As Christians, praying is the most important part of our daily life. It encompasses and inhabits every area of our life, from the moment we wake up to the moment we lay down; from working 10 hours a day, to the sparse moments of entertainment and play; from the heaviest decisions of our lives to the most mundane tasks--we are always to pray.
You might have heard that praying is just like talking to God; but in order to have a conversation, we must have an actual dialogue.
By reading the Bible, we have can have that dialogue through the Word of God. Otherwise, it's just a one-way conversation. But in prayer, we tend to treat it as a one way direct-request to the Almighty to merely listen to our prayers, to only hear our wants and our needs. But prayer is so much more than this "ask and receive" dynamic.
Prayer is entering into communion with the Great Almighty God! How are we to act or even approach such a relationship? What should be our attitude and mindset? In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the answer in what is commonly known as The Lord's Prayer. Though the prayer is seen as some traditional liturgy of the church, I believe Jesus intended it to be a model for all Christian prayer. So, in order to help us see how it can be a guide for every prayer, take a look at these four steps!
1. Acknowledging and Praising God
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." Matthew 6:9
The very first step in praying is praising God, the Creator, the Perfecter. It's coming into recognition of God's Power and Holiness. Who can approach God, in any way? Even our language falters as we grapple with words to describe God. "I AM WHO I AM." God is the only one who can be independent of anything, of language, of human perception, of nature. He transcends time and space, and He holds time and space.
2. Acknowledge His Sovereignty
"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." vs. 10
By acknowledging God's complete sovereignty, we humiliate ourselves. We must have the mindset of King Solomon as he cried out, "Vanity of Vanities. All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes, but the earth remains forever" (Ecc. 1:2-4). You can just hear how helpless and humiliated this earthly king felt. Toward the end of the book, Solomon concludes, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." In a culture where the individual's desires are at the center of discourse, this verse seems archaic, crude, and fruitless. But in reality, God should have hold of our heart and mind. What matter does anything have if it's not praising God? When Jesus told us to pray, "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done," he told us to recognize that God's authority is absolute, and the question isn't if His will be done, and it's not even when His will be done. These are already answered. In the same vein of God's sovereignty, we are forced to acknowledge what that means for us. Our lives, our salvation, comes from God, and only God. "Give us this day our daily bread." Our food, our clothes, our spiritual sustenance, everything comes from God.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." vs. 12
To those who have been counting verses, you might have noticed that I skipped vs. 11. This is because built into the verses is a confession that isn't directly pointed out. "Forgive us our debts" implies debts that need to be forgiven. With points one and two in mind, the natural response to knowing who God is confession and repentance. In Isaiah's prayer, he cries, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Is. 64:6). Wouldn't even a skeptic agree with this statement? What good can any one person, or entity, do to right the wrongs over the course of human history? Any amount of "good" is defiled from the rotten foundations of that action. Even more so does the believer understand, as our good not only fails to our own standards, but also to God's perfect standard.
"Give us this day our daily bread...and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." vs. 11,13
The last step is finally asking God for something, but not health, wealth, or power. But, rather, ask for daily sustenance, both physical and spiritual, ask for forgiveness of sins, ask for guidance and wisdom in all things and ask for the ability to display God's love and grace to everybody.
Matthew 6:9: "Pray, then, in this way: '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 also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from from evil.'"