Think about your good friends. How many conversations have you had over the last year? How many events have you attended together? In each conversation or at each event, you learned a bit more about your friend, right?

Prayer, at its core, is a relationship-building tool—a way to build and sustain a friendship with God. The more we do it, the more we know Him.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that one day Jesus’ disciples, who had just observed Jesus praying, approached him and said, “Teach us to pray.”

He started His instructional conversation with them by saying, “When you pray. . . . “ Interestingly, Jesus didn’t say, “If you pray.” His opening statement to the disciples assumed that prayer mattered and should happen consistently.

Jesus, by making this statement, simply put words to the way He lived. The Gospels record multiple mentions of Jesus slipping away to have a time of prayer, including as He faced death on the cross. Now if the Son of God felt the urgency of regularly speaking to God the Father in prayer, should not we also feel the urgency? But how? How do we pray?

Many of us grew us reciting a prayer found in Luke 11:2-4 and in Matthew 6:9-13. It has become known as The Lord’s Prayer, the model Jesus gave His disciples who wanted to learn to pray.

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed by thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the Kingdom

And the Power

And the Glory forever

Amen

As we learn together how to pray, let’s look more closely at The Lord’s Prayer. And let’s also look at a way of putting that prayer into your own words through an easy-to-remember format: Adore, Admit, Ask.

Looking at God’s Character—Adore

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed by thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

 The Lord’s Prayer begins with the pronoun, our and uses the words us and we throughout. Interesting, don’t you think? Right from the beginning of this prayer lesson, Jesus seeks to remind us that prayer is not all about I or me.

 When we give our hearts to God, we become one of his adopted children and part of His family. We now have the privilege of calling him “Father.” The word Jesus used here actually translates well as “Daddy.”

So, when we start to pray, we remember first our family identity—we belong to God. What a cause for praise!

Then, as the prayer goes on Jesus reminds us of God’s holy character. That word hallowed means “holy and set apart.” God, who reigns in heaven created all. He sees all. He knows all. He never changes. He always existed. He defies complete description with mere words. Again, more cause to adore God.

And then Jesus reminded his disciples (and us) to focus on the promise of God’s kingdom. In a world that seems so bent on self-destruction and self-indulgence, what a comfort to remember that this world, this earthy kingdom, is no match for God’s kingdom. We may think of that kingdom as heaven, but that kingdom also describes what happens in our hearts the moment we accept God’s gracious gift of salvation. Life becomes all about Him. Thank you, Jesus, for calling us to a new kingdom—your kingdom!

Looking within Our HeartsAdmit

 Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;

When we pray, we can so easily slip into saying, “Dear God, give me ____________ and help me with _________________. And PLEASE fix this difficult situation!”

Certainly God wants us to talk honestly to Him and tell Him what weighs on our hearts. But, as we see in this next section of The Lord’s Prayer, He also urges us to examine our motives and our hearts.

Praying, “Thy will be done” forces some honest introspection, doesn’t it?

  • Do I really want to submit my will to God’s will?
  • Have I truly surrendered to God what I hold most dear?
  • Does my daily schedule reflect the priority of putting God’s kingdom first?

Admitting the true nature of my conflicted heart hurts my pride, certainly, but it also helps me move out some of the junk I have stored in boxes throughout my heart and make room for God to fill me with His love and grace and mercy.

When I look honestly at my heart, I must also consider my relationships. Ouch. Who of us does not have a challenging relationship or two or three? Again, this requires some honest introspection.

  • What have I done that hurt someone?
  • What have I not done that I should have done for someone?
  • With whom am I angry at the moment and what should I do about it?
  • Who has hurt me so deeply that I cringe when the name comes to mind?
  • Whom do I routinely try to avoid?

We, who have given our lives to God, know that He washed our sin away with the blood of Jesus. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we also know that we do not live sinless lives. Indeed, we cannot this side of heaven. So . . . when we sin (as we all do daily) we must confess it to God and keep the lines of communication open with Him. If we do not make confession of sin part of our daily prayer, we begin to put a distance between ourselves and God, almost like building a wall, brick by brick.

As adopted children of God, our Daddy invites us to come to Him any time and say, “Sorry! Please forgive me.” And that ends it. No need to wallow in guilt or shame. Our hearts now bear the fresh stamp: FORGIVEN!

