Prayer is an important tool – the most powerful tool – in the life of every Believer in Jesus Christ. Yet, oftentimes prayer is misunderstood or not used.
The Bible has much to teach us about the importance of prayer, the methods of prayer, the attitudes of prayer, and the results of prayer. This article will look at the basic foundations of prayer by studying the instructions Christ gave to us all in “The Lord’s Prayer”.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
In its simplest form, “prayer” can be defined as communicating with God. But there is much more to prayer, as we will soon discover. Jesus’ disciples were familiar with prayer. But their understanding was greatly expanded as they walked with Jesus. They witnessed Jesus in prayer often, and saw that prayer was a vital part of His ministry. They saw how His prayers were offered, and how they were answered. They realized that Jesus was not offering vain repetitions or going through outward religious exercises. Jesus was actually talking with God the Father. He was asking God to help and intervene in real-life problems. And powerful things happened in answer to Jesus’ prayers.
So the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
That is the same way each of us, as growing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, should begin our study of prayer – with a prayer! Pause even now and pray something like this: “Lord, as I study the subject of prayer, will You enlarge my understanding and give me wisdom? Will You help me to see why You ask me to pray? Will You enable me to become a person who prays faithfully? Lord, teach me to pray!”
“CALL TO ME …”
God is the One Who desires us to pray. He created mankind with the ability to talk to Him. Deep within every person is a need to reach out to God for help, guidance and comfort. Also within each person is the desire to worship, honor and serve a Supreme Being. It is vitally important that these desires be directed to the right Source – to God Himself.
Many times we reach out to the wrong people or to things for guidance. We mistakenly honor or worship false gods, worldly systems or other people – even our own accomplishments. We must learn to direct our prayer and worship to the only One Who is worthy of our devotion – the One Who made us, God alone! It is God – and only God – Who is both willing and able to answer our prayers with complete wisdom, sovereignty and love.
Communication (or communion) with God is the key to why we were made. Our life will be incomplete without our prayers to God and God’s responses back to us. We were designed for relationship with Him. We will never realize our full purpose, nor will we experience the fullness of God’s presence, until we understand this – and then pray!
God invites us to come to Him in prayer. The Bible contains many, many verses of Scripture wherein God invites us to talk to Him, ask of Him, look to Him, and call upon Him. That is the basic form of prayer – talking with God. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).
A PATTERN OF PRAYER
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave them a “pattern” for prayer to follow. This familiar Prayer is commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer”.
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matt 6:9-13).
The Lord’s Prayer is beautiful and powerful, and can be prayed just as Jesus prayed it. But you will notice that Jesus said to pray “in this manner”, which means to pray in a like fashion. This helps us to see that Jesus intended for His prayer to be more than just something that is repeated word for word.
As a matter of fact, Jesus taught the disciples not to just memorize and repeat the same prayers over and over (Matt 6:7). Jesus himself prayed many different types of prayers during His lifetime (Matt 26:36-42; John 17).
Jesus gave to His disciples this example of prayer (Luke 11:2-4) as a “pattern” – a way to teach us to pray that includes the most important principles of prayer. Let us examine these principles now.
ADOPTED BY GOD THE FATHER
The very first words in Jesus’ pattern for prayer are, “Our Father”.
God is your living, loving Heavenly Father. He is not some unknown deity, or a far-off, uncaring “force”. God is a definite Person, Who is both infinite in power and wisdom and yet so very personal.
Most importantly, God loves you. “…the Father Himself loves you…” (John 16:27). You were created by Him and for Him (Gen 1:27; Isa 43:1,7; Col 1:16). You exist for relationship with God.
Yet, because God is also perfectly holy and just, He cannot tolerate sin. We have all disobeyed (sinned) and it is sin that has separated us from a holy God (Rom 5:8-10; Eph 4:18; Col 1:21). From the time mankind first chose to rebel in the Garden of Eden, we have been separated from relationship with God.
But God loves each person so much that He sent Jesus to tell us about God’s great love. Jesus then demonstrated God’s love by dying in our place as the sacrifice for our sins – He took the punishment that should have been ours. This made it possible for our sins to be forgiven, and for relationship with God our Father to be possible again. And this relationship with God is intended to last into eternity. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; read also Ephesians 2:1-10).
