An alarming truth is that prayer today is not what Jesus taught prayer must be. It violates and does not follow His teaching. What should your prayers be like? The answer is as close as the Lord's Prayer. The Lord's Prayer is part of a lesson on prayer that Jesus gave. What is the lesson? First, Jesus made two preliminary points about prayer.
Prayer is not Public Prayer is not a public thing. Unfortunately, in most churches and with most Christians, prayer is only a public thing. "When you pray, you will not be like the fakers who are fond of standing to pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the city squares for the purpose that they might be shown to the people. Hey, I tell you, they are receiving their pay. But when you pray, enter into your storage room. After you close your door, pray to your Father who is in the hidden realm, and your Father who sees in the hidden realm will give back to you." (Matthew 6:5-6 breakthroughversion.com). This is what Jesus taught and this is what Jesus did. Jesus did not go around saying public prayers. No, he got up early in the morning and went to a private place to pray. This is why the disciples had to ask him how to pray. If Jesus had been praying out loud in front of them, they would not have to ask. They could just pray like He prayed in public. But Jesus did not pray in public. To defend public prayer, some have asked, "What about the upper room?" My response is, "What about the upper room? Do you think they prayed out loud in the upper room?" Did Peter stand up and say, "I will start out in prayer and then we will continue around the circle until everyone has prayed. Then we will do it again and again all day and all night."? I don't think so. Because your prayers are always public, you project this image on the Bible and think that in the upper room they prayed your way. Do you think that they did not know this teaching of Jesus? Do you think that they did not follow the example that Jesus set? In the upper room they prayed privately, quietly, each person to himself. This is how prayer should be done in our churches today. An hour, fifteen minutes, or five minutes of prayer should be a part of our church services. Church should be a house of prayer.
Just Say It The second preliminary point about prayer is that you do not have to add a bunch of words to be heard by God. God knows what you are saying. You don't have to explain it to Him. You don't have to say it over and over again. You don't have to pray for a certain length of time. You don't have to use special words or phrases. He already knows what you need. Just talk to God as if He were standing right next to you.
How to pray (or what you should talk about with God)
Hallowed be Thy Name Contemplate the sacredness of God's name. In Bible times a name was much more than a word. It signified a person's character and being. Prayer is a time to realize that God is not you or even close to you. He is on a level far above you. Your prayers should not try to bring God down to your level but should raise your awareness of God up to His sacred level. "If you will look for the LORD your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Thy Kingdom Come Make God king. The world does not revolve around you. It does not revolve around Hollywood or Washington DC either. It revolves around God. Pride, thinking that you are better than others, that you are king, is wrong. Making God king is right. Bringing God's empire to this earth involves first bringing it to you. You must make God king of everything. Prayer is a time for you to explore the areas where God is not king and what you can do to fix that. It also involves seeing how much God actually does control. Are you worried about something? Use prayer to see why you worry, that God is in control, and that He will do what is best. God's empire works in this world in ways that are not seen and will not be seen until Jesus comes. You have a place in that empire. Prayer is a time to explore God's empire and trust it.
Thy Will be Done Ask what God wants. You know what you want, but do you know what God wants? Selfishness, doing what you want, is wrong. Doing what God wants is right. It is not something you automatically know. Prayer is a time to ask God what He wants and consider what He wants in every situation.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread Listen for God's daily food. There is so much more to know than what is in the Bible. God wants to teach you every day. Prayer is a time when you listen for what God wants to teach you that day.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses Name your wrongs and ask for forgiveness. You sin. You do the wrong things. Unless you look at those things, you will repeat them again and again and again. Prayer is a time to look at the events of the previous day and see where you went wrong with God. Then ask for His forgiveness.
As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us Forgive those who have wronged you. Look through your previous day. Who did you wrong? Who hurt you? Who had faults? Whom did you find fault in? Prayer is a time when you consider those people and release them from their wrongs. You may have to forgive them many times. If their fault comes up later (days or months later), release them again. You need to see that they are good people made in God's image. This is love. This point is so important that Jesus expands on it afterwards in verses 14 and 15. If you do not forgive those who do wrong to you, God will not forgive you. That is clear. Jesus meant what He said. Sadly, this is a teaching that many Christians refuse to accept and do, so they end up living their lives with no forgiveness from God. The problem some Bible scholars have with this passage is not with what is said but with the assumption they staple to these verses. The assumption is that if God does not forgive a person of his sins then he is not saved. That is never stated. Christians who do not forgive their brothers are Christians who never experience the forgiveness and love of God even though they do end up in heaven at the end of their lives. This teaching that God is not forgiving to a person who does not forgive is mentioned many times in scripture. Don't twist it into something it is not.
Lead Us Not Into Temptation Do you see the trouble up ahead? Do you see times in your life when you do things that are not right. Do you see how you may end up going back to those things? Bring that to God. Ask for His help.
Deliver Us from the Evil One Ask to be rescued from the evil one. If you are serving Christ, Satan has disabled you in some way. Prayer is a time to identify those chains and ask God to rescue you from them.
Thine is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory God is bigger. Remember the greatness, power, and authority of God. Prayer is a time for you to remind yourself about how great God is.
Prayer is not a time when you say a bunch of words to God. It is a time when you align yourself with and listen to God. It is something that every Christian needs to do everyday. The Lord's Prayer gives you a list of things to pray about.
Do you see what prayer should look like? Look at your prayers. Is this what they look like? If not, when you pray, go through the words of the Lord's Prayer, a phrase at a time, and do what that phrase says to do. Let Jesus teach you how to pray.