Prayer is fundamental to our communion with God, which makes it essential to experiencing true contentment amid affliction.
Jesus gave us the template for prayers that embody communion. His example is commonly called The Lord’s Prayer. Here it is.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Practical Not Ceremonial
Jesus never intended this prayer to be reserved for liturgical church services. He presented it in the context of a request for God’s help.
Immediately before reciting the prayer, Jesus said, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray”.
Jesus tells us that our prayers in times of need should include the themes he articulated in his prayer.
Given this preface, it is noteworthy that nearly all the thoughts Jesus expressed in his prayer focus on God and other people.
Only one phrase addresses our personal needs and wants—give us this day our daily bread. Jesus indicated that even this request should be tempered by our concern for others.
The phrase is not, “give me this day my daily bread”, but rather, “give us this day our daily bread”.
If the prayer Jesus gave us is the ideal template during distress, why does it place so little emphasis on our temporal concerns?
The answer to this question has two facets.
First, God already knows what we need and want before we ask him. Devoting a significant amount of prayer time to these subjects is therefore unnecessary.
Second, God wants true contentment to always be our paramount aspiration, even amid affliction. True contentment is a function of communion with God.
Incorporating into our prayers the elemental concepts in The Lord’s Prayer cultivates communion with him.
Here are the basic themes Jesus articulated in his prayer.
Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. God is holy. He is Lord of all. We are all equal before him. The prayer addresses “our father”, not “my father”.
Acknowledging God’s holiness, our subordinate position relative to him, and our equal rank with others, aligns our self-regard with God’s perspective.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. God is sovereign in heaven and on earth. His will always prevails in the end.
Nonetheless, asking him to prioritize his will over ours affirms our agreement that his ideas and methods are superior to ours. It expresses trust in his character.
Give us this day our daily bread. Praying for the needs of others, in addition to our own, evidences faith in God, the supplier of all good things.
We know he will take care of us, so we pray for those close to us and for others we know are going through a tough time.
Intercession deflates our self-absorption, because it requires us to look beyond ourselves and focus on others.
Forgive us our debts. Unconfessed sins block our communion with God. Confessing them, and accepting God’s forgiveness, restores our communion with him.
As we also have forgiven our debtors. We graciously forgive others, because God has graciously forgiven us.
An unwillingness to forgive others, when we are capable forgiveness, evidences a hard heart that is not fully attuned to God.
Forgiving others, and asking God to be merciful to them, softens our heart.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. We are innately inclined to succomb to the temptations we encounter. Satan tries to exploit this situation, whenever possible, to our detriment.
Asking God for moral protection acknowledges our inherent fallibility and affirms our dependence on him to live uprightly in this hostile environment.
An accurate view of God and ourselves sets the stage for communion with him.
In aggregate, the thoughts Jesus expressed in his prayer represent the correct perspective.
Incorporating his thoughts into our prayers conditions our heart to commune with God.
Personal Not Ritualistic
We do not have to articulate the words or themes in The Lord’s Prayer each time we pray spontaneously.
God intends our relationship with him to be warm and personal, not cold and ritualistic.
However, when we set aside time for extended prayer, we should convey to God, in our own words, the thoughts Jesus expressed.