How’s your prayer life? Some would answer, “What prayer life? I don’t have a prayer life. I’m too busy!” Yes, we are all quite busy, but is that a legitimate excuse? Several years ago, a good friend of mine passed on a phrase that his father used to tell him: “You make time for what you value most.”
What do we value most? If what we value most is a relationship with God, our Father in heaven, then we will set aside regular time during each day to pray to Him.
David was king over the entire nation of Israel. Can we even imagine all the responsibilities that came with the job? Still, he prayed to God morning, noon and evening (Psalms 55:17 Psalms 55:17Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
American King James Version×). Daniel, one of the chief advisers to the Persian governor of Babylonia, found time in his busy schedule to do the same (Daniel 6:10 Daniel 6:10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
American King James Version×). Both men placed God first in their lives, in spite of their many commitments. Their examples leave us without excuse.
Others might say, “But I don’t even know how to pray! What am I supposed to pray about?” That’s a fair question. The 12 disciples asked the same of Jesus. On one occasion they saw Jesus praying, and when He finished, “His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’ ” (Luke 11:1 Luke 11:1And 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.
American King James Version×). The instruction Jesus gave them in the words that followed we could call the model prayer.
This sample prayer (found in Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 6:9-13 9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×and 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×) is not intended to be recited over and over when we pray to God. Rather it is a general outline of the topics to cover with God as we come before Him daily in prayer. Let’s look at what the various phrases in this prayer mean.
The model prayer
Our Father in heaven —We are to pray to the Father. In the introductory part of our prayers, we are to acknowledge Him as such. We should express our thankfulness for His role in our lives as a loving and involved Father. We can discuss with Him how He works with and helps us just as a human father looks after the needs of his own children.
Reflect with Him about His glorious throne where He sits in heaven. Read passages about God’s throne in all its majesty (for example, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4).
As we bow to God in prayer, we are to revere and honor Him for who and what He is. It helps us consider the third of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain [in an empty, useless or meaningless way], for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7 Exodus 20:7You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
American King James Version×).
The various titles used of God in the Bible tell us much about Him. Here are some examples of names of God taken from the Hebrew language, the language in which most of the Old Testament was written. Elohim is a plural term representing God as creator, connected with His creation of all things (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×).
YHWH is the Eternal, the Immutable One, the One who was, who is and who is to come. YHWH represents God in a covenant relationship with those whom He has created. YHWH is connected with a variety of descriptors in the Bible: YHWH who provides, who heals, my banner, who sanctifies, who is peace, of hosts, our righteousness, who is there, Most High and my shepherd (Genesis 22:14 Genesis 22:14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
American King James Version×; Exodus 15:26 Exodus 15:26And said, If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that heals you.
American King James Version×; 17:15; 31:13; Judges 6:24 Judges 6:24Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: to this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
American King James Version×; 1 Samuel 1:3 1 Samuel 1:3And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 23:6 Jeremiah 23:6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
American King James Version×; Ezekiel 48:35 Ezekiel 48:35It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.
American King James Version×; Psalms 7:17 Psalms 7:17I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
American King James Version×; 23:1).
El is the Almighty in all His strength and power (Genesis 14:18-22 Genesis 14:18-22 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to yourself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up my hand to the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
American King James Version×; 16:13; Psalms 57:2 Psalms 57:2I will cry to God most high; to God that performes all things for me.
American King James Version×).
All of these names give us a better understanding of our Father’s majesty and greatness. We are to honor Him as we address Him.
Hallowed be Your name —While we honor God for His greatness, we also ask God to cause His name to be made holy. The Twentieth Century New Testament captures the meaning more accurately, rendering this “May thy name be held holy.”
This and the next two items mentioned in this prayer—”Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”— all go together, asking God to extend to earth the peaceful, righteous conditions that now exist in heaven.
Essentially what the opening of the prayer is saying is this: “Our Great and Almighty Father in heaven (where Your name is hallowed in constant angelic praise), may Your name be made holy throughout the earth as it now is in heaven, may Your Kingdom be established throughout the earth as it now is in heaven, and may Your will be done throughout the earth as it now is in heaven.”
Your kingdom come —We are to pray that God will hasten Christ’s coming to establish the Kingdom of God (2 Peter 3:11-13 2 Peter 3:11-13 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
American King James Version×; Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×). We are to talk with Him about why we need His Kingdom to come, giving specific situations that we see going on in the world, in our own lives and in the lives of our friends and family (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
American King James Version×).