When you believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as your Savior, you are welcomed into God’s family as his son or daughter (Rom 8:12-17; Gal 4:4-7). The Bible teaches us that “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). When you repent of your sins and receive Christ’s free gift of salvation, you are “born again” (John 3:3-7; 1 Pet 1:23). You are a “new creation”(2 Cor 5:17). Your dead spirit comes alive and your sins are forgiven (Col 2:13,14). You are washed clean by the blood of Christ (Heb 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5), and can stand before God as forgiven and holy.
You can then know God as your Father. You can talk directly to Him. You become “child-like” in your trust of God your Father (Matt 18:2-4).
Christ’s work – when believed on and received – restores mankind back to relationship with God the Father. Christ’s work also opens the way for us to participate with God in His restored Kingdom purposes.
As Christians, we can join with our Heavenly Father in fellowship, reconciliation and a holy purpose for our lives. We can draw near to God with assurance of faith, and enter in to His presence (Heb 10:19-22).
FELLOWSHIP WITH THE FATHER
The concept of Fatherhood that Jesus introduced to His disciples was strange and new. God had seldom been revealed to the Jews in this loving and intimate term. He had been called the Father of the Nations, but He was not considered to be one’s own Father.
Jesus is the Son of God, and can call God His Father. Because of what Christ has sacrificed and accomplished for us, we too can know God as our own Heavenly Father (John 1:12; Gal 3:26; Gal 4:1-7).
However, it is possible that this loving Name for God – Father – may seem just as difficult or strange for you to grasp as it was for the Jews. Perhaps you never had a model of a loving earthly father. Or perhaps you never understood that you are a treasured child of God, and that Jesus gave His life in order for you to be restored to your rightful place – as a child of God who is in constant fellowship with His Heavenly Father.
But it is true! If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, you now have complete access to God. You are His child, and He is your Father in Heaven! For, “you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15,16).
God loves you. Because you have been made righteous by Jesus’ work (Rom 5:19), you can come before God’s presence. He wants you to talk to Him; and He desires to make His will known to you.
It is true that God is the Sovereign Lord of all creation. He rules over all the universe, for all eternity. The Good News of the Gospel is that you can be forgiven of your sins and be restored to this Great and Sovereign God as His child! You can be part of God’s family, and join with your spiritual brothers and sisters in worship, prayer and service to our Great Heavenly Father.
You can joyfully submit your life to God daily, trusting in His love for you. Through prayer and the study of God’s Word, the Bible, you can receive God’s help and instructions for how to be a faithful son or daughter. You can join in Your Father’s Kingdom purposes, and be part of His plan to bring this Good News to every tribe, tongue and nation. You can pray “my Father” – and, with joy and confidence, receive His loving answers and invite your Father God’s rule into every circumstance of your life.
ENTHRONED IN HEAVEN
Jesus taught His disciples another principle of prayer when He spoke, “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6:9).
When we pray to God, it is good to remember that God is a personal Being. He is not a mystical force, but a distinct Person. He has a place of habitation, on His throne of sovereignty over all of creation (Ps 11:4; 47:8). His “view” of our life and world is far above ours; His thoughts are greater and grander than ours could ever be (Isa. 55:8,9).
God is not limited by time or physical space. He has always existed; and He always will exist. He is eternal (Ps 90:2; 93:2). He is all-powerful and exalted above creation, governments, and all other forces.
Though God has established the laws of nature, He is not limited by them. He can make the sun stand still (Josh 10:12-14) or cause the earth to give torrential rain for many days (Gen 7:17-24). God is not part of creation; He is the Creator! God created the physical universe by calling it into existence by His Word (John 1:1-3; Col 1:13-17). God is in the place of highest power, authority and glory. Nothing can compare to God.
God knows and sees everything, even our thoughts (Ps. 139:4; Heb 4:13). God is very great and vast, and yet He is also very near – choosing to allow His presence to dwell within us (1 Cor. 3:16).
