The Guide to Prayer
At the beginning of Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gives us a lot of instruction about what to do and what not to do in prayer. He tells us to be careful about the motives behind our public prayers, and that if our aim is to impress others with our “holiness”, we should keep our prayers private. God wants a prayer that is heartfelt, not hypocritical. Jesus also condemns the shallow repetition of words that are not offered with a sincere heart. We can never pray too much over a situation. But we need to make sure we mean what we say before we start talking to the Lord. And Jesus also emphasizes that our prayers for forgiveness from God mean nothing if we are unable to forgive others.
And it's in that same chapter that we find one of the most well-known and frequently quoted scriptures - “The Lord’s Prayer”. It is a message from Jesus to his twelve trusted followers on how to properly communicate with the Lord. And while it is designed to give us the structure on what to say, Jesus never meant for his disciples or the following generations to recite it word-for-word as their personal prayer. Yet, so many people often get caught up in strictly obeying that particular portion of scripture that they miss the core of the message Jesus was trying to imprint on us.
The intention of Jesus was for us to imitate the prayer in our daily lives, not duplicate it. He was telling us to always enter into our time of prayer acknowledging and praising the Lord as our Heavenly Father who loves us, guides us, and corrects us when needed. And to pray for God to return to this world, destroy all evil, and establish His Kingdom on a new heaven and earth as He has promised us. We need to show our submission and willingness to obey His law by asking that not our will, but His perfect will be done in both Heaven and Earth until He does come back for His people. And as we pray, we must humbly come before God and recognize Him as the provider and sustainer of our lives as we ask Him for our needs. Repentance is so necessary in keeping our connection with God and staying in His will - that’s why we are to ask for forgiveness for our sins, and then turn away from them. And finally we ask that God help us to keep away from the dangerous grip of temptation and that He delivers us from the traps the enemy puts in our way.
While praying the scripture is a powerful thing to do, the Lord also wants us to speak our own thoughts and desires when we come to Him. If all we ever do is recite the written Word, it can start to become a cold and meaningless habit to us that we practice instead of an intimate conversation with our Savior. Just as the entire Bible is our guide to life, these verses are a great guide to prayer. But don’t be intimidated and think you have to have eloquent King James version speech when you pray. Just be yourself! God wants to know to you - to be your closest friend. Know the Word and use it to guide your prayers, but always come to Him with sincere words from your own heart, too.
Pray: “God, help me to come to You with reverence, understanding of Your Word, and sincerity in my heart. When I pray, bring this scripture back to my mind so that I can follow the guide You’ve given me. But above all, help me to develop a prayer life that is true and heartfelt.”