Prayer is vital for connecting with God, yet many of us struggle to know how to pray. If you’ve ever wondered how Jesus taught his followers to pray, you’ll discover profound wisdom and guidance in this article.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father, as an ideal prayer and model to teach people how to pray. He covers themes of praising God, asking for daily needs, forgiveness, and deliverance from evil.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn the context around the Lord’s Prayer, a breakdown of each part, and additional lessons Jesus gave about persistence, sincerity, avoiding hypocrisy, and more when you pray.
The Lord’s Prayer Explained
The Setting and Situation of the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father prayer, is found in the Bible in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Jesus spoke these words after he had gone out to the mountainside to sit down and his disciples came to him.
As he began to teach them, his disciples asked him how they should pray (Luke 11:1). In response, Jesus provided them with the Lord’s Prayer as an ideal prayer template to follow.
The context shows that this model prayer was given not as something to mindlessly repeat, but as a pattern for how we ought to approach God. The Lord’s Prayer contains critical components that should be present in our communication with God – praise for God, submission to His will, requests for our needs, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation and evil.
Line-By-Line Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” – We address God intimately yet reverently, as a loving Father. And His name is to be regarded as holy.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – We pray for God’s kingdom purposes to be fulfilled and His will to be done on earth, fully submitted to His lordship.
“Give us today our daily bread” – We ask God to supply our practical needs.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” – Having received God’s forgiveness, we also forgive others.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” – We ask God to guide us from harm and protect us from the devil’s schemes.
The Profound Themes Woven Throughout
There are rich biblical themes that run through the Lord’s Prayer that teach us much about relating to God properly in prayer. It reminds us that God is loving yet holy, and calls us to prioritize His glory.
It reveals that prayer should involve both petition and submission as we acknowledge God’s agenda over ours. There is also an emphasis on gospel grace, with requesting and granting forgiveness. And lastly it conveys our dependence on God in the midst of spiritual warfare.
The Lord’s Prayer spans just 55 words in English, yet in compressed form it provides a model that encompasses all the key elements prayer should contain. Through the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us the proper posture and priorities for prayer – humility towards God, reliance on Him for provision, grace and compassion towards others, and trust in His care and protection.
What a profound, comprehensive pattern set for us by Christ Himself!
Additional Teachings of Jesus on Prayer
Persist in Prayer with Boldness
Jesus taught his followers to be persistent in prayer and not give up. He used the parable of a friend knocking on a neighbor’s door at midnight asking for three loaves of bread to illustrate the need for boldness and persistence in prayer (Luke 11:5-10).
Though the neighbor was initially unwilling to get up, he eventually helped his friend due to his persistence. Jesus concludes we too should persistently ask, seek, and knock in prayer, and it will be given to us.
Being bold and unrelenting in bringing our requests before God shows our dependence on Him.
Jesus also taught that prayer should be coupled with faith, believing we will receive what we ask for (Mark 11:24). When we pray persistently for God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come, continuing steadfastly without doubting, our loving Father delights to give us good things (Matthew 7:7-11).
Avoid Hypocrisy and Show Sincerity
Jesus strongly cautioned against hypocritical praying to impress others. He said not to pray loudly in public like hypocrites but to go into a private room, shut the door, and pray in secret to our Father who sees what is done in secret (Matthew 6:5-6).
The motivation and sincerity behind our prayers matter more to God than the outward actions.
We should pour out genuine, heartfelt prayers to God rather than reciting memorized, elaborate prayers to try to sound spiritual before others (Matthew 6:7-8). Our prayers do not have to be complex. The tax collector’s simple prayer of “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” was justified before God rather than the Pharisee’s long, prideful prayer about his good deeds (Luke 18:9-14).
Sincerity is key.
Forgive Others When You Pray
Jesus taught that when we stand praying, we should forgive others in order for our Father in heaven to forgive our sins (Mark 11:25). If we have anything against anyone, we should leave our gift at the altar, first go and be reconciled, then come to offer our gift (Matthew 5:23-24).
Holding grudges hinders our relationship with God. Only when our relationships are right with others can our prayers be effective and aligned with God’s will.
The Lord’s Prayer illustrates this principle. We ask God to “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). God’s forgiveness of us is connected to our forgiveness of others. Maintaining a forgiving heart is key when approaching God in prayer.
Have Faith When You Ask Things of God
Jesus emphasized having faith in God when we ask Him for anything in prayer. He told His disciples that with faith even as small as a mustard seed, they could say to a mountain, “Move from here to there” and it would move (Matthew 17:20).
Jesus highlighted the power and importance of faith-filled prayer.
However, Jesus also noted believers should pray according to God’s will, not just our own desires. When nearing His crucifixion, Jesus fervently prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
As we make requests known to God, we must trust His perfect timing and greater wisdom, praying “your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
Applying Jesus’ Teachings on Prayer
Cultivate an Intimate Relationship with God
Jesus emphasized repeatedly that prayer should flow out of a close, intimate relationship with God. As our loving heavenly Father, God longs to hear from us and have genuine connection (Luke 11:2). We can nurture intimacy with God by spending regular quiet time reading His Word and listening for His voice, confessing our sins to remove barriers in our fellowship, and simply talking to Him throughout our day like a close friend.
Regularly Evaluate Your Heart and Motives
Jesus warned against praying with wrong motives or an impure heart (Matthew 6:5-8). We can examine our hearts by asking questions like: Why am I praying this? Am I praying this to truly align my heart with God’s desires or just to get something I want?
Do I harbor any unforgiveness, selfishness or pride that hinders my prayers? Regular self-reflection prevents prayer from becoming a superficial religious ritual.
Pray Scripture Back to God
Praying Scripture powerfully builds our faith and aligns our prayers with God’s truth (Romans 10:17). For example, when battling fear and anxiety, we can pray promises like Philippians 4:6-7 back to the Lord as affirmations of His peace.
Or when interceding for prodigals, we can plead the truth of Luke 15:20 – that the Father eagerly awaits their return. As the old hymn says, “Holy Scripture is the joyful domain where prayers are learned and answered and prayed again.”
Journal Your Prayers
Journaling our prayers – writing out heartfelt conversations with God – brings tremendous spiritual blessing. Through journaling, we tangibly see the Lord’s faithful answers over time, which builds our faith (John 14:13).
Recording prayers also keeps our hearts attuned to God’s voice and direction when we review past journal entries. What an amazing legacy for future generations too – to read the record of God’s awesome deeds in response to our humble petitions (Psalm 78:4-7)! 😊🙏💜
Jesus’ profound teachings on prayer, centered around the Lord’s Prayer, have guided millions over thousands of years on how to foster intimacy with God. As you glean these timeless principles, may your prayer life blossom in sincerity, power, and love.
Ultimately, prayer is about a relationship – and Jesus shows the way to the Father’s heart.