Today we are looking at the most fundamental, most important, most life giving, most intimate, most life transforming subject and spiritual discipline in the entire Christian faith. It’s also probably the most questioned, the most worked on, and the one of the most neglected. Last week we began Matthew chapter 6, and right in the middle of His teaching on the heart, Jesus teaches us how to pray.

There is so much that can be talked about when it comes to prayer. It’s personally my favorite subject to read about, learn about, hear about other’s experiences with it, and practice on my own. I just finished a book called the Battle Plan for Prayer, which, by the way, I give a 10 out of 10. If you need a new book to read, go for that one. Seriously, it goes above and beyond what we’re going to talk about today. And if you can’t spare the money, do what I did with it, and just go into Barnes and Noble and read some day by day!

Why is it my favorite thing? Because that’s my time with God. Tim Keller is another awesome author I admire. Here’s why prayer is his favorite thing:

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed,  prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.

Prayer is huge, bottom line. But as I said, it is one of the most questioned practices in our faith: How do I pray? Why should I pray? When do I pray? What do I pray about? Do my prayers make a difference?

God didn’t want to leave His people guessing. That’s why there 650 prayers listed in the Bible. That’s why it’s recorded that Jesus prayed 25 times. That’s why Paul mentions prayer 41 times in his letters. There’s a lot about prayer in the Bible, because God doesn’t want us guessing! And God doesn’t want us guessing because of what prayer actually is. It’s coming before God and speaking with Him. God wants a relationship with us more than anything. He loves it when we come to Him in prayer to talk. He loves to hear from us and have us hear from Him. It’s the absolute privilege that we have as those He loves. David, through the Psalms, teaches us so much about prayer. Here’s one of his prayers, found in Psalm 5:1-3

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:1-3

Does this sound like any prayers you have with God? David has an intimate, personal relationship with God. He knows that God is listening and responding to His prayer. He knows he’s not just speaking to the air, he’s not making requests that won’t be heard, but he’s speaking to Someone REAL, who he LOVES and who LOVES him back.

My favorite comparison as it relates to prayer is to think of your own personal greatest relationship. This may be your husband, wife, mom, dad, son, daughter, brother, sister, best friend, etc. That relationship has been built. And that relationship has had deep, meaningful, long conversation. We are made in God’s image. In order for relationships to GROW, we have to spend time with those people. Our relationship with God is no different. He created us for the need for others. He created us with a longing for deep and meaningful relationships. Yet far too often we push off our devotional time, our prayer time, for other things, and we wonder why our relationship with God feels weak. If you only spent time with your greatest relationship for 2 hours Sunday mornings, and maybe for 5 minutes before bed, oh and don’t forget the 15 seconds before meals, how great would that relationship be? On top of that, don’t forget that often times it’s only us talking. That relationship would never last! It would never grow! Prayer is more than just bringing our requests to God to change our circumstances. It’s spending time with Him! It’s not about the words that we use. It’s not about how much we know of the Bible. It’s about growing that relationship, both ways. And just the fact that we are even able to come before God like this is should be beyond our wildest dreams.

If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God incarnate, the Savior of the World, continually spent time with God in prayer, how much more should we? Jesus knew how incredibly important prayer is. I could honestly go on and on about why we should pray, but that was not Jesus’ focal point in His sermon on the mount, and I’m sure you don’t want me to be up here rambling for hours.

So now, as Jesus is speaking to those who followed Him up this mountain, Jesus wants to make sure His followers knew how to pray. He knew we’d have the questions. He knew we’d be confused on what to say. In fact, recorded in Luke, before Jesus teaches us to pray, His disciples ask Him, “Teach us to pray!” So now getting into today’s Scripture, Matthew 6:9-13 says,

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

   on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

   as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

   but deliver us from the evil one.’

How many of you have heard this prayer before? We call it the Lord’s Prayer. Last week, what Jesus was teaching was more about evaluation rather than application. We did the heart tests, remember? Got a little uncomfortable? But what Jesus teaches here is completely about application.

Before we look at this prayer more in depth, here’s what’s important to know: This is an EXAMPLE prayer. Jesus, in His master teaching way, gave this prayer as an outline. It’s not set in stone. It’s not the only way to pray. It’s not the only things to ever pray about. It’s not a ritual prayer that must be recited before every meal, when we wake up and go to sleep. It’s a great prayer, and definitely CAN be prayed by itself. But recited ritual prayers can take away the heart and focus of our prayers. It doesn’t open our hearts up to God and draw us closer if we just recite it over and over. Jesus outlines everything that we can and should pray about in the simplest way. Isn’t He just an amazing teacher?