It is a most challenging thing to try and understand how the Living God – the great and glorious Sovereign over all the universe – is also our very near Father Who wants to have relationship with us!
The same God:
- Who spoke to Abraham, “I am Almighty God” (Gen 17:1);
- Who proclaimed to Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jer. 32:27);
- About Whom Jesus said, “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26);
… this is the very same God Who asks you today to talk to Him in prayer; and He desires to answer you and show you His ways!
HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
The Lord’s pattern for prayer continues with, “Hallowed be Your name” (Matt 6:9).
God’s glory is supreme, above all our desires and needs. It is God our Father Whom we approach in prayer; but we are also approaching His throne as the Great King of the universe (1 Ki. 22:19; Ps. 11:4; 83:18; Isa. 66:1).
The throne of God is an actual place, where innumerable angelic hosts are offering continual worship: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8).
The word “hallowed” comes from the same Greek root word as “holy”. It means to be holy, set apart, sanctified or separate. Jesus was teaching us that God the Father’s name, and thus His Person, is not something common or unclean. God is not like all the other gods and things that men make to worship. God, our Heavenly Father, is truly the only Sovereign God Almighty – set far apart from all other imitations – Who alone is worthy of our praise, devotion, love, worship and obedience. Nothing and no one can compare to the God of the Bible!
GOD ALONE IS WORTHY
We must always be mindful that we are coming before the royal courts of Heaven when we pray. We must come before God with reverence and holy fear (Ps. 89:6-9).
The Bible teaches that we enter “into His courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4); thus, all prayer should begin with worship, humbly bowing our hearts before our King.
God is the Supreme Ruler over all creation (Ps. 89:11-13). Earthly rulers are but shadows in the light of His greatness. The Kingdom belongs to God; He is the only Monarch. God is the most powerful; His throne holds sway in all worlds. Heaven exalts Him, hell trembles before Him, and the whole earth gives Him glory, either willingly or unwillingly (Ps. 89:5; Luke 19:37-40).
So the first purpose of our prayers should be the worship and adoration of our God, Who alone is worthy.
In the feasts of the Old Testament, everything was brought in worship to God first. Then the offerings were sometimes given back to the worshipper for his own use. So, too, must we first worship our God, giving Him the glory and exaltation that He alone deserves. Then we can offer our requests, and allow Him to return back to us as He so desires.
Our worship does not earn anything from God. Nor is God like us in that He desires our praise to feel better about Himself. But worship from the creation to the Creator reminds us of just how great, powerful and all-loving God is – how worthy He is to receive our praise!
WELCOMING GOD’S PRESENCE
Worship also welcomes God’s presence, and creates an atmosphere that allows Him entrance. “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Ps 22:3). In the King James translation, this same verse reads: “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”
The original Hebrew word for “enthroned” and “inhabitest” is yawshab. It means to “sit down, settle or remain”. Though God is everywhere present, these verses help us understand that praise invites God to come and dwell with us in a unique way.
When God’s people truly worship the Lord, His Kingdom power and rule come and abide in that setting. Worship provides an entry point so that His Kingdom can “come” and His “will be done” in human circumstances.
There is no better way to approach the throne of God in prayer than to begin with worship, welcoming His presence and rule right where you are.
PRAYER GLORIFIES GOD
Our prayers can also be a form of worship. The very act of praying to God is a declaration that He exists. Prayers are the continual proclamation that “the Lord, He is God” (Deut. 7:9; Ps. 100:3).
When we ask for and receive special mercies, we declare that God is a living, active God, Who is near and Who hears us. When we ask for His blessing, we declare that He can provide. When we say as Jesus did, “not my will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 kjv), we exalt God’s sovereignty and power. When we ask for forgiveness, we proclaim that He is a God of grace.
When we humbly pray, it is a reminder that God is the Sovereign Lord, the Creator, the One Who gives life and sustains it, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift (Ps. 97; Ps 104; 1 Tim. 6:13; Jas. 1:17; Rev 4:11).
We can come before our loving Father, but it must be with reverence. We can be bold in the asking (Heb 4:16), but we must be respectful. We are as a worm (Job 25:6); He is the Everlasting God.