Looking to Him to Meet Our Needs—Ask

Give us this day our daily bread;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

Now that we have adored God and cleared out the junk in our hearts through admitting our sin and asking forgiveness, we can move on to ask God for what we need.

We know from reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life that He understood the physical needs of people. He fed thousands of hungry people; He healed countless people. . . . We do not bother God when we go to him with what we need to get through the day—our daily bread. That might be money to buy food or to pay a mortgage. It might be finding a reliable car. It might be finding a wise doctor or counselor.

Sometimes, we can become so anxious about a particular need that we get into sort of a loop. We tell God over and over about the situation, and as we do our blood pressure rises.

Consider these helpful words from pastor and author Bill Hybels in his book Too Busy NOT to Pray:

I challenge you to shift the focus of your prayer. Don’t spend a lot of time describing your mountain to the Lord. He knows what it is. Instead, focus your attention on the mountain mover—his glory, power and faithfulness. Then start walking in faith, following his leading, and watch that mountain step aside (p. 85).

In addition to asking God for our daily bread, we must also ask him to protect us from the evil within us as well as the Evil One.

Throughout the Bible we read about men and women who faced temptation to disobey God. In fact, the first book in the Bible opens with a story of temptation. Who are we to think that we will escape temptation?

And so we must ask God to help us recognize temptation and find the courage to avoid it.

As Jesus urged, we also need to ask God to deliver us from evil—the evil within us that threatens to overcome our hearts and the Evil One, Satan, who constantly seeks to pull us from God.

Fighting evil sounds like something from an epic film, doesn’t it? And yet, as those who seek to live for God, this will be our daily task. But we do not need to look for a light saber, we have the weapon we need to fight evil—prayer.

As author and theologian J.I. Packer writes in Praying the Lord’s Prayer, “The moment we cry ‘deliver,’ God’s rescue operation will start; help will be on the way to cope with whatever form of evil threatens us” (p. 102).

Responding with Gratitude

 For thine is the Kingdom

And the Power

And the Glory forever

Amen

Although the NIV and NLT translations of the Bible do not contain this last phrase, it represents a fabulous way to end any time of prayer. These words bring us full circle, back to where we began in adoring God.

We can praise Him for His kingdom that He willingly shares with us, We can praise Him for His power that keeps us safe and His glory that reminds us to look up and beyond our daily struggles and set our eyes on God.

Making the Lord’s Prayer Your Own

 Certainly, you may choose to pray the Lord’s Prayer in your daily time with God. But just as you would find your own vocabulary for conversing with a friend, you will likely find yourself wanting to use your own words to talk to God, as friend to friend.

This easy-to-use AAA method will help you remember the key ingredients of the Lord’s Prayer and make it your own.

 Adore God for who He is—your loving heavenly father, sovereign Lord of the universe, benevolent king. Tell the Lord you love Him. Praise Him by recounting His qualities. After a time of adoration and praise, thank Him for specific ways you have seen Him work in your life. Thank Him for specific answers to prayer. Even thank Him for hardships that have drawn you near to Him.

Admit your need for the grace of Christ by confessing your sins. Ask God to bring to mind anything in your life that is displeasing to Him. Ask for the power to turn from it completely. Pray for the strength to resist temptation and to recognize the deceiving voice of the evil one that can guide you down the wrong path. At the end of your confession, thank God for His protection and forgiveness.

Ask God to meet your needs and the needs of others. Humbly go before God and submit your requests before Him. Pray for physical provision, emotional needs, relationship challenges, and health concerns. Pray in line with God’s Word by turning Scripture verses into prayers.

 At the end of your prayer time, return to where you started—adoration. Thank God for your time with Him. Thank Him for hearing and responding to your prayers.

Remember, the goal of prayer is relationship building. Not an item on a checklist to merely check off.

J. I. Packer says it well in his book Praying the Lord’s Prayer: “Conversations with parents or wise friends whom we love and respect, and who are ready to help us by advice and action, feel neither pointless nor tedious, and we gladly give time to them—indeed, schedule time for them—because we value them, and gain from them. This is how we should think of times of communion with God in prayer” (p. 14).

Let’s pray!

 

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