Now, this prayer is really split into two sections: The ‘YOUR’ section and the ‘OUR’ section. The prayer begins with God and concerns our relationship with Him regarding WHO He is to us. It’s talking about His greatness, His glory, and His will. Then it moves to us, where we pray for our needs. Don’t think this order is by accident, or coincidental. Remember, Jesus is the master teacher. We start with God and then move on to ourselves. It sets our focus first and foremost on God, and not ourselves. When we go before God in prayer, we shouldn’t really ever start with ourselves. By starting with God, we are placing His will above ours. We are looking at the world and our needs through the right perspective. I don’t know about you, but my focus is pulled around enough as it is during prayer. So many different thoughts and reminders come to my head while I’m trying to pray. It’s incredibly distracting. Like I know I shouldn’t be thinking about Ramen noodles during prayer, but it can pop into mind. It’s hard enough to keep my focus on the prayer, but if I am going into the prayer with my needs and wants, without first starting with God, my focus is no longer on God, but on me.

Every single word of this prayer is on purpose, and has meaning far beyond its definition. Let’s break it down:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed by your name…”

God is sovereign, He knows what is best and is in control. God is infinite and self existing, He knows no boundaries and knows no end. God is omniscient, He has perfect infinite knowledge. God is Holy, set apart with no sin or evil at all. God is omnipresent, He is everywhere at every moment. God is immutable, He never changes. God is self sufficient, He has no needs. God is omnipotent, He is all powerful. God is wise, full of perfect wisdom. God is just in all He does. God is glorious, infinitely beautiful and great, with nothing that can compare. God is faithful, never leaving us, and always keeping His promises. God is love, the very definition of it. God is merciful, kind, and gracious, despite our rebellion against Him. And God is our Father in heaven.

How great is our God? This is the God we come before everytime we pray! In Biblical times, the Jews were fearful of God. There wasn’t really any intimacy. His Name was too sacred to say. They heard stories of people touching sacred objects and dropping dead.

Yet, Jesus is addressing God as Father, not just for His prayer, but for us to pray as well. Why? The term Father implies a personal, intimate, loving relationship with God. The relationship of Father and son or daughter is the most accurate way we can understand God. With the term Father, we can draw near, but at the same time we submit and respect His authority in our lives. There’s an incredible balance between how HOLY God is, and how LOVING God is.

As a personal side note, I’ve heard many times that people have a hard time understanding that God is loving, faithful, and good because their earthly fathers weren’t those things. That relationship was bad, or other men in their life have now impacted the way they see God. Please understand WHY we can call Him Father. He is all those things we went through, and won’t hurt you in the way that your earthly father may have. And I’m truly sorry that that is now a blocker in your relationship and how you see Him. I pray that you are able to not see God as an earthly father figure, but as a perfectly holy, loving, graceful, faithful Father in heaven.

The word “hallowed” means to regard as sacred and holy. Jesus is praising God for who He is! It’s showing our deep respect for God and adoring Him, telling Him how great He truly is. We can thank Him for what He’s done in our lives and in general. We should focus on who He is and praise Him for it. Our prayers should start with adoration and thanksgiving! My favorite way to practice this is to read the Psalms.

For example:

“For You make me glad by Your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what Your hands have done. How great are Your works, LORD, how profound Your thoughts!” Psalm 92:4-5

“Bless the LORD, o my soul! O LORD my GOD, You are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering Yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” Psalm 104:1-2

“Your ways, GOD, are holy. What GOD is as great as our God?” Psalm 77:13

The next part of Jesus’ prayer is the hardest to say, but it’s important to say before we get into our requests:

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

   on earth as it is in heaven.

