Frequently we use “the Lord’s prayer” when teaching people about prayer and how to pray because that is what Jesus used for teaching His disciples. In case you’ve never heard of it, this is how it goes:
Our Father, who is 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 have forgiven our debtors
[letting go of both the wrong and the resentment].
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]
Matthew 6:10-13 AMP
It’s a beautiful, poetic-sounding prayer but to be honest, I have to think a little harder to pray using some of those words. It’s not part of my daily vocabulary to use words like “hallowed”. I would venture to say most of us are not in the habit of speaking this way normally. How does Jesus’ example help us if prayer is supposed to be just talking to God in conversation?
Over the next two weeks, we’re going to break this down a little more to understand and apply Jesus’ “how to” on prayer. I always find it easier to remember things if there is some way to associate it with a memorable trick or rhythm, so to help us remember how to pray, we’ll use an acrostic: P – R – A – Y.
First Things First
The first letter, ‘P’ stands for Praise.
We should always start our prayers with praise and thanksgiving. Jesus started His prayer-example with praise by proclaiming that God is our Father, He is over all things (“in heaven”), and He is holy (“hallowed” means holy). An attitude of praise sets the tone for our hearts and prepares us to pray. When we recognize and proclaim who God is and acknowledge all He has done and is able to do, it humbles us and gives us joy. It energizes our prayers. When I was a little girl, I had to write thank you letters to everyone who gave me a gift at Christmas and my birthday. Why? Because it showed appreciation to the person who gave up something of theirs in order to give something to me. It always thrilled my grandparents to receive thank you notes from me, in part because it demonstrated I was thinking about them but also because of the gratitude I expressed.
Don’t we all like getting a little appreciation for what we do? If the people you care about only come to you when they want something, you might begin to avoid them. That is no way to have a healthy relationship. Isn’t it surprisingly delightful to receive a text message that reads something like “Hi friend! I was walking through the store and saw something that reminded me of your kindness. Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate having you as a friend.”
Music to His Ears
God loves to hear wonderful things too. He knows that we know all the great things He’s done for us and just like any good relationship, He wants to hear us acknowledge those things. God wants us to know who He is. He wants to hear that we are thinking about Him, not just whatever our current problem, struggle, or want is. God is the One who parted the sea for the Israelites to walk on. He is the One who walked around in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. The One who shuts the mouths of lions and conquers giants: that is our God. He is the One who raised Lazarus from the dead and by His own hand saves our very souls. Our Heavenly Father is the One who loves us more than we can imagine or could ever deserve. If He is able to do all of this (and this just the tip of the iceberg) then He can surely take care of anything we face.
Praise is like a rocket booster for the rest of our prayer. It ignites our faith and ushers us in to the presence of God. Are you wondering where to start? Start with praising God first. After you’ve spent five or ten minutes praising God, your prayers will start flowing more freely.
Next week we’ll check out the rest of our P – R – A – Y acrostic so make sure you check back with us then!