This week we began the season of Lent. For me lent is a time where I try to focus increasingly on prayer. I’ve been thinking a lot about the practice, as well as reading what others had to say. Recently other people have also been asking questions about prayer.
For example this week I got this question:
“I really like to pray, but I don't know if what I pray is what God wants and desires for the person I'm praying for, or myself, and I just always feel like I'm going against God. … how does one pray?"
Asking “How does one pray?” is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. Just take a look at Luke 11:1 “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.” Even those who lived day in and day out with Jesus still had trouble understanding how to pray!
Before we get into how… I think it’s important to talk about why… there are innumerable reasons to pray. Stop and think for a second before reading… Why would one pray? Come up with a reason in your mind…
I can think of a few reasons:
Ephesians 3:14-19 – It strengthens our relationship with God
A person prays, said Augustine, "that he himself may be constructed, not that God may be instructed."
Luke 22:39-41 – Avoid Temptation
Luke 10:2 It empowers us to see God’s will
Soren Kierkegaard once wrote: “the true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills.”
and empowers us do it (look at the next command of Jesus in Verse 3)
Prayer is really practical! As
Ephesians 6:10-20 - Warfare
One of my favorite quotes about prayer comes from Karl Barth who wrote, "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
Matthew 6:45-46 It Grounds us
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “A day without morning and evening prayers and personal intercessions is actually a day without meaning or importance.” I love that!
Requests – Philippians 4:6
“God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” That’s a really cool idea to me!
I’m sure there another hundred reasons to pray, but these are a good start I think… Let’s now look on HOW to pray.
For me understanding how to pray BEGINS with looking at how Jesus responds to the request, “Lord, teach us to pray”. Go back to Luke 11 look at verse 3 and following:
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.
This prayer is the basic prayer of all of Christianity stretching though all denominations, and traditions!
(This prayer is also recorded in Matthew 5… in fact that whole chapter is a great place to look for how to approach prayer!)
To Understand the LORD’S PRAYER (what the prayer above is often called). One has to look at the prayer which Jesus seemed to expound upon.
At the time of Jesus there was a prayer in use called Kaddish or The Sanctification. It goes like this….
Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world He created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of
And say Amen.
Can you see any Parallels?
- Sanctifying the name of God
- Request For God’s kingdom to be established
This prayer follows a pattern seen though out the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus frequently takes an established part of the religion, and tweaks it.
Another example of this is how Jesus changes the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, this is the most basic creed of Judaism!) in Luke 10:27 by adding a passage from Leviticus 19:18 to create a Creed based on loving both GOD AND OTHERS!!
Jesus adds a few things into the Our Father…
The most obvious additions are requests for
Bread, Forgiveness, and Protection from temptation… and the addition of the word Father.
The part of this that actually strikes me the most is the way that Jesus transforms this prayer into a prayer for GOD AND OTHERS!! It adds the OUR, and makes requests that deal with the day to day struggles of us and our neighbors. It’s a prayer that is both Horizontal and Vertical… and is a deeply personal prayer.
Let’s look at the LORD’S PRAYER or the OUR FATHER as it is sometimes called again… At each line think about the way that Jesus crafts this prayer to reflect our place as CHILDREN TOGETHER IN THE FAMILY OF GOD.
Our Father in heaven,
Think about the spirit of adoption, and how we are now Son’s and Daughter. We pray this prayer WITH CHRIST HIMSELF, and THE HOLY SPIRIT!
Hallowed be Thy name.
Does our heart truly set God’s name Apart?
Thy kingdom come.
Are we living for Thy Kingdom of My kingdom
Thy will be done
Do we truly give God sovereignty over all our lives and Communities
On earth as it is in heaven.
God’s kingdom is something that BREAKS INTO THE DAY TO DAY!! Today!!
Give us this day our daily bread.
Pray this for others as well as for yourself! That’s what the “
And forgive us our trespasses,
As individuals, and as a community!
As we forgive those who is trespass against us.
Are you really asking this? Let the sword cut both ways!
And lead us not into temptation,
Is sin something you really want to be free from… Do you want to see your neighbor free. Remember the
But deliver us from evil.
In ALL FORMS… Let this prayer be “the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
Try praying this prayer everyday… I personally have an alarm set on my Cell Phone for 4PM everyday where I pray this prayer before I bring my concerns of the day before God.
Remember: Ultimately Prayer is grounded in doing it!
How do we learn to pray?
Mother Teresa answers, "By praying — If you want to pray better, you must pray more."
One Final thought by Eugene Peterson: ““Be slow to pray. Praying puts us at risk of getting involved with God’s conditions…. Praying most often doesn’t get us what we want but what God wants, something quite at variance with what we conceive to be in our best interests. And when we realize what is going on, it is often too late to go back.””