A Model for Prayer
Over the many years that I've been a Christian, there are times I've heard sermons or talks or read books that really pound on my will and I feel like I should pray more. And that's okay; that helps for a short time. But the better sermons and books and resources have inspired me and encouraged me. I really want to pray, and I can pray. And the best prayer—and the best means to do that—is the Lord's Prayer.
It's encouraging to me in that Jesus gives us a model to pray. The disciples want to know how should we be praying. It's striking that Jesus doesn't tell them what time of the day they should pray or how many minutes they should pray. He doesn't give them a specific formula, but he gives them some broad points.
He says, This is how you should pray. And at one level, the simplicity of it is an encouragement to pray and helps me want to pray because I think, I can do this by God's grace. I can do this. Even though my prayers are always imperfect, I can pray that God's glory would be revealed and his name would be praised. I can pray for God's will to be done, his kingdom to come. I can pray through forgiveness and that needs are met. I can pray these sorts of things.
So, Jesus is not giving an impossibly high standard. It's lofty, and none of us will do it perfectly, but he's giving us something that we can do.
Pray, Rinse, Repeat
And then, I'm encouraged by the sheer repetitive nature of what Jesus tells us to do. Many people have noticed that the number one command Jesus gives relative to prayer throughout the gospels is, Ask me. Come.
Of course, we don't want to picture God in heaven as very needy for our attention. That's not the case. But we know that God is eager. He's saying, Come!—just like a good father.
Jesus is not giving an impossibly high standard. It's lofty, and none of us will do it perfectly, but he's giving us something that we can do.
I'm a father, and my kids come and ask for things. Sometimes they ask for really great things. Sometimes I know that they’re asking for selfish things, but as an earthly father, I love it. When they come to me and they want to talk to me, they want to ask for something. It shows that they believe I'm good. They believe I'm powerful. I can do things for them. And so we need to never forget that our heavenly Father loves us even more. And that's why Jesus tells us again and again, Ask, come, don't be afraid. Your heavenly Father wants to hear from you.
Kevin DeYoung is the author of The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why, and How to Pray.
As mediator, Jesus brings us to God, but he does so by pouring out his Spirit upon us so that our own prayer life is to replicate his prayer life in terms of how the Holy Spirit binds us to our Father in heaven.
The crazy days will come. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God.
Learn more about new 30-day Bible journals that help you engage with Scripture and pray with purpose, featuring artwork from Ruth Chou Simons.
The Lord's Prayer orients us, most importantly, to the vertical dimension of our prayers. That's why we start by saying, “Our Father.”