How Does One Pray?

Samuel Smith



You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

In this edition, we continue with our series on Biblical Perspectives on Prayer and Fasting. The topic for this study is: How Does One Pray? There are numerous forms of prayer in the various religions of the world. In Christianity alone, diverse forms of prayer abound. Usually, new converts to the Christian faith have pondered over the question: "Is there a form of prayer that I can safely follow to communicate appropriately to the Almighty God?" Thankfully, the Holy Bible does not leave us in doubt. The Bible provides several examples of appropriate forms of prayer by God's people from which we can learn to communicate with God ourselves (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-17; Nehemiah 9:1-6; Daniel 9:3-19; Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4; John 17:1-26; Acts 4:24-31).

Amidst the several examples of model prayers in Scripture, one particular type stands above them all. This format of prayer is usually referred to as the Lord's Prayer in Christendom. From the gospel of Luke, we learn that as Jesus finished praying in a certain place, one of His disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples (Luke 11:1). From the parallel account of this story in the gospel of Matthew, we read the following response of Christ in relation to the above question: "6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

6:10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.

6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

(Matthew 6:9-13; see also Luke 11:1-4)
In these poignant words, Christ relayed to the disciples how they ought to pray. And right from the time of the early disciples, many of God's people have recited this prayer at church meetings and in their private homes. Even though this format of the Lord's prayer continues to be used extensively in Christendom, many have come to appreciate the point that through the Lord's prayer, Christ basically provided us with a pattern of prayer instead of a set of words to follow rigidly at all times.

Many Bible expositors have tried to expound on this beautiful treatise of prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. Some have noted that just as the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3-17;Mark 12:30, 31), the Lord's Prayer can also be categorised into two main sections. The first section (Matthew 6:9, 10) deals with our relationship with God while the second section (Matthew 6:11-13) deals with our relationship with our fellow man. From this main grouping, we can categorise the Lord's Prayer into about eleven different segments. Under each segment, we will allow the Bible to lead us as we strive to learn the deeper meaning of Christ's words in this popular Christian prayer:


Several times in Scripture, Jesus had utilised the affectionate word 'Father' in His own prayers (John 11:41, 42; John 17:1-26). In this model prayer, He assures the disciples that the God of heaven is their Father too. The phrase "Our Father" is a recognition that the Creator God is our first Parent and it is unto Him that we owe our highest allegiance (1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14). From this important point, it becomes clear that the human race are actually brothers and sisters who originate from the same eternal Father (see Acts 17:26). This portion of the Lord's Prayer helps us to view and treat other humans as family and not strangers.

Moreover, even though sin had marred the original relationship we had with God, through Christ heaven and earth are now bound by a family tie that will grow stronger until the day the race of Adam behold the face of their heavenly Father (see 1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:1-4). In perfect joy, the apostle John declared the following concerning the relationship that now exists between us and God because of Christ: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (1 John 3:1).


In utilising the phrase "which art in heaven", Jesus sought to differentiate the Creator God from our carnal human fathers. Many are those who abhor the concept of fatherhood due to their own negative experiences with their earthly fathers. In this model prayer, Jesus helps all such to understand that their fathers on earth may have disappointed them in so many ways, yet they can trust in the goodness of their heavenly Father (Psalm 145:9; Matthew 5:44, 45). Unlike earthly fathers that may have several weaknesses, the Bible describes God the Father as a God who is full of love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8, 16)), mercy (Psalm 103:13; Ephesians 2:4), compassion (Psalm 86:15; Psalm 145:8, 9), forgiveness (Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9) and justice (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; Jeremiah 9:24).

Moreover, even though the concept of "Our Father" describes a close parent child relationship that we have with God, yet the adjectival phrase "which art in heaven" points to the reality that we are separated from Him. The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that it is our iniquities that have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Even though our own sins had created a great physical gulf between us and God, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for mankind had brought peace between us and God (Colossians 1:19, 20). His cross now serves as the bridge that links us up to heaven (John 3:14-16). Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the distance that had separated us from our loving heavenly Father will soon be removed, and the human race will forever dwell in the bosom of their eternal Father (Revelation 21:1-5; Revelation 22:1-5).


This portion of the Lord's Prayer deals with the holy name of God. As we come to God in prayer, we must hallow His holy name. We do this in two main ways. First, we must have respect for the name of God. We must not mention or use it anyhow as the worldlings do (Exodus 20:7), let alone utilise the name of God in jokes or profanity as the pagans do (Romans 2:24). As our relationship with God deepens, we must be careful not to take His holy name for granted; for the One we come to in prayer is not our colleague but the supreme Monarch of the universe. Before Him falls thousands and ten thousands of unfallen beings in worship, adoration and praise (see Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 5:11-14; Revelation 7:11, 12).

