By Dave Butts
“Lord, teach us to pray” was a request of the disciples to Jesus 2000 years ago. It still seems to be a popular request of His disciples today. In spite of years of sermons and lessons on prayer, Christians are still saying, “I don’t know how to pray.”
Often what is taught is more motivational and theoretical than practical teaching on how to pray. It is assumed that prayer is a spiritual discipline that all Christians will automatically do. I am finding, as I travel the country, that this is simply not the case.
When a church first asked me to teach a seminar on “How to Pray,” I started looking at all sorts of techniques and methods. But as I prayed about it, I kept going back to Jesus’ response to the question posed by the disciples in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” I’m convinced the key in knowing how to pray is in that model prayer that Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:9-13. It is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer; however, I prefer to refer to it as the Model Prayer, or the Disciples Prayer, because it is for our instruction and benefit.
Many authors have written about it, and many of us have studied all the various parts of this wonderful prayer, carefully analyzing each section. There is real value in that; however, I would like to take a fresh look at this text, trying to shed some new light upon God’s intent for our prayer lives.
What can we learn about how to pray by studying this prayer outline of Jesus from God’s perspective? Perhaps it is time to discover what it is that God wants us to pray about. I suggest you keep your Bible open to Matthew 6:9-13 as we walk through the prayer.
The Model Prayer instructs us to:
1. Address the Father (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”). Verse 9 shows us how to offer our praise and worship to the One who desires it. This allows us to enter into the presence of God by being focused on Him rather than upon ourselves. If we are in His presence, we are more likely to be in tune with what He desires. Praying through the Psalms is a good way to do this because they help us to better understand the heart of God through knowing more about the character of God. It is vital for the Father’s children to know that the purpose of prayer is to bring glory to God! Worship that is focused on God is prayer! Psalm 145 is one that reveals much about who God is and gives us a robust vocabulary to utilize in addressing our Father. Pay attention to the One who is on the other end of our prayers – the One who sits on the throne!
2. Pray about Kingdom issues (“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). Verse 10 reveals the place where God’s heart is! Jesus’ message was about the Kingdom–His Kingdom. In Matthew 6:33, He instructed His disciples to seek first the Kingdom, and then the things needed for this life would be provided.
Growing Deeper in Kingdom Prayer
Praying about the kingdom is often the most neglected area of prayer, and yet the nearest to the heart of God. Kingdom prayer is birthed in the heart of God, and the Holy Spirit reveals the desires of God to us! It’s amazing that God has chosen to work through human flesh to accomplish His purposes. To illustrate, look at the way Jesus phrased this subject in Matthew 6:10: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of God, the reign of God, happens when God’s will is done. This occurs in its perfect form in heaven where everything is done in exact accordance with the will of God.
Jesus instructs us to pray that God’s Kingdom would advance on planet earth–that God’s will would be done here as it is in heaven, with all creatures and institutions perfectly submitted to the will of God.
I’d like to suggest to you that this reign of God begins to take place on earth when two things happen:
Basically, then, we’re praying about two things:
It is particularly interesting that God’s Spirit is prompting believers all over the world to pray for these very things.
Let’s look at some practical ways we can pray about these two topics:
Finishing the Task
How do you decide what country or people group to pray for? Let the Holy Spirit guide you, just as He guides missionaries to their particular place of ministry. Begin praying for the needs of the world . . . watch the news and read newspapers. Pray about the nations or people groups mentioned. Read a book like “Operation World” and begin praying for the nations. God will begin to attract you to one particular group or city or region which you can “adopt” for prayer. Spend time researching the nation, tribe or city that you have chosen. Make a file or scrapbook about your people group. Learn to pray intelligently for these people for whom you have committed to pray.
1. For the workers already in the harvest field as well as for more workers in the harvest field (Matthew 9:38).
2. For open doors so that the gospel may take its rapid course (Col. 4:2-3).
3. For lasting fruit as a result of spiritual labor (2 Thess. 3:1).
4. For the necessary funds to spread the gospel (Romans 10:14-15; Phil. 4:19).
How do we pray for revival? There are so many good ways. Mostert’s book suggests 10 ways we can pray every day for revival, both for ourselves and for our own congregation of believers. Would you commit to praying daily for revival in your life and in your church?
3. Pray about personal needs (“Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”). Notice that the rest of the model prayer (Matthew 6:11-13) deals with one’s own life. God wants us to pray about our needs. He just doesn’t want them to be the only thing we pray about.
Most Christians have little difficulty praying about personal needs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but how often do we wonder whether or not our priorities in prayer are God’s priorities? Often, our default mode of prayer is to go immediately to ourselves, or to those close to us. Here are some suggestions to help you with the three issues listed in verses 11-13:
Knowing “how to pray” will happen when we operate as Jesus taught us. First, we remember to “hallow His name” when we recognize that prayer is designed by God for the glory of God. Next, we quit focusing first and only on our own needs and wants, and begin to pray about the things God wants to have happen “on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray for the advance of the Kingdom, and the reign of God coming upon this earth, we demonstrate to Him that we are seeking His Kingdom first. And finally, these other things, the necessities of life, may properly be brought before our Father who delights in providing for us.
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