You probably admire someone in your life for the love they have for Jesus. You hear it in their voice, see it in their smile, and feel it in their love for you. You know this person has communed with God — personally, intimately, regularly. You assume they have a vibrant and consistent prayer life, even though you’ve never seen their private prayers. And you wish your relationship with God was more like theirs.
It’s obviously no surprise that Jesus’s disciples experienced such closeness with him. Luke writes, “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1). We can safely assume that Jesus prayed with his disciples, probably regularly. They had heard him pray. Yet this was different. “Teach us to pray,” really meant, “Tell us what happens when you are alone with God.” What Jesus says in the next few verses are the boldest, and most important, words to take with us into prayer.
Pray then like this:
“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 evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)
You may have memorized a version of the Lord’s Prayer when you were younger. It’s simple enough for children to commit to memory. But we need to remember that Jesus gave this prayer to twelve grown men. This is not just a prayer for sixth-grade Sunday School, but for all of life. Jesus taught these men this simple, yet awe-inspiring prayer, and then sent them into the world to be persecuted and eventually killed for their faith. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a childhood toy to be shelved and remembered with affection. It’s not for nostalgia. These are words to be rehearsed and held with conviction, through whatever we face or suffer in this life, until our final breath.
Are you looking for a place to start in prayer, for words strong enough for the heavy challenges and hardships before you in our broken world? Listen to Jesus pray, again.
Spread Your Fame
The first and greatest line is “Hallowed be your name.” It comes first and hangs like a banner over all the others.
God, make your name great, in the world and in me. Reveal your glory. Unleash more of your power and beauty on us.
Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink” — or pray — “or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is how 1 Corinthians 10:31 prayers begin, “Hallowed be your name.”
You were made for God and his glory, and you were saved for God’s glory (Ephesians 1:5–6). And your greatest happiness will be found only in God (Psalm 16:11). Prayer allows us to daily tie ourselves back into that one great purpose and source for our lives. Don’t ever take God and his glory for granted. Set your mind and heart to enjoy him daily, and to display him daily. Plead with him for eyes to see his glory in his word and in his world, and for boldness to share it with others.
Bring Your Kingdom
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We want his glory, his name to breakthrough everywhere in the world. We spot it here and there in ourselves, and in our relationships, and in our ministries. We find the fruit of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) growing in us and around us in our churches. But we want God to be seen, and worshiped, and enjoyed everywhere. He deserves every heart, and every city, and every nation. He’s worthy of worldwide worship. And we can never rest or be quiet until he has it.
God, bring your kingdom here. It’s not here, yet. Not completely. There’s evidence of evil everywhere. Sin’s consequences are wreaking havoc. You are the King, and no one can stop you. Allow your grace, mercy, and holiness to conquer every effort against you. Push your glory and greatness into more and more corners. And establish your will. Make it tangible and functional across the globe, in the United States, in my state, in my city, in my neighborhood.
Be Our Provider
“Give us this day our daily bread.” You will only find what you need today in one place. “God himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Just a few verses after he taught them to pray, Jesus says to these men, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on . . . ” (Matthew 6:25). Why? “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32–33).
Your daily needs — food, shelter, health — are a proving ground for faith. Many of us assume we will have what we need tomorrow, either cavalierly assuming God will do it again or foolishly presuming to take credit for it ourselves (overtly or subtly). God means for your need for water to be a reason to seek him. He lets us hunger to remind us he loves us, like a Father. Ask him to meet your needs — the most extravagant and the most basic. Ride the rhythm of provision into dependence and worship each day.
Forgive Our Sins
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The forgiveness of our sins happens every day. It must because we are sinners every day, and we commit sin every day. If God ever builds a dam in the river of his grace, we’re all damned. Paul reminds us not to leave the gospel somewhere behind us: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2).
Salvation (justification) is once-for-all, by grace alone, through faith alone. And salvation (sanctification) is happening all over again for you today — a new and fresh stream of mercy for this morning (Lamentations 3:22–23) — and tomorrow morning, and next Thursday. You’re being forgiven, and rescued, and purified from your remaining sin. Your salvation is sure, never taken back, and you are still being saved. Immerse yourself again in the saving fountain of Christ’s blood, shed for you. Wash yourself and your sin again today in his word of hope, the gospel.
Guard Our Hearts
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Our struggle is “not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). The biggest obstacles or opposition ahead of you today are not anything you can see. Someone is hunting you behind the curtain of what you can see, trying to steal your joy in Jesus and rob you of the life he gives. Pray for protection.
“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9). Resist him how? “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). Ask God for the strength and resolve and faith to fight sin and all of its lies. Don’t try to do it on your own.
Men, Pray Like Children
We say, “Our Father in heaven,” but we often pray like he’s just a governor or judge or CEO. Not everyone has a warm relationship with their dad, but those of us who do know that our prayers often do not sound like the typical warmth and intimacy between a good father and his children. It can seem transactional, not relational. Formal, not vulnerable. Distant, not familiar. “Our Boss who art in heaven . . . ” He’s the kind of boss we like, but want to keep at arm’s length. We want him to see we’re doing our job, but we’re afraid of getting much closer.
Jesus tells us to lean in and relax with this God. If you have surrendered yourself to him, the ears on the other side of your prayers belong to Dad, to Abba (Galatians 4:6). Make yourself at home in prayer — not irreverently or carelessly, but humbly and boldly. Be brave enough to let your guard down with this God. Let him in, all the way, and watch him care for you better than any father you’ve ever seen or known.