What Is the Lord's Prayer, and How Does It Guide Our Prayers?

Pamela Palmer

Updated Aug 04, 2023
What Is the Lord's Prayer, and How Does It Guide Our Prayers?

This demonstration of prayer taught by Jesus was simple, yet it shows us how we can come to God in prayer. Jesus was often seen going away from crowds to pray and spend time with the Father. He recognized the significance of having a healthy prayer life, and practiced it regularly.

Across the various denominations of Christianity, there is one prayer that most practice. It is a beautiful and impactful prayer that brings unity and togetherness to the body of Christ — it is the prayer taught to us by Jesus Himself which has been termed “The Lord’s Prayer.” This prayer is found in two of the Gospels: Luke and Matthew. In Luke’s Gospel, we find a shortened version.

“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4).

Although the version of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter in Luke’s Gospel, the wording in both is nearly identical. It makes sense that Jesus would have taught this prayer on multiple occasions to His disciples and followers. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that Jesus taught His followers to say when they asked Him to teach them how to pray. It has been learned by the majority of Christians throughout the history of the church.

What Is the Lord's Prayer?

In Matthew’s Gospel, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached about many topics, one of which was how to pray. It is during this portion of Jesus’ sermon that He instructed the people to pray in a certain way. 

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today 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 the evil one”
(Matthew 6:9-13).

 This demonstration of prayer taught by Jesus was simple, yet it shows us how we can come to God in prayer. Jesus was often seen going away from crowds to pray and spend time with the Father. He recognized the significance of having a healthy prayer life, and practiced it regularly. It is no surprise that during His sermon the mount, He taught the people about prayer.

What Is the Context of the Lord's Prayer?

Jesus taught the Lord’s prayer during His sermon on the mount. The sermon on the mount is found in Luke 5-7. It is three chapters and is the longest recorded sermon given by Jesus. Scholars believe it would have taken about 10-15 minutes for Jesus to deliver this impactful, life-changing sermon. When Jesus spoke, He taught the Lord’s Prayer to those who were at the sermon on the mount.

Before Jesus began teaching about prayer, He was instructing the people to not practice righteousness and goodness in front of others to get recognition and praise from fellow humans. Rather they should do good and righteous things in secret and God will reward them for their obedience and faithfulness.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

It is in this context that Jesus teaches about three spiritual practices that should be done in secret to the best of our ability. The first, when His followers give to the needy and poor. The second, when they pray. The third, when they fast. All these spiritual disciplines should be done in obedience to God, not to make ourselves look good in front of others. When Jesus spoke specifically about prayer, He warned the people to not pray openly to gain attention and to not pray long prayers to impress others.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:5-7).

Humanity is prone to pride, self-centeredness, and boasting of ourselves. Jesus warned against these inclinations and to instead be righteous for God’s sake and glory. Therefore, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how to keep their hearts pure before the Lord in prayer. Jesus desired that His followers pray to the Lord for the purpose of deepening their relationship with God. Prayer is an important way for people to connect with God and be in relationship with Him.

What Are the Parts of the Lord's Prayer?

The Lord’s Prayer is composed of five distinct sections.

The first, to give praise and glory to the Lord (v. 9). God has no equal, He alone is God and worthy of all praise.

The second, to ask for God’s kingdom to be done here on earth (v. 10). We bear the light of Jesus in a dark world and have been tasked with sharing the Gospel message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

The third, to ask for God’s provision and basic needs to be met (v. 11). God is our provider and takes care of all our needs.

The fourth, to ask God’s forgiveness of our sins just as we forgive others (v. 12). We are a forgiven people whom God has instructed to forgive others.

The fifth, to ask God’s help that we would avoid sin, temptation, and to not be overcome by the enemy (v.13). Truly, there is freedom and victory through Jesus Christ for those who are covered in His saving grace.

These five parts of the Lord’s Prayer are significant components to include whenever we pray to the Lord. God already knows what is on our hearts and minds (see Matthew 6:8), so when we pray, we don’t have to be eloquent or lengthy in words. God does not want prayer to be intimidating, or a way for us to impress others. Prayer is about trust, praise, and relationship. Prayer is about God’s kingdom, not building ourselves up.

Prayer can bring healing, restoration, and forgiveness — but it is all through God’s power, not our own.

Why Does Jesus Give Us the Lord's Prayer?

Jesus was intentional with His time on this earth. Nothing He did was without meaning and purpose. It is why Christians are taught to live their lives as He did. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus explained that He taught this prayer because He did not want His followers to pray to impress others or gain human praise. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer to teach the importance of having the right perspective and motives behind praying.

He also gave us the Lord’s prayer to reiterate the importance of having a prayer life. In His sermon, Jesus said, “when you pray” (Matthew 6:5), not “if you pray.” Having a prayer life is not negotiable. Prayer is how Christians talk to God, hear from God, and spend time in His presence. Jesus modeled a prayer life throughout the Gospels when He found time to get away and pray. In fact, before He was arrested and crucified, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. No doubt, prayer was vital to Jesus’ life, and He wants the same for His followers.

How Does the Lord's Prayer Guide Us in Our Own Prayer Life?

Sometimes, prayer can feel intimidating. Often, people wonder how to pray or feel like they don’t pray well enough. Jesus’ sermon on the mount corrects those concerns. Prayer is simple. Prayer is talking to the God who loves you and wants to hear from you. If you don’t know where to start, start with the Lord’s Prayer. You can write it, read it, and hopefully, come to memorize it.

The Lord’s Prayer also teaches us significant things to include in our prayers: praise to the Lord, being part of furthering His kingdom on earth, for His provision, for forgiveness, and to avoid sin. As you work toward cultivating a prayer life, you can include these types of petitions and hopes to the Lord when you talk to Him in prayer. God loves His children and simply desires that we come to Him in prayer. The apostle Paul put it this way when he wrote to the church of Philippi:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

We can bring anything to God — just start by praying no matter what is going on in your mind, heart, or life. Prayer can accomplish big things in us — healing, restoration, provision, and most of all, prayer gives us the peace of God in the midst of whatever we face. What a promise God has made to us!

The Lord’s Prayer is a powerful prayer that comes from the very mouth of Jesus. It has taught Christians how to pray since the beginning of the church, and continues to minister throughout all generations of believers across denominational lines. The Lord’s Prayer brings us together as the body of Christ. Through it, we are taught how to pray, and we are taught how vital prayer is to a life lived for God.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Lemon_tm

Pamela Palmer 1200x1200Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.