Why is it hardest? Because we are saying, ‘God, whatever the outcome of my situation, may it be whatever you want for my life.’ I mean, after all, Jesus prayed a similar prayer, saying, ‘not my will, but yours be done,’ and then died on the cross. God’s will often looks different than ours, especially as a newer believer, because as we grow closer to Christ, our wills lineup more and more. God calls us to some big things, things out of our comfort zone. But, we have to remember, that as scary as this part of the prayer can be, we are saying that we know God knows what’s best. No matter my situation, God, You know best. You are good. Take control! It is also a prayer for the reign of God within us so that God’s will can be done now in and through our lives. It is a desire to fit into His plan no matter how small and in accord with what he is doing through the various trials, defeats, successes, provisions, and circumstances He brings. This is why Jesus was able to not only say “Your will be done” but also followed through with it. He knew that God had it planned for the ultimate good. He knew it would further God’s kingdom.

Yeah, I won’t lie, this isn’t easy to pray for when we are coming to God because of a trial. It’s not easy to say, “God, please don’t take my wife, but Your will be done.” It’s not easy to pray, “I am in incredible pain and misery because of this disease, please take it from me! But Your will be done” It’s not easy to pray, “I want this job more than anything. If I don’t get it, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to provide for my family. But Your will be done.” While it isn’t easy, the reason we can still pray it, and mean it, is because we know the God we are praying to is good, faithful, and sovereign. When we truly believe that, as much as it hurts sometimes, we can be confident that no matter the outcome, God has our best interest at heart. A really awesome quote from the Battle Plan for Prayer says this: “Remember, if it’s not God’s will, you wouldn’t really want it, not if You knew all that He knows.”

Now that we’ve set our hearts on God and what He wants, we are in the right mind set to begin praying for our needs:

11 Give us today our daily bread.

Jesus tells us to pray for our all our needs.God provides for us, and we acknowledge that. He doesn’t give us everything we ask for, but He provides everything that we need. The term ‘daily bread’ reminds us to ask for simple necessity, not because it’s wrong to have nice stuff, or even more than enough, but so that we are focused on our dependence on God. It’s not wrong at all to pray for things we hope for. Jesus’ main concern here is recognizing that God will provide what we need. Here’s a nice saying to remember: Pray for your needs, not your greeds.

12 And forgive us our debts (or sins),

   as we also have forgiven our debtors.

When we become a Christian, we confess that we have sinned and we need a Savior. But that should not be the only time we ever ask for forgiveness. Sin separates us from God. It puts a blocker between us. If we have unconfessed sin in our lives, there is now something in between us and God when we pray. We continue to sin, therefore we must continue to ask for forgiveness. And here’s something to take note of: the word debts, or sins, is plural. We should not simply ask for forgiveness of sins as a broad, all inclusive prayer in general. We must have specific conviction. We have to search our heart to know the sins we struggle with, ask for forgiveness for them, and then ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to stop them! Otherwise, we end up avoiding those deep planted sins in our lives. As Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, the outside of our cup would look clean, but we would be ignoring the filth inside.

We also must take the time to forgive those who have hurt and wronged us. How can we be true followers of Jesus if we will accept His amazing grace for all that we’ve done but not extend that same kind of grace to others? If we cannot forgive others, we don’t fully understand the extent that Jesus has forgiven us. In your prayers, allow the Holy Spirit to convict you. Don’t brush over it. David in Psalm 19 showed us how:

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”  Psalm 19:12-13 NLT

And finally, Jesus tells us to pray against temptation:

13 And lead us not into temptation,

   but deliver us from the evil one.’

Now, James tells us that God does not tempt anyone to sin. Why would Jesus use this phrase then? I would suggest this is more of a figure of speech. God doesn’t tempt us, but I’m still tempted. “God, KEEP ME from temptation. I need your help to do it. If there’s a temptation for me coming today, help me to stand against it.”  Jesus, in another time with his disciples told them, ““Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”” Luke 22:40 NIV We cannot withstand temptation on our own. We need help. We’ve got to ask God for help in our weaknesses to stand against the enemy’s schemes.

You may have then heard or read at the end of the Lord’s Prayer a conclusion like this:
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

It is debated whether or not this was ever part of what Jesus said. It really doesn’t make a difference or not. Do it or don’t, it’s still just as true!

Fun fact and thought for you. Have you ever wondered why we say amen after prayers? Maybe you just think it’s how it’s supposed to end. You don’t really question it. Maybe you think we say amen so that we know when we can open our eyes in a group. It’s really a word you’d have to look up if you wanted to know why you say it, but I think most people just go along with it! But it’s actually really cool.
Amen literally means, Let it be so. When we are done with our prayer, we don’t say amen like we say goodbye, because when we do that with people, they leave, we don’t see them until next time. Well.. God’s always with us. Amen doesn’t mean goodbye, or end, it means let it be so. It means, like David, we know that God hears us. We know that our prayers are heard and answered according to God’s will for us and for the world. We are ending the prayer saying, thank you God for hearing me, I wait in expectation!