It is in prayer that we recognize our own unworthiness and how much we truly need God. As we draw near to God, we also learn of God’s loving willingness to hear us and draw near to us (Jas 4:8). As we pray and God answers, we realize that our truest help and provisions come from Him alone. In Him – and only Him –is all that we need. That is even more reason to glorify Him – hallowed be the blessed name of our God!
YOUR KINGDOM COME
Jesus’ pattern for prayer continues: “Your kingdom come…” (Matt 6:10).
The Bible clearly reveals that it is God’s highest desire to establish His Kingdom rule in the affairs of mankind. And it should be the utmost desire of every true Christian to see God’s Kingdom life and power come into every situation – even now!
That is one of the foremost reasons why we pray: we must invite God’s Kingdom rule and power on earth, as it has already been accomplished in Heaven.
Many people mistakenly believe that God does whatever He wants regardless of our requests. But the Bible is clear that man is responsible for INVITING God’s order and rule – His presence, purpose and power – into this world. God desires to move on our behalf; but He commands that we invite His work through prayer.
MAN’S LOST DOMINION
God created man and woman, and gave them the responsibility to rule over this earth as stewards (Gen 1:26-28). But mankind betrayed God’s trust, and instead made a choice to rebel and disobey (Gen 3:1 7). As a result, mankind lost intimate fellowship with God, and forfeited the right and ability to rule as God intended (Gen 3:15-24).
And then, because man chose Satan’s lies over the truth of God’s Word, Satan was able to take the authority mankind had surrendered to him, so that now “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Mankind has ever since been vulnerable to satanic deception. Our own sinful and rebellious choices have also contributed to the painful and confused mess our world has become. Death and destruction have invaded every part of life as we know it.
So much of the tragedy, pain and suffering in our world is not according to how God created and intended our world to function. It is a result of sin entering our world through man’s chosen rebellion and disobedience (Rom 5:12; 8:18-22).
NEW KINGDOM LIFE
But God, in His great mercy and love, provided mankind with a redemptive choice. God sent Jesus, Who announced that man could be restored to God’s Kingdom rule and purposes: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). It was time for a new kingdom rule to begin!
This was not a political kingdom, or an outward, physical kingdom. The Kingdom of God is first and foremost a spiritual Kingdom – and it begins as it is welcomed into the heart (Luke 17:20,21).
Jesus demonstrated the new Kingdom life He was offering. Every miracle He performed, every need He met, every prayer He prayed – each of these showed that the power of God’s rule was now available to mankind. Jesus demonstrated and taught what God is really like, so that we might respond rightly to God and join in His Kingdom purposes.
Jesus demonstrated God’s great mercy, forgiveness and love. But he also confronted the demonic realm with strength and authority. In the final act of His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus smashed the power of hell (Col 2:15) and offered to us the same ability to strike down through prayer any satanic forces we encounter (Eph 3:10-12; 6:10-18). This spiritual Kingdom also involves spiritual warfare (prayer), to establish God’s righteous order and rule.
ADVANCING GOD’S KINGDOM
We now see what God, through Christ, has made available to mankind: complete forgiveness; restoration of relationship with God; and His Kingdom rule released to us and through us.
When we accept Christ, we become part of God’s Kingdom (John 3:3-5). As Kingdom “ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:20) it is our privilege and duty to also be Kingdom advancers – to share the Gospel of this Kingdom with the world around us (Matt 24:14; Acts 1:8). Jesus tells us that He gives us the keys to the Kingdom (Matt 16:19). Keys allow us both entry and authority. But will we use this responsibility to invite the rule of God into our midst?
The true cause of human misery is that men are living out of divine order. The world is in rebellion against God’s sovereign rule. It is God’s highest desire to see the welcoming of God’s Kingdom rule into every heart, and into the world at large, in order to fulfill His great plan of redemption.
The true answer to every need lifted in prayer is found in God, and His Kingdom life and power being released to us and through us!
Our prayers allow us to partner with God. We wait upon Him, discover His will, and pray according to what He desires to do to advance His Kingdom. The power is God’s – but we are privileged with the responsibility of inviting His Kingdom power and rule into earth’s realm through prayer.
