There is a story about a young man. He worked at the city swimming pool as a life-guard. One day as he sat in the elevated lifeguard stand, he noticed a body lying on the bottom of the pool. The lifeguard dove in, pulled the boy to shore, and began administering artificial respiration. The boy, who had stopped breathing and had turned blue from lack of oxygen, began to breathe again on his own. His life had been spared by the quick thinking and prompt action of the lifeguard.
As you would expect, the young man was very thankful. In fact, for a short time he nearly made a pest of himself by repeatedly calling and asking to speak to the lifeguard. He wanted to talk, and talk some more, to the person who had saved his life.
The Bible makes it clear that God has saved us from a fate that is far worse than drowning. He has saved us, through the gift of His Son, from and eternity of agony and pain in hell. Understanding this should certainly make us want to talk to Him. And of course, the great thing about God is that He never gets tired of hearing from us. There is no way that we can make a pest of ourselves. He wants to hear from us and is happy to have our fellowship. He wants us to pray.
But how can we make the most of our prayers? After all, it is not just a man that we are talking to, but the Creator, Redeemer of the entire universe! We must talk to Him in ways that give Him proper reverence which comes from our total concentration upon Him. At the same time, we must remember that the Bible says that God is our Father, and we should approach Him with the warmth that we would our own father or mother. And not only should we be concerned about the attitudes that we bring with us into prayer, but we should seriously think about the things that we want to talk about. When you are talking to God, what should you talk about?
The disciples of Jesus, who had been brought up in a society where prayer was common, still felt like they new very little about praying. Therefore, Jesus taught them a model prayer. We often refer to it as the Lord’s prayer, but it was actually designed to be a model for us to use so that we might know what things to pray about. Jesus said in Matthew 6:9-15, “This is how you should 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 today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Also found in Luke 11:1-4).
Let us look at each of the phrases contained in this model prayer. I am confident that they can teach us much about prayer.
1. OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME. Prayer should begin with grateful recognition of who God is. He is not a remote or distant God, but rather a personal and intimate Father. We can trust and lean on His strength. At the same time, however, we must come to God with a sense of awe, for His name must be hallowed. That is, He and He alone is absolutely holy. Prayer then begins with ADORATION. Tell God just what you think of Him! This isn’t because he needs us to tell him of his own nature; rather it puts our heart and mind in the correct perspective for the remaining conversation!
2. YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come we are actually praying for His rule in all of the affairs of our world to become reality. We are praying for God’s involvement in both the world at large and in our lives in particular. This means that we should pray for our nation and the countries of the world, that they might accomplish God’s purpose, as seen in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Think of how staggering our opportunity is. Through our prayers the very history of our time can be altered because God answers prayer!
We must also make prayer of personal commitment that God’s will might be done on earth through our lives. We must continually seek God’s will and then pray for the strength to accomplish it (Suggestion: Begin reading the New Testament, starting with Romans, and underline or make a note of everything God wants you to do). Therefore, each prayer is a time of re-dedication and commitment to doing God’s will. Prayer is a time of concern for the world as well as a time of personal COMMITMENT.
3. GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY BREAD. Do not be afraid to pray for things you need. God is our Father. He delights in blessing His children. There may be times that we pray for something which we think we need and God does not provide it because He knows that we really do not need it. But if we need something, God will provide it! This prayer is simply a demonstration of our TRUST in God to take care of us.
4. FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE HAVE ALSO FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS. Notice that God will continue to forgive our sins, provided that we have forgiven others who may sin against us! Therefore, prayer is a time to examine our hearts and decide to bury any grudges that we hold. It is also a time to confess our sins to God as we read in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” God will not forgive sin, if you have not confessed it and asked for forgiveness. Prayer is a time to be honest with God –a time of CONFESSION.
5. AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Perhaps the best way to understand these words is by stating them in positive terms. Many times the New Testament writers would pray that people might be holy and blameless before God. This is a prayer for God to give us VICTORY over sin. Even after we become Christians, we must still battle sin in our lives. After we have confessed those sins, we must then appeal to God to give us strength to conquer them.
ADORATION, CONCERN FOR THE WORLD AROUND US, PERSONAL COMMITMENT, TRUST, CONFESSION, AND VICTORY!
Using these ideas and this model, talk to God as if He were a friend. Because after all in Christ HE IS!
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW AND STUDY
Why should we want to talk to God?
The disciples of Jesus grew up in a culture where they had learned many things about prayer. Yet what was it that Jesus’ disciples asked Him to do? (Luke 11:1)
What was the Lord’s prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-15 & Luke 11:1-4 intended to be?
If you have already memorized the Lord’s prayer, write it from memory in the space below. If you have not, then memorize it and write it below.
What does it mean to Hallow God’s name?
When we pray, YOUR WILL BE DONE, what does that have to do with our lives?
How can we display our TRUST in God when we pray?
After we become Christians, we must still battle sin. Upon what condition will God continue to FORGIVE our sins?
When we pray, LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, what do we mean by that?