Second, we must be careful not to indulge in negative behaviour that will bring God's name into disrepute. When we seal our commitment to God through baptism, we tell the whole world that we are now children of God (see Acts 2:37, 38; Acts 22:16). What this actually means is that we begin to represent God on earth as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). As ambassadors of God, whatever we do have consequences for the name of God. When we live a holy life, the name of God is adored and praised in the community in which we live. Nevertheless, when we live a life of disobedience to the commandments of God, we desecrate the name of God in the community in which we live (see 2 Samuel 12:13, 14).


This portion of the Lord's Prayer is our petition for God to hasten His universal kingdom wherein will dwell righteousness (see Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:27; 2 Peter 3:13). Sin had cut short the perfect plan of God for the human race. When our first parents decided to obey Satan rather than God, the dominion of our planet was hijacked by Satan (see Romans 6:16; Luke 4:5, 6). Our earth became a planet in rebellion. However, God did not leave us to our fate. He sent Jesus to come and die so all who believe in Him will have eternal life (John 3:14-16; John 3:35, 36). Through Jesus, God will soon set up His kingdom once again upon earth where there will be love, joy and peace throughout the length and breadth of the entire land (see Revelation 21:1-5; Revelation 22:1-5).

Yet now, as we come to believe in Jesus and follow Him day by day, the coming kingdom of God is born in our hearts (Luke 17:20, 21). Even though this experience does not remove us from a sinful planet, we discover that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is shed abroad in our hearts (Philippians 4:7). As our relationship with God deepens, we begin to experience heaven on earth as we hope and pray for this ultimate fulfilment of the physical kingdom of God: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Daniel 7:27).


In the present time, God's will is perfectly done in heaven (Matthew 6:10). But on the earth, it is an entirely different story. The seed of disobedience which was sown in Eden has grown beyond imaginable limits (Genesis 3:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:1-5). Yet God has not given up on mankind. Through the atoning death of His dear Son, He is able to convert the will of wicked men to be in conformity to His own will (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21, 22). This He does through the preaching of the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15, 16; Romans 10:13-15). My dear friend, it does not matter how hard you think your heart has become, God is able to make your heart soft and willing to heed His will (Romans 2:4). Even though God knows His will is the best option for you, He will not force it on you (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20; Revelation 3:20). He wants you to choose by yourself to surrender your will unto Him as you hear His voice speaking to your heart through the entreaties of the Holy Spirit (see Joshua 24:15).

This portion of the Lord's Prayer will one day make true the promise that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). When Jesus comes the second time, and God finally sets up His eternal kingdom on the earth, the saints will lovingly obey the will of God for all eternity. From the East to the West and from the North to the South, there will not be a taint of discord to mar the beauty of the perfect law of God on the Earth (see Isaiah 66:22, 23; 2 Peter 3:13). At this point in the history of man, God's will, will finally be done in the Earth, as it is in heaven (review Matthew 6:10). Jesus will reign with the redeemed for all eternity in a brand new world where there will be no more sin, sorrow and death (review Revelation 21:1-5; Revelation 22:1-5).


This portion of the Lord's Prayer is a request for God to supply our basic needs for survival. Even though the text specific mentions bread, this prayer basically includes other necessities of life such as air, water and clothing. "Give us this day" suggests that we must be dependent on God each day for the basic necessities of life. Just as God made the Israelites to depend on His providence for food one day at a time in the wilderness (see Exodus 16:15-21), so does He expect that we rely on Him daily for our basic needs.

However, many of God's people have enough provisions of basic necessities stored up for several months to the extent that they forget that it is God who provides for them one day at a time. Sometimes, when everything is going on well and there is enough stored for several months, we tend to think that it is our own efforts that provides us with bread and the other necessities of life. We tend to spend little time in asking for God to provide for us, and spend even far less time in thanking and praising Him for providing our basic necessities daily.

In storing basic provisions for several months, we hoard the blessings that God has provided us for the benefit of others. One satanic concept that has gained roots among God's people is the concept of being financially independent. Friends, this concept of financial independence is a humanistic concept which is against the clear teaching of Scripture. Whiles the Lord wants us to be dependent on Him one day at a time for our daily needs (review Matthew 6:11), Satan leads many through this philosophy to selfishly hoard the blessings of God which are meant to alleviate the suffering of others.

