound love for him.
The second petition in the Lord’s prayer is in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come.” The central message of Jesus in his earthly ministry was the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God in this fallen and sinful world. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to bring the kingdom of God into the world. Everything he said or did was to that end. Therefore he taught his disciples of all ages of life and of the history of the church, to pray that his kingdom would come. The burden of the request, then, is threefold. First, we pray that more people would enter the kingdom. When we pray this for an unbeliever we are praying that they would trust in Jesus and be saved, thus entering the kingdom of God. It is important that we pray for the lost both individually and collectively.
Because God is not given his due reverence, worship and love, his people are sent on mission. The mission of God is encapsulated in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The basic call is that we are to go make disciples of all nations. The mission of God has been ongoing for nearly two thousand years now. Disciples of Jesus have made disciples who make disciples. God is at work in the world! Therefore we pray that God’s kingdom would come into the lives of people who do not know him.
Second, we can pray this prayer for ourselves and for other believers who have already entered the kingdom that we would experience the kingdom coming into our lives more and more. What we are praying is that we would grow in obedience to King Jesus as Lord and King of our lives. Since Jesus has saved us, we want to grow in obedience to his will. We want the kingdom and the King to reign in our hearts and lives. There is so much we can pray for in this way.
Third, we can pray that the kingdom would come in its ultimate consummation with Jesus’ second coming. The apostle John prayed this at the end of the book of Revelation, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). We do no know when Jesus is coming, but we can pray that it is soon. As we see the world around us becoming more wicked we long for Jesus to come and establish his kingdom of righteousness, truth and goodness in the world. Because we love and revere the Lord Jesus, we want to see more people love and revere him. We want to see more disciples. When we pray this prayer we are motivated to work to that end.
The third petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This petition is closely linked to the second. As the kingdom of God comes more and more in the world, God’s will is done more and more. God’s will is always done perfectly in heaven, but on earth the will of God is often not done. People resist and reject the will of God. So the burden of this request is that people would know and do the will of God as they enter and live in the kingdom of God. Before we can do the will of God we must first know the will of God. We all struggle to know the will of God. When we pray that God’s will be done we are also praying for God to help us know his will. There are so many other ways we can pray this prayer. This petition is only fully realized in the second coming of Jesus.
The fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Here the lord’s Prayer shifts from a God focus: God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will, to a disciples focus. The focus is on the physical needs of Jesus’ disciples. Daily bread can be any physical need we have to carry out the work on God in the world. This is not only a prayer for food, but for health and any other thing we need for life in this world. God supplies his people with everything they need to accomplish his will. Most of the prayer requests we here about are of the daily needs kind. It is a good idea to keep a list of these kind of prayer needs. These are not unimportant, but they are not the only kinds of things we pray for. The burden of this request is that God will provide what his people need to carry out his mission. The mission of God is their heartbeat.
The fifth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” This petition concerns the great need every person has for the forgiveness of their sins. Here sin is considered to be a debt we owe to God. When we sin against someone we incur a relational debt. It is a debt we cannot pay back to God. We must seek his forgiveness of that debt. The other side of this petition is that we must forgive the sin debt we have against others. Jesus challenges us in that the way we forgive others is the same way God forgives us. God practices forgiveness. If we are his children, we will practice forgiveness also. This petition is an opportunity to wrestle with many forgiveness struggles we experience in life. We wrestle with our own sins and the ways we’e been sinned against. The burden of this request is our need for forgiveness and our need to forgive.
The sixth petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:13, “Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation happens in this world. It comes from the world, the flesh and the devil. Temptation does not come from God (James 1:13). So why does Jesus tell us to pray that the Father would not lead us into temptation? God leads his people. The Lord Jesus, as the good shepherd, leads his sheep. We are to pray that as God leads us he would lead us away from sin and help us overcome temptation. This is the battle of spiritual warfare. We all face many temptations every day, yet most of us do not pray this prayer often enough. Jesus reminds us that this is something to take to God in prayer every time we pray. The burden of this request is struggle for victory over the temptations of life.
The seventh petition in the Lord’s Prayer is in Matthew 6:13, “Deliver us from evil.” This petition is closely related to the previous one. We do not want to fall into temptation, which is an ever present possibility, but we want God to deliver us from evil. The text actually reads “the” evil, referring to the evil one, Satan. We need the help of God to overcome the work and deceptive influence of the devil. So we cry out to God in prayer for deliverance. Only he can help us. We can pray this for ourselves and for others. By praying this prayer we show our deep dependence on our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The burden of this request is that the oppressive power and pervasive presence of Satan demands the rescue of God.
These seven petitions can be grouped into four kinds of prayer that we find throughout the Bible. They are the kinds of things that all the prayer warriors of the Bible prayed. The four kinds of prayer divide nicely into two equal groups of two each. The first two focus on God and the second two focus on the people of God. The four kinds of prayer are: (1) The Glory of God, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (2) The Mission of God. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (3) The Physical and Spiritual Needs of Gods People, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. (4) The Spiritual Conflict of God’s People, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer give us a pattern to follow as we pray. They speak to our real needs and our deepest needs. They provide us a way to keep our prayers on track and on point. It is easy to loose concentration or to struggle what to pray. Follow the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer for complete and powerful prayer life. Praying the Lord’s Prayer can radically transform our prayer lives. It is not an easy path to travel, but we can be fruitful in it as we trust the Lord. It will fulfill our deepest need for a closer walk with Jesus.