In Luke 11:1-4 Luke 11:1-4 1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
2 And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
American King James Version×, one of Jesus’ disciples asked that He teach them to pray, and He gave basically the same prayer. Sadly, many have missed His point and recite the wording of this prayer with rote repetition—just as He said not to do.
When Jesus taught that we pray “in this manner” (Matthew 6:9 Matthew 6:9After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
American King James Version×) or said, “When you pray, say …” (Luke 11:2 Luke 11:2And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
American King James Version×), He did not mean that we repeat verbatim His words that followed. Rather, he gave an example of the kind of things to say or an outline of categories to cover.
Looking at the structure, we see that He opens and closes with praise to God and places requests in between. Let’s note the progression:
“Our Father in heaven.”
We are to be mindful of whom we are addressing, the great God of heaven, and that we are privileged to come before Him in a close relationship as His children. The “our” focus here is an outward one of including others.
“Hallowed be your name.”
We express a desire that God’s name and all that it stands for be treated as holy—praised, honored and respected—by all, and especially by us as we express praise and thanks to Him.
“Your kingdom come.”
We express eager support for God’s plan, pleading that His rule over the world come swiftly to set things right—mindful of what is currently wrong in the world. And we personally desire that God would reign in our own lives now. (Note that all the requests of this prayer will find ultimate fulfillment when God’s Kingdom comes.)
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
We ask that all would perfectly obey God just as the angels of heaven do—and that we would seek and obey God’s will in our lives.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
We ask that God provide for our immediate needs—both physical and spiritual. We should ask for others too and not just ourselves. And we should express thanks for what God has already blessed us with. The phrase hearkens back to the “daily bread,” or manna, by which God sustained the ancient Israelites in their 40 years of wandering in the desert wilderness to teach them that they were ultimately reliant completely on Him—a vital lesson for us as well.
“And forgive us our sins [or debts] as we forgive those who sin against us [or who are indebted to us]”
The debt aspect here concerning paying the consequences we deserve. With a repentant attitude, we ask that God forgive us where we’ve done wrong, thankful for His great mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and recognizing that we must have a forgiving attitude toward others who’ve wronged us in some way (Matthew 6:14-15 Matthew 6:14-15 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
American King James Version×).
“And lead us not into temptation [or severe trial].”
We ask that God would help us to learn lessons quickly and do right immediately rather than having to go through chastising hardship and tribulation to get our act together.
“But deliver us from the evil.”
We ask for protection—from harm or calamity as well as malevolence directed against us. We seek deliverance from the evil one —Satan the devil—and His demonic accomplices along with the society they have influenced. And we seek rescue from our own corrupt selves with our selfish nature.
“For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.”
We end our prayers as we began, with praising God. This is a condensed form of David’s praise in 1 Chronicles 29:11 1 Chronicles 29:11Yours, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; your is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.
American King James Version×(see also Psalms 145:10-13 Psalms 145:10-13 10 All your works shall praise you, O LORD; and your saints shall bless you. 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk of your power; 12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
American King James Version×).
This concluding affirmation means “truly” or “so be it.” And in line with Jesus’ instruction that we pray to the Father in His name (John 16:24 John 16:24Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.
American King James Version×; John 16:26 John 16:26At that day you shall ask in my name: and I say not to you, that I will pray the Father for you:
American King James Version×), it is fitting to include before the final amen the phrase “in Jesus’ name” or the equivalent.
Again, we should think of the above parts of the prayer not as exact words to say but as examples of what to say—or even as category headings of subjects to elaborate on. Consider that the incense of God’s tabernacle and temple service in the Old Testament was to figuratively represent the prayers of God’s people (Psalms 141:2 Psalms 141:2Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
American King James Version×; Revelation 5:8 Revelation 5:8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
American King James Version×; Revelation 8:3-4 Revelation 8:3-4 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
American King James Version×). And this incense was to be “beaten fine” (Leviticus 16:12 Leviticus 16:12And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil:
American King James Version×). This seems to symbolize the importance of expressing fine detail in our prayers.
Of course, some prayers will be shorter and others longer—it depends on the circumstances. In any case, we must make time to pray.
Never think that you don’t have anything to pray about. Jesus gave a whole list of subjects here. Also, the Bible contains other prayers providing further examples—including the psalms. And as you consider these passages, you can always pray that God will help you to pray. The words will come.