When you screw up while leaving a recorded phone message, you usually can’t erase it, I know a guy who ended a message with “…in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”. He was so used to saying that at the end of a prayer that he just did it without thinking.
Sometimes our prayers get said without thinking, too. You can probably recite the Lord’s Prayer without thinking about it. For many, saying the “Our Father” is a ritual, like the Pledge of Allegiance, done by rote so we can all sit down and get on to the next thing. The irony of that is that Jesus taught that prayer as a way to help us avoid meaningless, empty prayer. He warned us, “Don’t think you get brownie points from God by special words and a religious tone of voice.”
But, that raises the question: When you dare to speak with the Creator of the universe, what should you say? How should you pray?
Jesus answered those questions with a profound but simple outline for prayer. He said, not, pray this, but “pray like this:”
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day 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 evil.
( Matthew 6:9-13 – ESV)
Begin your prayer, He said, by acknowledging the majesty and awesome holiness of the One you are addressing. At the same time, remember His love for us, His children. “Our Father, Who exists in Heaven, may Who You are, fill me and everyone else with a sense of reverence, wonder and humility.” Use words that have that effect on your heart.
Secondly, as you pray, intentionally align your heart with God’s purpose and plan. Pray for the eventual establishment of His Kingdom on earth, the day in which everyone naturally and gracefully lives in harmony with the will of God, their King. Tell God how you yearn for Heaven’s conditions to be lived out here on earth.
After these important attitude adjustments in prayer, Jesus taught us to pray for our needs. We don’t say, “God, gimme this…” but rather, we are to pray with gratitude, knowing God already knows our needs. We pray for our daily needs – bread for the day. There is a childlike trust and surrender reflected in such a prayer.
Our prayers for forgiveness from God are soaked in the awareness that such forgiveness can only be received by those with forgiving hearts. Read that again and ponder the truth of it.
Jesus taught us to pray for protection from Satan and from the many ways we are tempted by him. Because our battle with sin is spiritual in nature, we need more than willpower; we need spiritual armament.
And that’s it. That’s the outline for prayer. All that other business about “For Thine is the… ” is the kind of religious ritualistic verbiage Jesus was teaching us to avoid.
Next time you pause to talk with God, try Jesus’ outline, putting each idea into the words that flow from your own heart.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 🙂