Reasons to Believe

Demystifying Prayer

Technology begets humility. Just ask my coworker and I how long it took us to sync a new keyboard to my Mac. What should have been a quick setup took a few phone calls to our onsite Mac guru and a lesson on how to find the power button. (We’ll take some whipped cream with that humble pie, please.)

As it turns outs, syncing new equipment isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. Sometimes the solution is right in front of us waiting to be examined.

When it comes to prayer, we sometimes complicate the method, adding mystique or our own idea of what ought to work when help is just a phone app (or arms’ reach) away.

In Matthew 6, Jesus explains to the disciples that they are to pray in this way:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Seem a bit too formal? (It’s the King James Version, after all.) In a special podcast series on the theology of prayer, philosopher-theologian Ken Samples explains that the verses in Matthew 6 may be intended not only as a formal prayer but also as a model of how to pray.

In part 1 of the series, Ken takes the listener through a line-by-line examination of Matthew 6:9–13 (also referred to as the Lord’s Prayer) to help demystify how we approach prayer. Here are the highlights.

Our Father which art in heaven

God is our Father and we are His children. Whereas some religions see their deity as an impersonal force, the God of the Bible is personal. We can converse with Him and allow Him to speak to us.

Hallowed be thy name

While God is personal, He is still the Creator of the entire universe. Contrary to popular thought, Jesus isn’t our homeboy but rather a morally perfect being worthy of adoration and worship.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

God is sovereign and will ultimately accomplish all of His purposes. Yet His sovereignty doesn’t trivialize prayer. Moses and David cried out to God, and so can we. However, rather than telling God only what we want, prayer is a time to come to God and meditate on what He wants for us.

Give us this day our daily bread.

In bringing our requests to God, we can also take time to contemplate His provision for all things, including our daily sustenance. The asking (petition) and interceding (praying for others) comes alongside thanksgiving. Joyfulness and gratitude are essential components to prayer. When we express gratitude for how much God has provided, we also gain perspective and realize what we have taken for granted.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

No one is without sin—we sin in thought, action, and word. While we don’t fall in and out of fellowship with God when we sin, we do want to “keep a short account” with Him. Confessing our sins, asking forgiveness, and seeking reconciliation are all critical components to prayer.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

Temptation and evil are unavoidable. But we can ask for God’s deliverance from both and rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance. James 1 tells us we are to consider it pure joy when facing trials because such testing produces perseverance.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer closes by pointing back to God. It’s His kingdom, His power, and His glory. And all our petitions serve to further His sovereign reign.

Whether formal or spontaneous, prayer is a time to commune with God in a heartfelt, authentic manner and seek transformation. When it’s put that way, it doesn’t seem so complicated after all.

–Sandra

For more on the topic of prayer, see:

Straight Thinking (podcasts)

A Theology of Prayer, Part 1: Hallmark of Christian Prayer

A Theology of Prayer, Part 2: Biblical Reflections on Prayer

A Theology of Prayer, Part 3: Does prayer change God? Or does prayer change the person who prays?

I Didn’t Know That! (podcast)

Young Earth, Old Universe? Living in the Matrix; Praying to Jesus; Ishmael’s Descendents

Take Two (blog)

Let Us Pray…And Ask Questions” by guest author Beth

Reflections (blog)

Podcast Review: Curiosity, Prayer, the Occult, and More” by Ken Samples

Subjects: Christian Life