You’ll be reading (soaping?) this chapter in 11 days! But it’s worth risking potential spoilers because it’s the account of Jesus’ disciples asking him how to pray. What better place for us to learn how to pray than from Jesus himself?!
Jesus’ answer is known as The Lord’s Prayer. Some traditions of Christianity feature mindless repetition of this prayer but that’s almost certainly not what Jesus intended. Remember: It’s about relationship – mindlessly repeating something over and over is not the sign of a deep or loving relationship.
So, how do we use the Lord’s prayer?
Instead of repeating each line, use each line as a jumping off point for deeper prayer. (Kind of like the SOAP acronym features starting points for bible study.) When we pray through the Lord’s prayer in this way, instead of just saying words, our prayer moves toward deeper and deeper intimacy. Still not making sense? Check this out:
Father, hallowed be your name
- Start your prayer with praise and thanksgiving. Hallowed means holy. Jesus tells us to begin our prayers by thinking of the holiness of God. But he also calls him Father which establishes our relationship with him.
- What can you praise God for? What are you thankful for? Start your prayer by telling God how awesome he is! Of course, he already knows – we’re the ones who need the daily reminder.
Your kingdom come
- We’ll study God’s Kingdom in a few weeks but we can define it basically as the place where God reigns. When you ask God for his kingdom to come, you are asking him to reign or rule over the people and things in your life.
- This is a great time to pray for the people in your life who need God. You can also pray that everything in your life could come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Give us each day our daily bread
- How cool is it that Jesus taught us to pray for others (your kingdom come) before we pray for ourselves? Well, now it’s time to pray for your needs or “daily bread” as Jesus puts it. Your prayer time is starting to become more intimate as you recognize that your life depends on the providence of God and God keeps on delivering.
- Lay your needs bare before God – what are your desires, your struggles, your joys?
Forgive us our sins
- Talk about intimate! This is getting really personal (that’s the point!) This may be difficult, but God wants to hear about the wrong that we do on a daily basis. Not so he can judge – he’s already made a way for all of our sins to be forgiven – but so we can feel his forgiveness and grow to be more like him and less sinful.
- How have you fallen short of God’s high expectations for life as a Christ follower?
- How amazing is it that he loves you no less!
We forgive everyone
- What’s harder than talking about our own missteps and failures? Remembering how others have hurt us with their sin. And yet, that’s where God goes next and where your prayer time can go to the next level.
- Consider ways that you have been hurt and then give them to God by forgiving every time.
And lead us not into temptation
- The prayer ends with one further step into closeness with God. It’s not enough just to talk to him about the sins we’ve committed. He even wants to hear about the ways that we are tempted to sin. What else is drawing our affection besides him?
- Tell God what you are struggling with. What are you battling in your mind and heart? Letting him in at the point of temptation can change the direction of your soul and save you from so much suffering.
That may seem like a lot but it’s practice that makes perfect. If you were to pray each of the 6 sections for just 1 minute each, you’d pray for 6 minutes! You might not be able to fathom praying for a whole hour but spending just 10 minutes with each part of the Lord’s prayer will get you there. And it doesn’t have to be you talking the whole time – prayer is listening and meditating too.
There are many other ways to pray and passages to pray through. It’s no coincidence that the longest book in the bible, in the very middle of the bible, is Psalms, a collection of 150 prayer songs to God that are so good to pray through!
Now that you’re set up to build your relationship with God, there’s only one more thing for this first week: Strength And Encouragement For The Journey