Most have prayed or at least heard what is commonly referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer”: “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 also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Far too many misinterpret why Jesus said these words believing He was teaching us “what” to say when we pray. Jesus was in fact responding to His disciples who requested of Him to teach them “how” to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus responded to this question saying, “So then, this is how you should pray” before reciting these commonly known words of this prayer. Therefore, praying these actual words (as many Christian religious traditions teach us to do) was not what Jesus was teaching when He spoke these words. Instead, Jesus was teaching “how” as opposed to “what” we should pray when interceding with the Father. True Christians must learn to pray from the heart and not from the mind. The Holy Spirit actually intercedes with the Father for us in the same way He did with Jesus when He prayed. Furthermore, Jesus said, “When you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8). Therefore, simply saying the same prayer repeatedly is not “how” we should pray. Thus, prayer is truly a deep and personal conversation between you and the Father done out of reverence, in faith, and throughout the day.
Therefore, here is “how” Jesus taught us to pray as we turn to the Father with our hearts filled with genuine worship and praise toward our God, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” Next, Jesus stressed that we must surrender our own freewill to serve the kingdom of heaven and do the will of the Father, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus then taught us to openly ask the Father for our daily needs (food, clothing, etc.), “Give us this day our daily bread.” He then taught us to intercede for the forgiveness of our sins and shortcomings, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The last part of this request is often overlooked during prayer and yet Jesus told us directly to ask God to forgive us just as we forgive those who sin against. Therefore, it is crucial we do not overlook forgiving others just as we are commanded to do. Next, Jesus focused on our daily struggle with the adversary, Satan. Each day we need to remember to ask the Father to protect us from the many daily attacks brought on by the spirit of this world, “And lead us not into temptation (meaning guide our way), but deliver us from the evil one.” Finally, Jesus reinforces the necessary love attitude toward others we must have in our hearts as we intercede with the Father. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.” Jesus demonstrated this right up until the end saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
So then, we must learn “how” to pray and then “what” we should pray simply becomes a byproduct during our conversation with the Father. The true Christian, those who are spiritually born again, should be in an attitude of prayer each day while we are here on earth. We must learn that the world can easily distract us from an attitude of prayer and in doing so will quench the Spirit within us. However, all glory be to God, that same Spirit is constantly seeking to remind us of our citizenship and responsibility to the kingdom of heaven. We must take time to pray from our hearts throughout each day to allow the Holy Spirit to intercede with and for us to the Father. Paul wrote, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people” (Ephesians 6:18). “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).
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