One of the disciples asked Jesus to teach him and the rest of the disciples how to pray as John the Baptist taught his followers to pray. Jesus was a great example of someone who truly knew how to pray. Prayer was as important as breathing to Jesus.
The first part of what we know as the Lord’s prayer opens focusing on God our Father. The opening of the prayer was not unusual for Jews. This opening was used in most of the Jewish prayers. However, Jesus was teaching more than just opening a prayer with a few simple words. He wanted the disciples to understand about the relationship we have with God our Father. This is a conversation of intimacy, love, and trust. It is also acknowledging that God is indeed Lord of all. His name is holy, righteous, worthy of praise.
When we pray Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, we are humbling ourselves before our God. God’s kingdom is already here within our hearts. When we pray this as it is meant to be prayed, we are seeking to do His will in His way. We want God and His kingdom first in our lives and on earth.
When we ask for daily bread, this is God’s Word, His manna for our souls. We cannot follow Jesus without partaking of His Word, His flesh. Jesus’ mission on earth was to follow God and His will. He wanted the disciples to understand they could do nothing without the power of God and that daily time with Him. In order to grow in our relationship with Christ, we have to spend time with him.
Jesus then goes on to teaching about forgiveness. Forgiveness is pivotal to our relationship with God. He desires us to forgive others, so we may be forgiven. Unforgiveness hinders us from moving forward and growing God’s kingdom. Jesus forgave us from our sins, the least we can do is forgive others. It is so easy to hold on to grudges, yet those grudges can turn into bitterness and then hatred if we are not careful. If we are harbouring unforgiveness towards someone, we cannot expect Christ to forgive us.
When we ask God to lead us not into temptation we are not suggesting God is going to take away all that may tempt or try us. In fact, those very things are allowed so we can grow in our relationship with Him. God desires to deliver us from evil. God will not remove all the evil around us, but He will protect us as parents protect their young. At the end of the prayer, Jesus once again recognises that everything belongs to God and is under God’s control.
The disciples were used to praying set prayers such as Christians have come accustomed to praying the Lord’s prayer. Most of what they learnt in the Lord’s prayer is what they already knew, because they prayed these prayers so many times during the day and the Sabbath. There is no magic in these words. Jesus wanted the disciples and us to understand that prayer is about a relationship with God our Father. He wants us to understand that His name is to be high and lifted up and most importantly we are to seek God’s will not our own.
We are to be persistent in our prayers. Jews were used to this idea- for example, Daniel. Set prayers were a vital part of a Jew’s life. Jesus doesn’t want to us to be religious in our prayers. Instead, He wants us to be honest, sincere, and open with God our Father. He desires us to have a contrite spirit and brokenness before Him. He desires us to be humble and come to Him in worship. When we come to God in this type of attitude and worship, we will move His heart. And the good news is when we don’t have the words to say and we struggle to share what we are really feeling, Paul tells us in Romans, that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf in groans and words that we cannot every express.
Jesus goes on to tell a parable after teaching about how to pray. Although the man in this story did not want to answer the door because he was very tired, he did so because the friend kept knocking. In the tradition of that day, to not answer the door and meet the need of the friend or neighbour, would bring shame to the man’s family and home. He had to spare his name, therefore, he answered the door and met the friend’s need. Jesus was teaching us that God is always listening, He is always there with the door opened wide to listen to our needs. Even though the man was tired and did not want to open the door to his friend, he still did so and still met the need. The friend’s persistence paid off and he got what he needed. Jesus is teaching us not to give up in our prayers. We need to keep seeking God’s will, and keep asking Him to answer our prayers. The hardest thing at times is to wait and be patient.
The friend had boldness to go to his mate’s house and ask for what he needed. So often we tend to not come to God in persistence due to our pride. We think we can do it on our own, because we may not get an answer right away, we tend to think well, God’s not listening anyways, so I may as well do what I want. Fear also keeps us from seeking God for His desire. What if it’s not what I want to do, what if it is out of my comfort zone? Fear keeps us from doing so many wonderful things for the kingdom of God.
We have to be careful though when we are persistent in our prayers that we don’t do out of selfish motives. We must seek the will of God. There are times however, that we need to be active in the answer to our prayers. We know what is God’s will and yet, we expect God to just give us what we want here and now without obedience and doing what God is calling us to do. This is being selfish and almost like a toddler who has tantrums to get their own way.
The Lord’s prayer is a simple way of remembering how to pray. However, Jesus’ main point that He wants us to understand is that we are to see God as our Abba, Father. He is our friend, someone we can trust. We are to come to Him in humble worship seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. If we put God first in our prayers in reverent fear, then we can pour out our hearts to Him on behalf of others and ourselves. We must have a forgiving spirit, because unforgivenness and bitterness causes us to stumble and not grow. Jesus does not want us to be stuck in a rut, constantly praying the exact same prayer all the time. The Lord’s prayer is not a magical prayer, a rabbit’s foot, a lucky charm. It is an example from many prayers that the disciples would have understood. We are to be persistent in seeking God’s will and not our own agenda. We are to put God first and foremost.
The good news is that when we do pray in this manner, with a humble heart, seeking God’s will, we will move the heart of God. Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede on our behalf, and we will see mighty things happen! Prayers will be answered and lives will be changed, including our own. Praise be to God!