God’s full Kingdom will not be completely realized until Christ’s glorious return (1 Cor. 15:20-28; Rev 11:15). But because of what Christ has already accomplished through His life, death and resurrection, the rule and power of the Kingdom of God has already been released in part wherever it is invited.
How much higher and grander our prayer life can become when our eyes are lifted beyond our own needs and we join with Christ in intercession for others and for His cause. The best eternal fruit will be reaped when we have persisted in prayer: for the progress of God’s Kingdom; for the needs of His Church; for His ministers and servants; to bind and oppose the forces of hell; and for the evangelization of the world!
When Jesus declared on the Cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30), He was announcing that the grip of sin and the power of eternal death on mankind was forever broken (Heb 2:14-16). Jesus was also announcing the completion of His work from Heaven’s side. Now, all that remains is for us on earth to choose to:
- receive Christ’s work and be saved;
- submit to God, worship before His throne, and be transformed into Christ’s image by His love and power; and,
- accept the responsibility to invite the rule of God into the circumstances of earth through daily prayer.
It is the Kingdom power of God through prayer that will loose the captives, restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, heal the diseased, and see salvation brought to multitudes.
Let us then rise up with faith and pray in earnest, “Thy Kingdom come, Lord!”
YOUR WILL BE DONE
Jesus’ prayer continues with “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).
This little statement, “Your will be done”, sometimes gives us cause to fear and tremble. We might be afraid of what that prayer might cost us!
It is true that we must come humbly and reverently before God with our petitions, willing to submit to His Lordship and receive His sovereign rule. But this is nothing to fear! We can instead have great confidence and rejoicing in God’s loving will.
There is no greater sense of peace than to lay aside our own desires, and come to the Father in prayer, seeking Him for His desires. When we know His will, we can ask accordingly, then rise up in the mighty promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7; see also 1 John 5:14).
THE WILL OF GOD
But how do we know God’s will? The primary way is through the Bible. We can be sure we are not asking amiss (Jas 4:3) when we pray according to the promises of God’s holy Word.
We can also spend time in prayer and meditation, waiting upon God and asking the Holy Spirit to pray through us according to the will of God. We can pray in our spiritual language, especially when we do not know exactly how to pray in a given situation. As we allow the Lord to guide us in prayer, He will impress upon our minds what He wants us pray for (Rom 8:26,27).
Studying the Bible and spending time in God’s presence through prayer will teach us what pleases Him. As we cast our cares upon Him, we will know His peace (Phil 4:6,7; 1 Pet 5:7). The Bible teaches that the peace of God can be a guide to us (Rom 14:17; Col 3:15). If we are doing something that displeases God or violates His will, His peace will leave us and we will have inner turmoil. This can also help us to understand the will of God.
God can reveal His will to us in many ways. God can show us His will through godly counselors (Prov 19:20; 24:6). Sometimes God will use circumstances, the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, or even visions and dreams to reveal His will. But remember: Any true leading of God will agree with the principles of Scripture! God will not violate or change what He has already said or promised (Num 23:19,20; Ps 33:11; Jas 1:17).
It is important to remember to stay submitted to God, obey Him in all things, and daily put our trust in God through prayer. He will then direct us (Prov 3:5,6).
“GIVE US THIS DAY…”
Jesus continues teaching the disciples how to pray when He says: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11).
Jesus assures us that God loves us as our Father and desires to give us good things (Matt 7:11). He wants to provide for us such good things as: work to earn our food; strength and health to work and serve Him; wisdom; godly relationships; shelter; clothing – but He tells us to ask Him (Jas 4:2).
We must come to God in prayer, asking and seeking (Luke 11:5-13) in order to receive from Him. Even though God already knows what we need (Matt 6:8), He still wants us to talk to Him about our needs and desires and submit them to Him.
What a great privilege God has given us, to commune daily with Him and talk to Him about our needs. Our spiritual life is much more rich and fulfilling when we look to God for everything – and praise Him for every provision! Every good thing we have is from God (Jas 1:17).
