Prayer…conversation with God…how do I pray?…where do I even start?
It’s one of those things that “if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me ‘I’m bad at praying'”….I think you know where I’m going with that. I’ve had the privilege of leading many women’s Bible studies and small groups, and this issue inevitably comes up. The question ‘Who would like to close us in prayer’ is met with instant eye diversion and silence. Although we know in our heads that we’re not praying for the approval of others in the room, it still seems to arouse fear in our hearts when we think about praying out loud or in front of other people.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the disciples lately. What would it have been like to witness first hand the miraculous? What would it have felt like to be touched by Jesus? If He looked into my eyes and asked me if I loved Him, would I be able to utter a single word? The disciples were just a bunch of broken people, just like you and me, and the struggles they had in following Jesus are not too far from our own. They needed explanation for Jesus’ teachings, they wondered why He did the things He did, and even though they had the gift of His presence, they often lived powerless lives. Can anyone relate? They probably struggled with the idea of prayer just as much as we do. They even fell asleep when Jesus asked them to pray in His darkest hour. What comforts me about the Lord is that He doesn’t leave us empty handed in this quest to commune with Him. He gave us His Word, and it is ALL that we need!
Matthew 6:5-15 offers us amazing instruction on how to pray. Let’s dive in, shall we?
First of all, it starts in verses 5-7 by telling us what not to do when it comes to prayer. Don’t pray for others to hear you and to think highly of you. Prayer is intended to bless the heart of God, and He should be the one on the receiving end of our prayers. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart, right? Our prayers can be extremely eloquent, but they mean nothing if our heart is not in the right place. Then notice in verse 8, Jesus comforts us with the promise that God already knows what we need before we even ask for it. So, some of you may be thinking then why should I even ask? Because He delights in hearing our praise and our pleas. Our praise puts God in His rightful place and our pleas put us in ours. Both are important. Now, we come to the part we’ve been waiting for. Verse 9 begins with these beautiful words: “Pray then like this”. It’s what we’ve been searching for, a description of how to pray, right? All that we need to know is found right here on the pages of God’s Word.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” To utter these words ascribes holiness to God. How often have we said them in vain repetition with little more reverence that when we sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch? He resides in heaven, and He is holy. There seems to be importance in recognizing Him by proclaiming who He is and thus worshiping Him.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As I read this line, two words come to mind: submission and surrender. We have our dreams, desires, hopes, and aspirations, but we learn as we pray this line that we must bow all of that down to His will alone. In essence, this is saying, ‘Lord, here are my requests. I ache for them, I long for them, but I want what you want more.’ Jesus Himself exemplified this in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He sweat drops of blood in His anguish as He awaited the cross and pleaded with God to remove that cup from Him but still said not my will but yours be done. There is power when we surrender to an almighty God!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Present your requests to God. He invites us to. He knows what we need, and His Word promises us that He’ll provide. There is more offered here in this verse than what we see at first glance, though. This request is also one that says ‘Sustain my soul’ and ‘Feed me with your Word’. Do we crave God’s presence so much that we cry out for more of Him in our prayers? His bread satisfies.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Prayer needs to involve confession. “Forgive us our debts” is meant to be a starting point. Now, God invites you to get personal with Him, be specific about confessing your sins to Him, and you’ll begin to see specifically how He’s working in those areas. Confession comes through conviction. We don’t confess that we’re wrong and need forgiveness if we’re not first convicted. The conviction in this verse comes with the idea of being forgiven in the same way that we have forgiven the ones that have wronged us. Have we? Have we truly released those individuals from their debt to us when they hurt us? Let that soak in. We must forgive to be forgiven.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God does not cause us to sin, nor does He tempt us with evil. I love this line because it shows a sincerity of heart that desires to be far from evil and its enticements. Do you walk as close to the line as you can get without crossing it, or do you cry out to God to help you stay as far from it as you can?
I feel as if we have only scratched the surface. Let’s start here, and continue this journey together towards the heart of our God.