Do you struggle with prayer? Many of us do. Even Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Jesus’ response, found in both Luke and Matthew, is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. But some biblical scholars suggest it would be more accurately titled “The Disciples’ Prayer.” This prayer was Jesus’ example for us, His disciples.
A Few General Guidelines
Jesus began His prayer lesson with a few comments that help us know how to use and apply His teaching:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:5-8, ESV
- Pray with humility and sincerity(Matthew 6:5) – Sometimes when we pray, our sinful flesh gets in the way. Sometimes, we hope others will hear and think how spiritually mature we are. But, the purpose of prayer is to communicate with our all-powerful, holy Creator. Dwell on that a moment… This fact alone should humble us before His throne.
- Pray alone with God(Matthew 6:6) – Prayer is a very personal, intimate exchange between a believer and God. That doesn’t mean we should not pray with others. The New Testament also sets the example for prayer together with other believers. However, each of us should have a healthy habit of being alone with God in prayer. Without any distractions. So, we can go anywhere and everywhere in prayer that the Spirit leads us.
- Pray purposefully and specifically(Matthew 6:7) – Reciting memorized prayers or even repeated phrases is not necessarily sinful, it’s just inadequate. Even though there are instances where reciting a prayer like the Lord’s Prayer is appropriate, biblical scholars don’t believe that was Jesus’ intention when He gave us this example. This example was merely a framework for the way we should pray, for the kinds of things we should pray about.
- Pray to connect with God(Matthew 6:8) – Jesus said the “Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Why then should we pray? Prayer certainly isn’t to inform God about our needs. Or even what’s on our minds. He knows all that. Prayer is the holy privilege of connecting with the God of the universe. To hear from Him. To open our heart so He can shape it to match His.
The 5 P’s of the Disciples’ Prayer (aka, the Lord’s Prayer)
You won’t find these five words that all start with “P” in the Lord’s prayer. But each “P” word does represent a particular type or kind of prayer found in Jesus’ example. The “Ps” is simply an easy to remember the scope our prayers should cover overall.
9 Pray then like this:
“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 this day 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 evil.” Matthew 6:9-13, ESV
- Praise (vs 9) – Jesus starts His prayer example by giving the Father honor and glory. Although God deserves all our worship, we sometimes forget and jump right into asking Him to do things for us.
- Purposes (vs 10) – Jesus prayed that the Father’s perfect will – already accomplished in heaven – would be fully realized on earth. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and ask God to carry out His will in our heart and lives, in our families, churches, and communities, and in the world.
- Provision (vs 11) – The “bread” Jesus asked for in His prayer example represents our daily needs. God invites us to bring our needs to Him, so let’s ask boldly! (For more about asking God to meet your needs, see “Prayer: More Than a Way to Get Stuff from God” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean.)
- Penitence (vs 12) – Yes, I had to search a thesaurus for a “P” word that means “repent!” Jesus did not need to ask the Father for forgiveness, but He included repentance in His example for us. We are the ones that continuously need to bring our sin, disobedience, and bad attitudes to God and ask for a heart change.
- Protection (vs 13) – Jesus specifically modeled the need for us to ask the Father for spiritual protection. He knew we would be surrounded by temptation. So, let’s ask God for help!
We may not cover these 5 areas every time we pray. For instance, there will be days when a situation overwhelms us and we concentrate on our needs. But keeping these 5 “Ps” in mind can help foster an overall, well-rounded prayer life.
There are other tools to help us in prayer. What do you use?
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