Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1

It was a wise request, and we would be wise to ask it, too.

So what did the Lord say?

“When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
Luke 11:2-4

A lot of people take this instruction literally, and this is the only prayer they pray.  But God doesn’t want us to just recite words; He wants our hearts. Prayer is not getting God to do what we want, but it’s a gracious open door of communication so that God can show us His will and change the rhythm of our hearts to beat with His. Jesus gives His disciples, us included, a peek into God’s heart through this prayer.  So let’s unpack it just a little a bit and see how we are to pray.

“When you pray, say:”

This word prayer means worship.  Prayer is not a time to jump in, ask for a bunch of things, and leave.  It’s a time where we enter into worship of the Most High God.

“Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.”

These two sentences are very telling.

Jesus introduces the radical notion that we have the privilege of calling God our Father.  He is closer to us than some impersonal God “way up there.”  He loves us as a parent loves a child (and even more) and when we go to Him in prayer we can be assured that He hears us and will provide us with every good thing.

At the same time Jesus reminds us our Father is hallowed, or holy.  He is not like our earthly fathers.  He is sacred, pure, blameless and righteous.  Any fears or emotional baggage we may have because of our earthly fathers do not apply to our Heavenly Father.  We can trust Him.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

The word kingdom means rule, a realm or a reign.  Now that the Holy Spirit has come, we who have put our faith in Christ have the privilege of knowing God not just from the outside, but from the inside.  And to properly worship God in prayer we must continually give Him permission to rule our hearts.  It’s so easy to take back the reins, if you will.

As we give our hearts to be a kingdom for God to reside, we’ll want His will, not ours.  In heaven everything happens God’s way.  There is no sin.  It is filled with the glory of God and all He is.

In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells us “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

God’s thoughts, desires and will, are all so very different, so much higher than our own.  And when we pray that God’s will be done here on earth like it is in heaven, that’ll mean He’s going to shake things up a bit, and it’s going to start with changing our hearts.  Are you willing to let God do radical things in and through you?

“Give us day by day our daily bread.”

God doesn’t give us what we’ll need tomorrow today.  He gives us what we need today today, so we need to go to Him every day.

Not only do we need to get physical bread—food, and even on a broader scale, physical or material needs–but we need spiritual bread.

Most of us would never think of going a day (or even a few hours!) without eating.  We need to be spiritually fed as often.

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:35

Jesus is our sustenance.  As we remain in Him, He will bless us with everything we need.

“And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”

When we hold unforgiveness (or any sin) in our hearts, whether we’re resisting repenting of our own sins or forgiving someone who has sinned against us, we put up a wall between us and God.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2

Ask God to bring to your mind those things you need to specifically repent of, and the people you need to forgive.  There are times that past, hurtful situations come to my mind and it’s easy to sit and stew in the anger all over again.  But those are divinely-inspired opportunities to forgive someone who may have slipped from our consciousness, but God knows that anger is creating a root of bitterness, and He brings them to our minds to give us a chance to forgive.  We may have temporarily forgotten, but God hasn’t. He knows the destruction it causes in our hearts.  Remember, forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

This literally means to rescue us from the evil one–the one seeks to steal, kill and destroy.  We’ve repented of our sins and the last thing we want to do is rush right back into sin through the temptations we face.  We need discipline and as we hold onto the Lord, He will give us the strength and courage we need.

The concise way of saying all that is to remember ACTS:

Adoration – praising God for all He is
Confession – repenting of, or turning away from our sin
Thanksgiving – thanking God for all He’s done, all He does and all He will do
Supplication – presenting our needs before the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills

This is a good guideline to get our hearts right as we enter into worship so we don’t get a case of the “gimmes.”  You know, give me this and give me that.

The National Day of Prayer uses this acronym:

Praise
Repent
Ask
Yield.

And just as important as knowing what to say, is knowing how to be silent.  To sit before God and let Him speak to our hearts is a precious gift indeed.

God bless you as you pray,