Why do I need to pray to God if He already knows what I am going to say before I say it? Why should I pray daily when I asked Him yesterday, the day before, and last week?
"God is great. God is good. Now we thank Him for our food. Amen."
Those were the words I repeatedly prayed at meals as a child.
"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray to the Lord for my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to keep."
Those were the words I frequently recited following dinner but before bed.
As silly as they might sound, those prayers became the backbone foundation for my prayers. But it did not take long, however, for those words to become routine and less sincere or sentimental.
Jesus' Teaching on Prayer
In Luke 11, Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray using the Lord's prayer. Growing up in a Methodist Church, we recited this often:
"Our father. Who art in Heaven. Hallowed by thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will be done, here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, power, and glory forever. Amen."
Like my childhood prayers, however, I quickly grew to say the words without a thought. They became a persistent routine of my mouth without being a genuine motive of my heart.
But when Jesus gave us the Lord's prayer, He never meant for us to recite it nonchalantly.
He meant for us to use it as a model.
Today, I believe that the Lord's prayer teaches us to pray not by reciting specific phrases or regurgitating lines without thought but by modeling an example. When we pray, there are three basics that teach us how to pray:
1. Respect God's Name and Believe His Kingdom is Coming Soon
When Jesus teaches us how to pray in Luke 11, He begins in verse two with this line: And he said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come'" (ESV).
Praying to God should always begin by respecting who He is and what He has done for us. This is why many childlike prayers begin with "Dear God," or statements that remind us Jesus is our Heavenly Father.
In college, I once had a pastor who addressed God as, "Dear Daddy, God." As weird as I often thought that sounded, they had a point. God is our Father, and He deserves the same respect (and more than) we show our earthly fathers. Praying in a way that respects God's name means remembering who He is and what He's done. It means remembering that while we pray to Him, He is God, and we are not. His Kingdom is coming soon, and that is what we are living for, not the temporary pleasures of this world.
2. Rely on God to Provide Daily Bread
In verse 3 of Luke 11, Jesus continues by telling us these words: Give us each day our daily bread, (or our bread for tomorrow) (ESV).
What I love about this verse is that it reminds us of the necessity to pray daily. Personally, I have often struggled with this concept. Why do I need to pray to God if He already knows what I am going to say before I say it? Why should I pray daily when I asked Him yesterday, the day before, and last week?
But God desires for us to rely on Him to provide our daily bread. And just as we need three square and balanced meals a day to live in nutritional satisfaction, we need God's Word to sustain every single day of our lives. Taking the time to pray daily is a challenging practice, but it is one that creates a habit of dependence on Christ.
3. Forgive Others and Forgive Us (While Helping Us Fight Temptations)
Finally, in verse 4 of Luke 11, Jesus concludes with this simple yet life-changing phrase: and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation (ESV).
Jesus, Himself was tempted, tried, and persecuted in every way, but He remained in perfection His entire life. I find it striking that a man who was killed by us offered His life and still said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
When we pray, it is crucial that we never forget the life He gave on the cross for each of us. And if Jesus was willing to forgive those who killed Him when He had committed no wrongs, we are surely called to forgive other sinners because we, too, have sinned against them.
Why is Jesus' Teaching on Prayer So Important?
At the end of His suggested method for prayer, Jesus goes on to tell us a story of why prayer is so pivotal to the Christian walk of life. In verses 9-13, He pens these words:
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:9-13, ESV)!
Thrive Worship's Song, Pour Your Spirit Out, says it this way:
"All we have to do is just ask, seek, knock, watch the door swing wide open. Roll back that stone. Roll back that stone. Won't you pour your spirit out?"
Just as a man sleeping in his home would not ignore a persistent knocking at his front door, God hears us when we pray and will not ignore our knocking. He knows what we need far more than sinful people (all of us!) who still give good gifts and know how to provide! We just have to trust Him to do so.
"So it is with your prayers. Ask and you’ll receive. Seek and you’ll discover. Knock on heaven’s door, and it will one day open for you. Every persistent person will receive what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he needs. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door" (Luke 11:9-10, TPT).
We are called to ask, seek, knock, and find the answers–better yet, the character of God–persistently through the power of prayer. These are promises of God, and He does not take them lightly. Words of red in the Scriptures are our fireproof promise that He has and will continue to prove Himself trustworthy, good, and forever available to meet our needs.
Teach us how to pray, Lord. May we know more about you.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Krisanapong Detraphiphat
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
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