Through this portion of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus challenges His people to put away the sin of trying to be financially independent, and rather depend on the providence of the Almighty God even one day at a time. For there are rich lessons of faith that God desires to teach us but can never provide this teaching unless we become dependent upon Him. Leaning upon God one day at a time does not mean we must not work hard and make the necessary money to take care of ourselves, family, the poor and God's business. The concept basically is that as God blesses our work and provides us with means, we must not hang on to them. We must rather be channels of grace through whom God can trust to bless more and more of His children.


The Scripture plainly declares that "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23; see also Romans 5:12). What this plain scriptural teaching means is that we are all in need of the forgiving grace of God. And so as we come to God in prayer, we must ask for His forgiveness. We must be embarrassingly specific in confessing the sins we have committed to God. As we confess our sins with a remorseful heart, the Lord is going to forgive us. Several promises of forgiveness abound in God's Word. From the beloved apostle, we read the following precious promise about God's forgiveness: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9; see also Isaiah 1:18).

This portion of the Lord's Prayer has a condition attached to it. The full text basically states: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Moreover, it is the only part of the Lord's Prayer that Christ Himself commented on. After delivering the entire prayer, Jesus spent time to comment on the conditions of God's forgiveness for His children. From Matthew 6:14, 15, we read the following commentary from Christ's own lips: "14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14, 15). This condition of forgiveness set forth by Christ is so clear as light from darkness. If we ever desire to be offered forgiveness for the sins we have committed against God, then God expects that we willingly forgive those who have sinned against us.

Someone may say, "Well, this is easier said than done". And of course that it is true. If you have to forgive someone who just stepped on your toes in a queue, that basically wouldn't be an issue. But then if you have to forgive someone who has used you, molested you, persecuted you, and left scars in your life that can never go away then that's another thing. Just as Jesus requested for grace from on high to do the will of God in Gethsemane, so He expects that we seek grace from on high in prayer to be able to forgive those who have hurt us beyond our willingness to forgive. When you come to God and tell Him, Father, you know very well what Mr. A has done to me. You know how I hate him, and don't want to forgive him. But based on your words in Scripture, based on the conditions of forgiveness you have given me, I want you to help me to forgive Him. Father please help me to forgive Him. As you pray and cry out your heart of pain to God, Our loving Father will give you the desire and strength to forgive no matter the hurt and pain you are going through.

We must always bear in mind that God's condition of forgiveness for us is the same irrespective of the hurt we have gone through because of someone. When we take our eyes from those that we are struggling to forgive and look at the cross of Calvary where the Son of God died, we can understand better God's condition of forgiveness for us. We will come to understand that it was because of our sins that God's Son was crucified and died an ignominious death on a cross. When we behold the Lamb of God on Calvary's cross and see Him carrying the penalty that we ought to have paid ourselves, we will yield quickly to go out and offer forgiveness to whoever has wronged us. For we will come to understand that we ourselves deserve more grace for our numerous sins than the person we are withholding forgiveness from. As we follow the command of Christ to forgive those who have wronged us, there will flush into our hearts a sense of peace and joy that come only from the Holy Spirit.


Through this portion of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus makes it clear that we must intentionally ask God for strength to resist temptation. Just as Satan tempted our mother Eve to sin against God in the paradise of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6), so is he still on our tracks today to lead us to transgress the commandments of God (see Matthew 24:4, 5, 11, 24; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 4:14). It is important for us to note that after the fall, the will of man to overcome temptation was weakened. Our only safety to overcome the tempting allurements of sin from the devil is consistent prayer (Matthew 26:41).

Before we step out from our home to pursue the various activities of the day, we must humble our hearts before God, asking Him to lead us not into temptation. We must seek for His strength to overcome every temptation that the enemy has designed to lead our souls into sin, and away from our Maker. Those of us who are living in this 21st century need to say more of this prayer than the generations that have come before us. For our culture has become so permissive of sin that sin is no more regarded as something negative that is to be abhorred.

On the internet and social media platforms today are all forms of immorality that many have come to accept as the norm of the day. But we must not forget the fact that in as much as the world has lowered her standards to embrace sin in all its forms, our God is still the same yesterday, today, and forever (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:18). He expects us to live a life of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15, 16) through the strength that He is willing to provide us every morning, as we spend time with Him in our closets, repeating the plea "lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13).


The Bible paints a picture of Satan as a roaring lion who walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Christ described this adversary as a thief who cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). The truth of the matter is that we are living in a world that is full of evil because of the devil (see Matthew 13:24-30). This portion of the Lord's Prayer is a request for God to deliver us from the evil in this world. When we pray and commit our lives into the hands of God, He takes it upon Himself to protect us from the evil one.