We must remain simple and trusting in our prayer life. We do not need to ask for a storehouse of future provision; we are to ask for, and depend upon God for, the bread of today (Matt 6:25-34). The word daily is best translated as “necessary” or “sufficient”. God knows what is best for us; it may not be grand, but it will be His adequate provision, and as such it will come with His blessings!
We must be satisfied with what God gives us for today, and leave the needs of tomorrow in His wise and faithful hands (Matt 6:34; Phil 4:11; 1Tim 6:6-8,17; Heb 13:5).
Jesus reminded us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Our temporal needs are to be balanced with our spiritual needs. We need more than just food and clothing. We must depend upon God’s nourishment and provision for our entire being – body, soul and spirit.
As we submit our day to the Lord and ask for His provision for that day, we can expect His grace, strength, provision, help, wisdom – all that we need! Thank you, Lord, that You are the All-Sufficient One – and You give us sufficient, daily bread (2 Cor 3:4,5).
FORGIVE OUR SINS
Another priority in prayer is forgiveness, both receiving it from God and extending it to others: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12).
In Jesus’ pattern for prayer, He included our personal need for regular, daily cleansing and forgiveness from God.
Some translations use the word “debts”; others use “trespasses” in this prayer. Both are accurate, for they represent two types of disobedience.
A “trespass” is a willful disobedience to a rule or standard God has already set in His Word. When we choose to step past the boundaries of God’s order, we “trespass” into unlawful territory. This is sin. Walking in God’s grace does NOT mean we can do whatever we want without regard (Rom 6:1,2; Heb 10:26-29). Sin is sin, and must be dealt with every time it is chosen.
A “debt” relates to our failures in a situation, when we should have behaved differently than we did. This is also sin. The Bible describes it this way: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jas 4:17 nas).
We sin by choosing to do the wrong thing; we can also sin by not doing what we know is the right thing!
We may not have committed a vile sin or a willful rebellion that needs to be confessed. However, we may have a place in our life that falls far short of God’s standard for holiness. Sometimes we are blind to an area of sin or compromise in our life. We need to come to God in prayer and ask Him to shine the light of His truth into our hearts. Even a judgmental attitude or an impatient, angry word are enough to warrant repentance and a cleansing touch from God.
The Bible remedy for both types of sin is clear: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our forgiveness is assured when we repent to God (Ps 103:12; Mic 7:19; Heb 10:17). We must deal with our sin daily in prayer, to keep our walk with God open and pure.
People who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and growing as Christians will always be aware that they need more of God’s holiness and less of their own selfish ways. The pure in heart are the ones to whom God promises to reveal Himself (Matt 5:8).
We must also take time in prayer to forgive others who have wronged us. A soul filled with bitterness cannot approach God in true communion. An embittered heart is also like an infectious disease that can poison others – even an entire church! (Heb 12:15).
The Bible makes very clear that because we have been shown great grace and forgiveness from God, we have no right to withhold the same kind of extravagant forgiveness toward others (Matt 18:21-35). If we want to be forgiven, we must also be forgiving (Matt 6:14,15; Mark 11:25,26). If we will show mercy, we will receive mercy (Matt 5:7).
Forgiveness is a vital key to effective prayer and a godly Christian life. Let us make confession and forgiveness a daily part of our prayer!
[For more about forgiveness and its important role in prayer, please read “Obstacles To Effective Prayer – Obstacle 2” on page 13. Also, read “How Do I Forgive?” on pages 13-14 for instructions about forgiving others.]
STRENGTH AGAINST TEMPTATION
Jesus’ pattern for petition continues, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt 6:13).
The Bible teaches us that God will never lead us into temptation. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas 1:13-15).
If God does not lead us into temptation, then what does Jesus intend when He encourages us to pray in this manner? Because we live in a broken, sin-filled world, temptation will come to all believers. Though God does not tempt us, He promises to use the trials and temptations we face in this life to shape our character (Rom 8:28,29). He will even reward those who remain faithful to God in the face of temptation (Jas 1:2-4; 12-14).