Talk about a lot right? Like I said, Jesus is the master teacher. Everything in that example prayer was meaningful. And we’ve only touched lightly on it!

Do you have to follow this example outline everytime you pray? Absolutely not. God loves to be with us. God loves to hear from us. Our hearts grow more and more like His the more time we spend with Him in prayer. We may say prayers of pure praise, or out of fear. We may go to God in our distress and we may go to God in jumping joy. Our prayer may be 5 minutes or it could last for hours. Jesus didn’t give us this example as a boxed in, unchanging prayer for us. He wants us to express our heart to Him, to be open, transparent, and trusting.

But there is one thing that I want to make sure is part of every prayer you have, that may have not been written, but I’m sure was shown in practice by Jesus: LISTEN.

A conversation involves two people. We should never be in such a rush in our prayers that we only talk at God. We should wait for His reply. It may never be audible to us, or we may not go into a trance where we are standing before Him. But perhaps, it may be an overwhelming feeling of peace. Someone may come to mind to pray about. God may bring a verse to mind or bring a whole new meaning to what you’re reading in His Word. Or maybe we will simply sit in silence. Regardless of how He communicates to us, He will, if we listen.

Real quick, before we end, I want to just reassure you that God is listening to your prayers through my own example.

For the past few weeks, perhaps months, I have been praying for something I have been waiting on, but I haven’t really heard anything from God. I just was wondering why He seemed like He wasn’t there, especially as I needed Him. I’ve struggled in the past with allowing myself to fully feel my feelings, so I was wondering if maybe it was me. Was I shutting out God? Is that why I couldn’t feel Him lately?

Last month Kim and I were helping here for a banquet where we sang some worship songs for the group. Afterwards, a woman I’ve never met came up to Kim and I and told us that while we were singing, God had spoken to her about us. She told us three things, and one of them was this:
“I know that you’ve been waiting on something, and God says it’s not time yet.”

I’m still waiting on that time, but I’ll tell you what, that was all the reassurance I’ll ever need. God hears us when we pray. And many times we are waiting for our prayer requests to be answered the way that we want, and we’re waiting for God to verbally answer us, like with a burning bush. And when those don’t happen, we can get discouraged, wonder if we’re praying right, and wonder if He’s been hearing us at all. But keep in mind David’s prayer we looked at in the beginning:

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:1-3

Do you think your current prayer life needs to change at all? What could you change? How might you follow Jesus’ example a little bit more?

So to finish today, how about we pray in a way that resembles Jesus’ teaching?


Almighty God of the universe. How great is Your Name? How amazing it is to stand in Your presence? Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with You, were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare! To you be all glory and praise!

God, You are sovereign and in control. Giving up control in our lives is hard to do. I know that there are people here today that are going through trials and hardships that have been incredibly difficult for them. It can be hard to see the good You have planned in the midst of them. But God I pray for everyone here that is struggling right now, that they’d give up control to You, who works all things for good for those who love You. I pray that they’d trust Your plans, even if they aren’t what we wish would happen. You know what’s best for us. We thank you for always having our best interests at heart.

God we ask you to provide our needs today. We are beyond blessed, and we pray that we would be a blessing to others in need. We are fully dependent upon You Lord.

Forgive us our sins today God. I pray that anyone here who has unconfessed sin would confess it now before You. Search our hearts, and bring any hidden sins into the light. Your Word says that if we confess our sins, You are faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. And thank you Jesus, we are forgiven because of Your sacrifice out of love for us.

Is there anyone who we have not forgiven today LORD? Who are we still bitter towards? Who do we still have anger for? I pray that if there is anyone here today who has not forgiven someone, that they’d forgive them here and now. Though they’ve hurt us, we forgive them, because of how much You have forgiven us. We pray for unity among Your people.

Make us more like You. We are weak and prone to sin. We need help. Holy Spirit, lead us. Give us the strength to flee all our temptation. We pray that we would stand against the enemy’s schemes, for we are already on the side of victory in Christ Jesus.

My heart is confident in You, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart! For Your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth. Amen.