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How Christians Pray: Praying the Lord's Prayer - Matthew 6:9-13

There is a right way to pray, and a wrong way, and in the Lord’s Prayer, from the mouth of Jesus Himself, God has given us a model for faithful, God-honoring prayer. It’s not the only prayer that we have to learn from, but it should be the first and most foundational, because this is how Jesus taught us to pray.

As far as the structure of the prayer goes, it opens with a brief address, followed by six petitions: three that help us look up to God, and three that ask God to look down on us. Although of course you can use it as an individual, it’s written as a corporate prayer for the disciples of Jesus to pray together.

The prayer begins by joining together the intimacy of God as our Father with the exalted truth that He dwells in heaven. He’s a God who is available to this world, but above it as well, and righteous prayer always maintains this combination of closeness and reverence.

The first petition asks that God’s name be hallowed, which includes both the idea that members of God’s family would honor their Father with their lives, and also that God would receive the worship He deserves throughout the world. It has just as much if not more to do with how we represent Him and approach Him as it does with careless or flippant uses of His name.

The second petition, “Thy kingdom come” began to be fulfilled through Jesus, who came proclaiming the arrival of God’s kingdom. As followers of Jesus, we’re praying that King Jesus’ rule would spread all over the world, and that every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth would bow to Him.

The third petition – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” flows out of the second, and makes it very clear that while Christianity is not primarily a political movement, the kingdom of God includes the political order here on earth. We pray not just that Jesus would be acknowledged as king, but that His laws and goals and priorities would shape life down here so that the earth would start to look more and more like heaven!

After this, there is a transition from these big, worldwide prayers for God’s name and His kingdom into more personal requests for the practical things that we ourselves need, and so the fourth petition asks God to “give this day us our daily bread.” We’re not asking for the long-term security that people with full freezers and retirement accounts have come to expect, but for simple sustenance for today, along with a helping of contentment!

In the fifth petition, Jesus teaches us to come to God for forgiveness. We’re asking God to be favorably disposed toward us so that He pardons the moral guilt of our sinful actions. Although the prayer doesn’t specify this, we ask for forgiveness on the basis of the blood of Jesus, and the good news is that when we do this, God promises to grant us the forgiveness we pray for. The second part of the fifth petition, though, brings us up short: “Forgive me, God, the way I forgive others.” Are you ready to pray that? Jesus’ words teach us not to come to God asking for forgiveness unless you are willing to forgive those who sin against you.

The sixth petition is a request for deliverance from testing and evil. God does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13), but He does sometimes allow His saints to face excruciating tests, and Jesus tells us that it’s okay to ask God to spare us these experiences. In addition, pray that God would deliver you from all evil! You cannot hallow God’s name or do His will if evil has a hold on you, so Jesus leads us to ask for God’s supernatural protection.

As you pray this prayer, you are learning how to approach God rightly. You’re allowing His priorities to reorient yours. You’re being taught what you really need in life and where to look for it, as well as the virtues of humility, contentment, and forgiveness. This kingdom-focused prayer teaches you to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and to allow Him to add to this everything else you need. This is the prayer of a heart that loves and trusts God, and when you pray like this, you can be sure that your prayers are heard by your Father in heaven.

Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 by CJ Bowen