The world overflows with tragedies. God wants us to spend time reflecting on the pain and sorrow in the world around us so we can vividly see the need for Him to send Jesus Christ back to earth to set up His government, a kingdom that will yield peace, joy and abundance.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven —Here we continue to let Him know that we want what He wants. We ask Him to help us seek what He wants for us. And we ask that He do the same for others. We can also ask for God’s blessing on His work being done through the Church.
This section of prayer prevents us from becoming self-absorbed. It helps us realize, “It’s not all about me.” It’s about God, His plan and His purpose. Jesus Christ sought God’s will, not His own, as He prayed to God before His trial and crucifixion (Matthew 26:39 Matthew 26:39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
American King James Version×). We must do the same, never forgetting that God always has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:31 Romans 8:31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 5:6-7 1 Peter 5:6-7 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care on him; for he cares for you.
American King James Version×).
If we are to ask sincerely that God’s will be done throughout the earth, we must of course be willing to completely surrender to His will now in every aspect of our lives.
Give us this day our daily bread —God wants us to continue asking Him to look after our physical and spiritual needs. He assures us that He will (Matthew 6:25-33 Matthew 6:25-33 25 Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?
28 And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.
33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×), but He still wants us to ask (Matthew 7:7-11 Matthew 7:7-11 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: 8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
American King James Version×).
We are to be specific. It is not selfish to discuss with Him our specific needs. It’s acceptable and appropriate to continue asking for something (Luke 18:1-8 Luke 18:1-8 1 And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night to him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?
American King James Version×) if we are seeking His will.
Some of our needs include protection during travel, at work and at home; guidance in what we say and do; an income for food, clothing, shelter and so we can be in a position to help others in need; strength to ward off the pulls of the world (1 John 2:15-17 1 John 2:15-17 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.
American King James Version×) and the influence of Satan.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (or “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”)—We are to ask God’s forgiveness for our specific sins. We ask Him to help us see areas in our lives where we don’t realize we are sinning. We confess to Him our sin, how we fell short, what we did or didn’t do that got us there in the first place (Psalm 51).
We are to also thank Him for Jesus Christ whose sacrifice enables us to be cleansed of our sins. Of course we have to commit to change. We have to talk with God about the plan we will devise to keep ourselves from sinning in that area again. We ask for His help and guidance in implementing that plan.
Also, we solicit His aid in helping us to be forgiving to those who have sinned against us. We ask for His help to “let the hurt go.” We must both forgive and ask for forgiveness!
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one —This is where we pray for God’s spiritual guidance and help in our lives and in the lives of others. The wording here can be somewhat misleading, since we are tempted and led astray by our own shortsighted and selfish desires, not by God (James 1:13 James 1:13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:
American King James Version×). God does not tempt anyone.
The Greek word translated “temptation” would be more accurately translated as “trial” or “test.” The New Revised Standard Version translates this as “do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” The overall thought is that we should always ask God for His protection and help against our enemy, Satan the devil (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×), and that we should learn our lessons now so we won’t have go through sore trials to be corrected.
Again, we are to be specific. We know what we and those close to us are battling and can talk to God about those battles. We ask for His help as we develop a plan. We can claim the promise of James 4:7 James 4:7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
American King James Version×, which is a strategy for victory over Satan’s influence.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever —We began with praising God’s greatness, and we end doing the same. This portion of our prayer reminds us again that we are not the focus of our prayer— God is. He is great; He is love; His will is going to be accomplished; and we are thankful that He has given us a part to play in His plan.
Here we talk with God about His wonderful plan that will come to pass. Of course, we can’t talk to Him about that plan unless we know what it is! Read passages such as Revelation 21 and 22 that reveal to us a much different future than what we experience now. Ask that He keep us mindful of that magnificent plan so we don’t lose the vision as we experience trials in our lives.
Amen —”Amen” means “truly” or “so be it.” We conclude our prayers in Jesus Christ’s name as He instructed the disciples to do in John 14:13-14 John 14:13-14 13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
American King James Version×. He makes it possible for us to pray to the Father.
• Become “conversational” with God, being always mindful of honoring Him as we address Him.
• God converses with us as we read His Word, the Bible. One-way-only conversations don’t work—with others or with God.
• Pray in private (Matthew 6:6 Matthew 6:6But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.
American King James Version×) at a time when there will be minimal distractions.
• It’s a good idea for us to clear the cobwebs from our eyes before we pray. Otherwise, we can tend to fall asleep!
• We must strive to become totally dependent on a relationship with our Father to the point that we feel like we can’t survive physically and spiritually without Him. In reality, we can’t.
• We must make time for prayer daily for it to become a habit. It gets easier as we stick with it.
Do you value the opportunity you have to develop a strong, lifelong relationship with your spiritual Father? To do this you must pray daily. Remember, we will make time for what we value most. GN