Sunday, March 27, 2011

How to Pray

How to Pray
March 28, 2011
Matthew 6:9 "'This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. . .'"

A lot can be said about the subject of prayer. As Christians, we know it is supposed to be part of our intimate communication with God, but seldom do we use it correctly. In fact, most of us still use prayer to send God a 'Christmas wish list', telling Him all that He can deliver. We get in a solemn mindset and earnestly ask God to give us all that we desire. We even use the excuse that the Bible says if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts (Ps 37:4). But there is another writer in the Bible, James, who cautions us in asking for what we want. He says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." I know I have been guilty of this on many occasions. It gets confusing, then, in knowing what we are and are not allowed to ask of God.

Jesus gives us a clear example of how to pray, but seldom is it preached upon or understood correctly. We've all heard what is known as "The Lord's Prayer." It starts out with the familiar words, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name..." You may read it fully in Matthew chapter six. This prayer was given to us as an example to follow, by Jesus, in order that we might understand what we should and should not ask for. Jesus didn't give us this prayer to simply repeat, over and over, like many churches do today. He gave it to us as a model, to guide our hearts and minds, leading us into effective prayer. If we simply repeat Jesus' prayer over and over again, without our hearts understanding it, it is a waste of breath. Please consider this understanding of the Lord's Prayer:

"Our Father, in Heaven, hallowed be your name." This is a salutation for us to understand that God is supreme and sovereign. We are to approach Him like a child, in sincerity of heart but deep respect. God is not our peer and we are not to be flippant in our prayers.

"Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." We are to pray for God to come back to the earth soon, for the time when God brings Heaven down and sets up His domain here among us. We are to pray that God's will would be done in each and every situation, just as He has declared it in Heaven and the inhabitants of Heaven carry it out in perfect obedience. God's desire is that we submit ourselves to His will, which would accomplish His agenda in our lives today. It has already been determined in His Heavenly mind; it is our opportunity to come into this realization in our own minds. Pray that God illuminates this for your lives.

"Give us today, our daily bread." This offers clarity to what James was talking about in James 4:3. Technically, all we need is for God to take care of our needs today. We don't need tomorrow's provision today. We don't need excess so we can live an extravagant lifestyle. We aren't even supposed to ask for this. If God gives us physical blessings, then so be it (and be thankful), but we should set our hearts only on what we need to take care of us today. It creates a dependency upon God if we ask Him only for the needs in front of us. Notice Jesus didn't give us the example of asking for a daily feast. This separates "needs" from "wants". Most of what we pray for is a "want" and not truly needed.

"And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors." Jesus had a distinct verbiage in this passage. He is telling us that we should already have forgiven others in our hearts before we come to God in prayer. Jesus did not recommend coming to God in prayer, asking for forgiveness, when we harbor resentment toward others. He suggests taking care of our bitterness with others, before petitioning God for anything. After all, why would we dare ask God to be benevolent toward us if we are not benevolent toward others? But most certainly, forgive others and come to God expecting His forgiveness. Jesus even reinforces this a few verses after this prayer, found in Matthew 6:14-15.

"And lead us not into temptation." The Bible is very clear that God is not the tempter of any man and will provide a way out in the midst of temptation. We are all tempted to sin; most of the time we are aware of our desire or compulsion to sin before we even do it. This is a prayer for God to help us avoid giving in to our own temptations. If we sin, we are also aware of the option NOT to sin at the same moment. It takes a strong man to avoid giving in to temptation. Don't be shy in asking God for that added strength on a daily basis. Jesus knew you and I would be tempted and He wanted us to be aware of it as well.

"But deliver us from the evil one." This part of our prayer life has several distinctions. It is included in the same sentence as "temptation", as Jesus knew Satan would be hard at work tempting us. But we are also under attack from Satan for so many other things. Pray for God to keep you safe, for the protection of your children, for the security of your emotional, mental, physical, AND spiritual health.

One final thought on the Lord's Prayer. Jesus used the word "us" instead of the word "me" throughout the entirety of the prayer. It is to convince us to pray for ourselves AND for others. Constantly be in prayer about all these things, for yourself and for your fellow man.

1. What do your prayers typically look like?
2. How often do you pray for others?
3. How could you change the structure of your prayers to come into line with the example given by Jesus?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 6, 1 Cor 10:13, James 4:2-4

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