Are you like me? Does your most fervent prayer come when you are in the greatest need? Is it when you wish you were sleeping, but can’t fall asleep? Or maybe it’s when disaster hits you or your family?
Sometimes we just don’t know how to pray. We may set aside time to do it, but when we finally get around to spending time with the Lord, we draw a blank.
Well, I want to encourage you that many of us (in fact, I would say most of us) have faced this challenge. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled with how they should pray. And I think the answer for all of our prayer woes comes from what Christ tells us in Matthew 6.
In verses 5-8, Jesus first warns us and his disciples how not to pray:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, don’t keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
And in verses 9-13, Jesus goes on to give the perfect example of how to pray (you’ve probably heard of it):
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.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Yes, many of us know Matthew 6:9-13 by heart, and for good reason.
The Lord’s Prayer is often seen as a corporate prayer, one that is spoken together in a group of God’s people. But Jesus is also teaching us how to pray individually, too. These are His words to us and for us to pray. And I believe the order of the words in this prayer is just as important as the words themselves.
First, let’s break it down into Christ’s six petitions:
That’s the amazing model of prayer Christ gives us. But look even closer—the prayer begins with God and not with you or me. That’s much different than what may come naturally.
The order of focusing from God to us is no accident. It’s by divine design. Let us always remember that The Lord’s Prayer never starts with “Lord, give me…” No, it begins with God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [holy] be your name.”
And when we look deeper into this prayer, we see how it applies to all prayers we speak before the Lord.
The first three petitions relate to God, the second three to us. The first three are very warm and use the pronoun “you”: “Your name.” “Your kingdom.” “Your will.” And then the second half uses the pronoun “us”: “Give us our daily bread.” “Forgive us our trespasses.” “Lead us not into temptation.” “Deliver us from evil.”
Jesus is teaching us first and foremost to pray God’s agenda, not our own.
The central message of The Lord’s Prayer focuses on praising God and laying our requests before Him. It’s a prayer for heaven and earth to meet. Father, your name be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Father, your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Father, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The most surprising part of the prayer is that Jesus teaches us to speak to God with an imperative voice. Our prayer to God the Father, as Christ Jesus the Son taught us to pray, comes as a sequence of commands, not requests.
Not that human beings—even Christian human beings—are to order God around, yet the language is there. Jesus himself teaches us to speak to the Father boldly, may I say even forcibly.
So as you think about praying and making your requests known to God, doesn’t it make sense that He’s asking you to be bold?
Finally, as you go forward to pray, not just when you’re falling asleep at night or giving a quick plea for help, but when you intentionally make time for God, I’d like to leave you with a simple way to remember how to model our prayers after the way Jesus taught us to pray. Though acrostics may have gone out of stile, one of the best ways I’ve found to model my prayers is to use the word CHRIST to remember how to come before the Lord:
C – Concentrate on the Lord
“Our Father in heaven…”
H – Hallelujah/Praise
“…Hallowed be your name.”
R – Release God’s Kingdom
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
I – “I Am in Need”
“Give us each day our daily bread…”
S – Savior
“Forgive us our trespasses [our sins], as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us [other sinners].”
T – Triumph … Triumph Over Temptation
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
It’s helped me in recent years, and I pray it helps you, too, as you seek to pray the way Jesus taught all of his followers to pray.
That’s not so hard is it?
Charles Morris serves as speaker on the radio program HAVEN Today. Most of the thoughts above are taken from related broadcasts of the program. Corum Hughes serves as editor of this blog and helps coordinate digital media for Haven Ministries. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.