Prayer is conversing with our Creator. Everyone can do it and should do it. What is breathtakingly inspiring is that God hears, is interested in and answers our prayers! Prayer from those sincerely responsive to God gets results.
God is never asleep or too busy to listen. There is never a bad connection or a bad time. You never get a busy signal, have to leave a message or get put on hold. But how many of us know where to start?
Two gospel passages record what many Bibles in their paragraph headings refer to as The Model Prayer. The passages are almost identical, but the context indicates they may not refer to the same event. It is possible Jesus used the same material on more than one occasion. Luke’s version is in response to the disciples’ request to “teach us to pray,” after they had seen Jesus praying (Luke 11:2-4). Matthew’s account is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which He taught when He was seated on a mountain—apparently with both His disciples and the multitudes (Matthew 5:1-2). It follows Christ’s instruction which is stated three times: “When you pray . . .” (Matthew 6:5-13). Our Savior expects us to pray.
Adapting the model for personal use
Many can recite the model prayer from memory, but is that what God wants? Jesus Christ warned against “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). A Being who designed such diversity and beauty on earth would surely appreciate variety and personal input from His children, rather than words recited by rote.
The model prayer gives an outline to which anyone can add specific needs and requests. It also shows us Whom to address and how to speak to Him.
Matthew 6:9-13 reads: “In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Luke’s version begins “When you pray, say,’ then continues as Matthew’s except it omits the last sentence (which is possibly a paraphrase from part of King David’s last recorded prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:10-11) and the “Amen.”
Of note throughout both versions is the use of the pronouns “our,” “us,” and “we.” The word “our” is unselfish; it shows that our prayer isn’t just about us individually. This fits with Philippians 2:4 which explains that we shouldn’t just be concerned about our own interests, but about the interests of others too. Everyone has needs, worries and challenges.
Addressing the Majesty on high
In the first section of the model, Jesus instructed us to address our prayers to our Father. Praying to our Father reminds us constantly that our relationship with God is a family relationship. Traditionally in a family, the ideal was that the father was the loving head, the protector and provider.
God is the supreme self-existent Being who wishes to be known by and to have a relationship with the human beings He created. God is almighty. Jesus Christ had been with the Father throughout eternity and is also God (John 1:1-3) but He confirmed “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
While God the Father is the One to Whom we are to address our prayers, this does not preclude asking Christ to intercede on our behalf in times of deep distress or urgent need. He is our Advocate, Mediator and High Priest with the Father (1 John 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14- 16). He understands suffering and knows our weaknesses.
Our Father’s “throne” is in heaven. We must always begin our prayers with this humble recognition that we are addressing Almighty God who transcends all physical reality (Isaiah 66:1-2). We should pray with the deepest respect.
“Hallowed” means holy, sanctified, set apart, special. We should feel reverence for and honor our Heavenly Father as holy. In practice we “hallow” God’s name by acknowledging His greatness (Isaiah 40:18, 21-23, 25-26; Psalm 104:1-2: Psalm 8:1-9), by praising and thanking Him (Philippians 4:5-7) and by our obedience (Titus 1:16).
God’s Kingdom and His will on earth
Seeking God’s Kingdom should be an overriding priority in our lives (Matthew 6:33). To this end we can request help to have Christ’s mind in us (Philippians 2:5) and to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We should be mindful of the prophesied end of this age and coming of the next one, and pray for God to hasten that time (Matthew 24:6, 14). We can also pray for the gospel to be preached without hindrance and for the effectiveness of the ministry (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
However, even in this present age, God’s people are said to be transferred or conveyed into the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Colossians 1:13). In other words, they already accept Christ as their king, are striving to be like Him and are subject to the laws of His Kingdom. Christ prayed that He be glorified in those people given Him by His Father, that the Father keep those people in His name, and that they may be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:9-11).
Furthermore, this section of our prayers might include sighing and crying over all the abominations being done in our age (Ezekiel 9:3-4).
Personal needs and requests
We all need physical “bread”—food or sustenance—and other vital necessities simply to stay alive. However, we should not be asking for ourselves alone.
Christ also teaches about the need we all have for spiritual “food.” He stated, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We can look to God and pray to Him about both these needs—for the food we eat and to be continually fed with His Word.
At this point we could also pray about needs such as physical protection, as in Isaiah 37:14-17 where Judah’s King Hezekiah spread out before God a threatening letter he had received and then discussed it in prayer.
Here, too, it would be appropriate to include requests for the sick or those in distress (James 5:13-16), and any other concerns we may have.
Jesus added additional explanation to the next point from His Model Prayer. He explained that we are to for- give everyone indebted to us and we must forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). We may need to ask or even implore God to help us to forgive others from the heart (Matthew 18:35). If the offence were severe, it may take time to come to the point of forgiving the perpetrator; nevertheless, this should be our aim.
Strangely, praying for our “enemies” may assist us in forgiving from the heart as we begin to see their weaknesses and problems which may not be dissimilar to our own (Matthew 5:43-44). For further help please request or download our study guide Forgiveness Is Possible.
Trials and protection from Satan
This request does not mean that we should pray that God will protect us from all trials and tests that may come our way. God knows what He is doing and allows us to encounter some difficulties with the ultimate purpose of building us up spiritually (2 Peter 2:9). Here we can ask for Christ to intercede for additional help to bear the trial, to learn from it what our heavenly Father intends and to have the faith to trust Him.
On the other hand, we should pray specifically for protection from Satan. In His last recorded prayer on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed that His Father would “keep them [all His disciples] from the evil one” (John 17:15). As we approach the end of this age and Satan’s ultimate defeat, we need daily protection from the devil’s deceits and his attempts to destroy us spiritually.
Ending our prayers
Matthew’s version of the Model Prayer indicates we may end our prayers the way we started them with praise and thanks to God. This is a reminder of the immense power and greatness of our Heavenly Father. We should be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). In John 14:12-14, we are told to ask the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son. In or through Christ’s name means in a sense we are letting the Father know that we claim authority to be in His presence, through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Were we not to acknowledge that sacrifice with these words, thus remaining in an unrepentant state, we would have no right to be there.
When we use it in our prayers, “Amen” means “so be it.” When we say it in response to the prayers of others, “Amen” means that we agree with what has been said.
Throughout the day, many of our prayers may be brief or silent but we should also set aside sufficient time for more formal prayers. Christ’s guidelines will help these longer, more detailed prayers remain fresh, vibrant and meaningful. To study the subject of prayer further please read the first chapter of our booklet Tools for Spiritual Growth.