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“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.” – Matthew 6:9-13
I don’t know about you, but I have never really felt like I was much of a prayer warrior. I should be, particularly as a member of the military who should understand the need to ask for resources to fight battles, and as someone who has deployed – prayer being an essential connection and help to my wife and family when I am away. I would call myself more of a prayer firefighter – when there was a fire I would reach for some prayer and try and put the fire out with it. Not really what God had in mind for a healthy prayer life. I was using prayer only as a reactive weapon rather than realizing that it was even more effective as a preemptive weapon.
What surprised me was that the tool I most needed to start praying better was right in front of me. Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus once how they should pray, and he gave them the answer in Matthew 6:9-12. Some of you may recognize the answer as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, although it is in a modern translation and I first learned it in old English. I learned The Lord’s Prayer as a seven year old in Sunday School, and I’ve never forgotten it, but I also repeated it a lot without thinking about what was in it.
Here’s how it goes:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (or ‘hallowed be your name’) – we’re asking that we and others around the world will respect who God is. May your Kingdom come, your will be done… – this is a big request. We are asking for the current world order to end and for God to take over. What do we need to ask God to help us to do to hasten His Kingdom? I think we are talking about ministry here, fulfilling the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to every nation and making disciples. Do you know that your marriage and family play a huge part in building God’s Kingdom? Pray for a strong marriage so that you and your spouse are a powerful ministry team. Pray for your children’s training so that they contribute to God’s Kingdom as children and as adults. Pray for opportunities as a family to show others who God really is.
Give us today the food we need (or ‘give us today our daily bread’) – most of us have enough food, but here we need to pray for other daily ‘bread’. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control – these are the things I need more of on a daily basis, and I ask the Holy Spirit to give them to me, seeing as they come from Him (Galatians 5:22-23). These things help me to be a better spouse and a better parent, so I need plenty of them. This also reminds me to pray for the daily needs of my wife and each child individually. It is a really good idea to pray daily for your family. If you are apart from them, it will give you comfort. If you are experiencing some conflict, it’s really hard to stay grumpy with people you pray for. If everything is going just fine, it’s good to ask God to help you keep it that way.
Forgive us the wrongs (or trespasses, or sins) we have done as we forgive the wrongs others have done – here we recognize the need to clear the air with God on any disobedience or sins we have been nurturing. Name the things you are struggling with because God can only fix them when they are in the light. Unlike some uninformed representations of God, He is not hovering, waiting to catch you out so he can punish you – instead He is waiting for you to bring your struggles to Him so He can help you. The second half of this is challenging – we commit to God to be as forgiving to others as He is to us. I need a daily reminder of this and ask the Holy Spirit to help me, because on my own I am naturally critical and unforgiving.
Don’t bring us to hard testing (or ‘lead us not into temptation’), but keep us safe from the Evil One (or ‘deliver us from evil’) – I certainly want this every day, because it will make things easier for me. It’s nice to know that God wants me to pray this! Pray it for your spouse and children too.
For a prayer weakling, I was really surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) how effective just following Jesus’ instructions are in helping me to pray. It’s not just the praying that is good either, but by putting aside time everyday to pray through some or all of what Jesus recommended, I have seen God do some things. I feel like I am better engaged in the spiritual battle and I am seeing God work in me, my wife and my children.
Questions to Share:
1. How would you rate yourself as a prayer warrior? Cruise missile, machine gun, pistol, or toothpick?
2. If you’re more at the toothpick end (where a lot of us are), commit to praying the Lord’s Prayer every day for six months, weaving in prayer for you, your spouse and your children. Get a small notebook and write down your key requests and the results you see. You may want to ask someone to check up on your progress or to pray with you just to help you keep it up. Prepare to be encouraged.
3. If you’re at the Cruise Missile end, pick someone you know who really struggles with prayer and pray for them to start to pray regularly.