The Bible is filled with several promises about how God has pledged to protect those who put their trust in Him. From the psalmist, we read that "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7; see also Psalm 91:11). Concerning the righteous Job, Satan confessed the following important truth: "9 ... Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?" (Job 1:9, 10).

Even though God has pledged His protection upon His people, sometimes in the arguments that border on the faithfulness of His children in the great controversy battle, He may allow Satan to bring evil upon them (see Job 1, 2). But even in such cases, the Lord has the good end of His people in view. The story of Job is a perfect example of the limits that God places on Satan in relation to those who trust in Him. Thus, we can be sure that when we commit ourselves to God in prayer each morning, we will have the companionship of holy angels who will protect us from the evil that the enemy of souls has set on our pathway.


As we conclude our prayer to God, we affirm His sovereignty, omnipotence and exceeding glory through the words: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever" (Matthew 6:13).

KINGDOM -- We affirm to God our belief that the kingdom of this world belongs to Him (see Deuteronomy 10:14). Even though Satan has usurped the dominion from Adam (see Genesis 1:26-28; Romans 6:16; Luke 4:5, 6; John 12:31), our God will soon take back that dominion, and establish an eternal kingdom based on righteousness (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:27; 2 Peter 3:13).

POWER -- We end our prayer with implicit trust in the omnipotent nature of our heavenly Father -- the God who has encouraged us that there is nothing too hard for Him to accomplish (see Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27).

GLORY -- As we conclude our prayers, we begin to give God the glory for what He is about to do in our lives. In a state of expectancy, we claim the promise: "And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:15).

11) AMEN

The word 'Amen' literally means let it be so. It is a plea to God to answer the petitions that we have put before Him. Moreover, the word 'Amen' is also the name of Christ. From the beloved apostle, we read the following in relation to this point: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (Revelation 13:14). In this portion of the Lord's Prayer, we discover how we must pray to the Father through the name of Jesus.

Jesus made this point very clear when He made the following statements: "13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13, 14). Friends, you and I have the privilege to appear boldly before the Most High God because of what Jesus has done for us (see Hebrews 4:14-16). Thus, as we bring our prayers to a close, we utilise the word 'Amen' in reverence, trusting that our heavenly Father will answer our petitions according to His own good will in Christ Jesus concerning us (1 John 5:14).

Friends, earlier on in this study, we noted that the Lord's Prayer is divided into two broad segments; the first portion dealing with our relationship with God (review Matthew 6:9, 10), and the second portion dealing with our relationship with our fellow man (review Matthew 6:11-13). What this means is that in our prayers, we should first pray on issues directly related to God before the ones that relates to ourselves and others. Many have found the following pattern of prayer derived from the Lord's Prayer to be appropriate:

*praising and thanking God;

*asking for God's forgiveness;

*asking for the Holy Spirit;

*praying for others;

*praying on personal issues;

*accepting the will of God to be done in our prayers;

* and praying in the name of Jesus with thanksgiving and praise.

Exhortation: From what we have gone through so far, it is clear that the Lord's Prayer is a model prayer that is filled with several key spiritual lessons for our Christian walk and maturity. The following words from an anonymous author challenges us to review our lifestyle whenever we say the Lord's Prayer: "I cannot say ‘our’ if I live only for myself. I cannot say ‘Father’ if I do not endeavor each day to act like his child. I cannot say ‘who art in heaven’ if I’m laying up no treasures there. I cannot say ‘hallowed be thy name’ if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say ‘thy kingdom come’ if I’m not seeking to hasten the blessed hope. I cannot say ‘thy will be done’ if I am disobedient to his word. I cannot say ‘in earth as it is in heaven’ if I’ll not serve him here and now. I cannot say ‘give us this day our daily bread’ if I am selfishly hoarding for the fu-ture. I cannot say ‘forgive us our debts’ if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say ‘lead us not into temptation’ if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say ‘deliver us from evil’ if I do not long for holiness. I cannot say ‘thine is the kingdom’ if I do not give Jesus the throne of my heart. I cannot attribute to him ‘the power’ if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to him ‘the glory’ if I’m seeking for my own honor. I cannot say ‘forever’ if I’m living only for temporary earthly rewards." In our next study, we will consider the topic: What is the Correct Posture to Assume in Prayer? The Bible Study references for this study are Deuteronomy 9:24-29, Daniel 6:10, Mark 11:25, 1 Chronicles 17:16-26 and Psalm 63:6. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.

Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.


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