A Pattern for Prayer

July 9, 2018

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. Taken from Matthew 6:7–15

Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I was taught at an early age what we called the “Our Father,” or “the Lord’s Prayer.” For most of my childhood, I knelt beside my bed and prayed this prayer every night. I’d get done as quickly as I could and jump into bed.

As Jesus continued His sermon, He told us what the prayer of a Christian should be like: “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do” (6:7). Then He gave His disciples a prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name …” (6:9).

Outline for Prayer

Bible teachers debate whether this is an outline for prayer or a prayer to be repeated word for word. We can repeat it verbatim, of course, as long as our heart is engaged. But for me as a kid, it was vain repetition. I believe that Jesus intended us to use the prayer as an outline—one that helps us focus on aspects of God’s nature.

The prayer begins by reminding us of our relationship with God—“Our Father.” When we pray, we speak not only to the Supreme Being of the universe, we speak to God as a child speaks to his or her father. At the same time, we acknowledge His transcendence: He is “in heaven,” above all things, holding the universe in the span of His hand.

Then we are to pray, “Hallowed be Your name.” The word “hallowed” conveys the idea of holiness. This reminds us to reverence God, who is holy and awesome.

Prayer Is About Seeing God’s Will Done

And then, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done” (6:10). Our needs and desires might be in conflict with God’s will, but we can pray, “Lord, show me if my desire is in harmony with Your will because I want Your will to be done.” Prayer is not a means of getting our agenda accomplished but of seeing the will of God be done.

Give us this day our daily bread” (6:11) reminds us that God is our provider. We are also to ask Him for our “daily” bread. We like to stock up, but when God supplied manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness, they had to collect it each and every day. If they stored it up, it spoiled. God wants us to remember that we are dependent on Him daily.

Jesus went on, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (6:12). God is merciful. As we confess our sins to Him, He forgives us. In heathen religions, forgiveness is practically unattainable, but Jesus said that we were simply to ask God to forgive us and to know that this was sufficient.

God Is Ordering Our Steps

Do not lead us into temptation” (6:13). The word “temptation” is better translated “testing” or “trials.” Jesus was essentially telling us to pray for God’s leading in our lives. God orchestrates huge events in the universe, yet He wants to help us, bless us, work in us, and direct our little lives. Sometimes details in our lives seem totally unrelated, but at a certain point, we realize that God has been ordering our steps. It’s an astounding thing.

Finally, Jesus said, “Deliver us from the evil one” (6:13). We have an adversary who opposes God’s work in our lives, and one of the ways we deal with that is through prayer. We ask God to take up our cause, to protect and deliver us from the schemes of the evil one. As we pray, God will exercise His power over the evil one and deliver us.

In this prayer, Jesus indirectly reminded us of God’s transcendence, His holiness, His will, His provision, His mercy, His providence, and His power, and it all began with the truth that God is our Father. May this prayer help lead us to a greater knowledge of and love for our Father in heaven.