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. Instead, 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—and 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 “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. Therefore, devoting significant prayer time to these subjects is unnecessary.
Incorporating the elements of The Lord’s Prayer into our prayers cultivates communion with him.
Here are the underlying 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 every realm—seen and unseen. 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. Moreover, 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 our faith in God, the supplier of all good things.
We know he will take care of us, so we ask him to provide for those around us who are struggling.
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 fellowship with him.
As we also have forgiven our debtors. We forgive those who have hurt us even if they lack remorse because God persistently offers forgiveness to those who have sinned against him, even if they constantly reject it.
An unwillingness to forgive others when we are capable of forgiveness evidences a hard heart toward 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 act on the temptations we encounter. Satan exploits this tendency.
Asking God for moral protection acknowledges our inherent fallibility and affirms our dependence on him to live uprightly in this ungodly world.
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 that Jesus expressed.
The ACTS acronym is a helpful mnemonic in this regard.
A—adoration: praising God for who he is and what he has done.
C—confession: acknowledging our sinful nature and any specific sins that come to mind.
T—thanksgiving: thanking God for what he has already supplied and promises to provide.
S—supplication: our general and specific requests for God’s blessings on us and others.
God tells us to pray continuously about all our concerns, but he grants only those petitions that align with his will.
Because we cannot fully ascertain his will from our earthly viewpoint, we often ask him for things that are outside the scope of his intentions.
These unanswered prayers can raise doubts about his trustworthiness. Insights about this dilemma are presented here.