9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done 11 on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.
This passage seems so appropriate as I write. We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is no clear timeline for when we will be able to resume gatherings. Like many, I find myself adjusting to new norms—finding rhythms that work, engaging without being around people, coping with new stressors. I find myself praying more partly because I have the time for it, but also because I know coming to God is valuable.
But even if we weren’t faced with this undesired change, this passage is appropriate. There are always stressors, always changes, always things that feel beyond our control. And God—the one who created us, the one who sustains us, the one who has a plan bigger and better than any plan we can make—is always available, always listening, always concerned and caring and empathetic. So the prayer Jesus teaches His disciples is valuable for all people at all times.
The model prayer we’re given is simple and provides insight into what our prayer life should include. Of course, we can pray for anything, but since Jesus tells His followers this is how we should pray, we should give it great weight.
We start with praising God. We acknowledge Him, His holiness, His power. Starting our prayer by focusing on the majesty of God reminds us of who we are talking with and helps us keep our prayer focused on Him and His will.
Jesus then directs us to pray for the will of God to be done. That’s sometimes a challenge to pray, because we want what we want. But as we grow in our relationship with God, we ought to find our desires and plans lining up more and more with God’s plans.
Next, Jesus instructs us to pray for our needs. It is worth noting that the amount of space given to praying for our needs is small, yet for many, their prayer life only focuses on their needs (and wants). We should be diligent in our prayer lives to keep our requests for needs/wants in check. Prayer is way more than giving God a list of things we think He should do.
Jesus then moves in this model prayer to asking for forgiveness (confession) AND forgiving others. Jesus actually comes back to this part of the prayer in verses 14-15 to give us further clarification. Our prayer life should include coming to God, admitting where we continue to sin, AND forgiving others for the ways they have wronged us. This may be a challenge, because people like to hold on to their hurts, but Jesus clearly explains why we forgive others.
Finally, Jesus calls His people to ask God to guide their path, to help them know when they need to flee from temptation, and to keep them from the clutches of evil—or as some translations say, from “the evil one.” Either way, the prayer of a follower of Christ should focus on that which seeks to entrap us in ways that are not glorifying to God.
As you go through life, no matter what is happening, prayer is important. It keeps you engaged with God, communicating to Him your love and passion for Him, bringing Him the things that weigh on your heart, admitting ways you have acted against Him, acknowledging and forgiving ways others have acted against you, and asking Him to guide your life. Recognizing the great value of prayer, I encourage you to intentionally nourish this part of your relationship with God.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Consider the prayer model Jesus gives His disciples. Does your prayer life normally include the elements it contains?
- Consider your prayer life. Is it flourishing? If not, identify some steps you can take to make prayer a greater part of your life. Write those steps down and keep them in front of you.
- If you are unsure about how to pray, spend time reading Matthew 6:9-15. As you read it, ask God to help you better understand what it means. Also, consider asking another Christian to pray with you so you have accountability and someone to encourage you in your prayer life.