When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He gave them a template for how prayer should be structured. He did not tell them to “say these words” but rather to pray “in this manner.” He then went on to show them the components of a good prayer. Take some time and break them down for yourself. There are several forms of the Lord’s Prayer in English depending on different denominations of the Church and different time periods of history.
I don’t know that any one is better than the others, all versions are essentially the same, but I will use one here as an example.
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.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever
In general, the prayer can be broken down into eight segments. The introduction or address (Our Father who art in heaven), followed by six requests or petitions, and closed with the doxology. The address is more than just a simple sentence that addresses the prayer to God like the salutation of a letter. Instead, by showing that we are to pray to God as Father, or “Abba” in Aramaic, we are praying to a near-by loving parent, not a mysterious far-off deity. Jesus always referred to God as Father and invites us to do the same.
I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ John 20:17
After the address, the first three requests can be lumped together. Jesus shows us to first pray for God’s concerns before we pray for our own. The priority is first seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness and then seeking our own needs, a pattern that Jesus teaches will result in our own needs being met. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The phrase, “Hallowed be thy name” asks for God’s name, character, and reputation to be set apart and treated as something special. ”Thy kingdom come” asks for God to rule. ”Thy will be done” asks for God’s way of doing things, His righteousness, to come about. All three of these petitions are requested to be made manifest in the earth as they are already manifest in heaven.
After focusing on God’s name, God’s rule, and God’s will, the last three requests now focus on us. Jesus shows that He expects us to pray for our own needs after we have sought His. He teaches us to ask for whatever physical needs we have for today. Keeping with Jesus’ theme of not worrying about tomorrow, praying for “daily bread” simply focuses on what we need for the coming day. Jesus verbalizes a truth Paul expresses in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Fortunately, Jesus also assures us that we can find forgiveness with the Father each day, provided we are willing to forgive others who have wronged us (“those who trespass against us”). Finally, Jesus shows us to pray for God’s deliverance from the tests and trials of this life and ask that He provide protection from the attacks of Satan. The nature of the three “us” requests imply that we need to ask for these things every day.
Apply this pattern to your prayer conversation today and recognize the daily need for prayer.