Jesus does teach us to pray for help and strength to resist temptation when it comes, to not “enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41; Luke 22:40,46). Each time we overcome temptation, we are strengthened to resist temptation in the future. We can pray that we will not fall when temptation strikes, and that we will “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:16) in order to resist temptation.
Our times of prayer and Bible study strengthen us. They also sensitize us to more easily recognize the circumstances that might lead us astray. When we are familiar with the truth of God’s Word, we can counter the devil’s lies and temptations (Matt 4:3-10).
GRACE TO HELP
It is important to remember that being tempted is not a sin – it becomes sin only when we give in to the temptation and participate in sinful thoughts or behaviors. If we resist the temptation, we will not be drawn into sin.
If we have given in to temptation and sinned, we must quickly come to God in repentant prayer. Yet it is at those times when we might feel too ashamed to come to God in prayer. Satan may whisper to our hearts that we are too defiled or unworthy to approach God’s throne.
But God’s throne is one of grace: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). It is when we have failed the Lord that we are most in need of His mercy. It is upon His footstool of forgiveness that we must cast ourselves. He is the One Who has spoken, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) – which means coming to God in prayer even when we have sinned.
God is our Strength and Defender against the wiles of the devil and his evil attacks. Jesus has already stripped all authority from the devil (Col 2:15). When we submit our lives to God and resist the devil, the devil must flee from us (Jas 4:7).
We can call upon the Lord with confidence – knowing that when we cry, “deliver us from the evil one”, God has all the authority and power to do it (2 Pet 2:9). “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim 4:18).
The Lord has even chosen to share His authority with us (Matt 16:19; 28:18-20; Mark 13:33,34; Luke 10:19), so that we can use this authority in prayer.
Through prayer, we can expect:
- victory over sin (Rom 6:4-23; 2 Cor 5:17);
- help in times of affliction (Isa 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24);
- triumph over sorrows (2 Cor 2:3-5; 4:16-18);
- grace [“divine enablement”] in trials (2 Cor 12:9); and
- assurance that God will work His highest good and purpose in every situation as we yield ourselves to Him (Rom 8:28).
STRENGTH, DELIVERANCE AND VICTORY
When evil rises against us and temptations do come, we have the assurance that, as we pray, the Lord knows how to deliver us from temptations (Heb 2:18; 2 Pet 2:9). There is NO temptation that we will face from which God cannot help us to escape (1 Cor 10:13). So our prayer can be confidently raised, “Father, as I face evil and temptation, help me to resist it and to be led in Your strength, deliverance and victory!” Hallelujah!
THE KINGDOM, POWER AND GLORY
The Lord’s Prayer, according to most early manuscripts, actually ends with “deliver us from the evil one”. But later translations often include the closing words, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matt 6:13).
These words encourage us to end our prayers with praise to God, giving to Him our believing confidence that He is able! We can bring all our petitions before God’s throne in prayer, then declare that our faith and trust for all that we need is in Him alone.
Our greatest resource is God’s greatness. We can have confidence that the Great God of the Bible, our loving Heavenly Father, will meet our needs, give us the ultimate victory, answer in His perfect timing, and fulfill His purposes.
God gives us power, but only He is All-Powerful. He shares His wisdom with us, but only He is All-Knowing. And He alone deserves all the glory!
We can humbly conclude our prayers, then, with this praise-filled declaration: “Lord, to you belongs all Kingdom power and authority. Let everything be for Your Kingdom’s sake, according to Your power, and for Your glory. So let it be done!”
PRAYER: A PRECIOUS TREASURE
Prayer is the responsibility of every believer, something God has commanded that we do. But prayer is not to be a burdensome duty; rather, it is our great joy and privilege to be welcomed into God’s presence every day!
Prayer is also not an assignment for just a select few. Though only some can preach, or provide leadership, or give gold and silver – ALL can contribute in prayer! From the oldest to the youngest; from the babe in Christ to the mature saint; from a bed of affliction or from a place of strength – every believer in Jesus Christ can pray! This is the Church’s most precious and valuable treasure: to invite God’s presence, provision and Kingdom rule into our lives and into every need and situation!
“Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name!” (1 Chr 29:10-13). Amen and amen!