How are we to pray, and to what purpose? In Matthew 6:7-15, Jesus tells us.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
How are we to pray? Jesus tells us we are to pray to our Father in heaven, the Holy One, the One whose kingdom is to come, Whose will is done on earth equally as it is in heaven. Then Jesus tells us, ask our Father in heaven to meet our daily needs, needs which Jesus has told us the Father already knows before we utter them. And then we are to ask our Father in heaven for forgiveness in the same measure as we have forgiven others. Finally, Jesus says, we should ask our heavenly Father to save us from temptation and to protect us from evil — not just the evil others may do to us, but the evil we may do to others.
In His preamble to this, the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father, Jesus tells us not to babble in prayer like the pagans. Not to go on and on in prayer with meaningless words. Jesus’ prayer is direct and, really, simple. It addresses the Father, it glorifies Him, it accepts His will over our own, it petitions Him for our needs, it asks forgiveness, then it recognizes our need to be merciful to others. Finally, it requests His help to be a better person and His protection from evil. It really puts a lot into a few words.
In His epilogue to the prayer, Jesus follows up with a reminder about forgiveness. It’s a kind of paraphrase of the Golden Rule. And it relates right back into the prayer: Forgive me as I have forgiven others. And when you think about it, His reminder relates right back into Jesus’ main message, which is about love, in particular about loving one another (your neighbor). To be blunt about it, it says, if you don’t forgive others, our Father in heaven won’t forgive you; but if you do forgive others, our Father in heaven will forgive you. So maybe the prayer isn’t just about asking for forgiveness but asking for the wherewithal to forgive others that we may be forgiven.
In the Old Testament God continually calls us a stiff-necked people. Thus, He continually reminds us in the New Testament of the need to love and serve and forgive. And Jesus gives us this beautiful prayer to remind us of all these themes. So, this is how we are to pray: We are in prayer to love God, to love one another, to forgive one another, and to seek God’s forgiveness and aid. Jesus gave us this prayer that helps us do all that.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us this wonderful prayer. I love you. I love our heavenly Father. I love the Holy Spirit. I love my neighbor and I forgive him and her. Please take care of my daily needs – your will be done!