The Model Prayer
The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer
If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important dimension of prayer.
“OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED (HOLY) BE THY NAME.” – VERSE 9 (WORD ADDED)
The starting place for prayer is God Himself. Begin prayer by setting your heart and mind on who God is, rather than on yourself and your circumstances. It will affect everything that follows. Jesus begins His model for prayer by bringing together two truths that seem so opposite it is almost inconceivable they could be spoken in the same breath. God is your Father. He loves you with a passionate, perfect, tender, unconditional love. God is also Holy. His glory and majesty are so intense, that even the host of angels surrounding His throne must cover their eyes and feet so as not to be overcome by His presence (Isaiah 6:2). Prayer involves both extreme intimacy and reverence.
A five–star general, the highest ranking officer in the military, may be known by many people. Most of them stand to attention and salute when he walks by. But his beloved (his wife, his children, etc.) know him intimately and can barge in on him at any time. There are many people who know about God, but as His children, we have direct access to our Father. Through prayer, we can enter His throne room at any time ...and we can know that He longs for us to be there!
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba (literally Daddy)! Father!” (Romans 8:15, explanation added).
We have all been created with a profound need to be fathered. For many, that need has never been met. A father is one who protects and provides for his children. With wisdom and love, he guides them and prepares them to flourish in life. God desires to father you. Before reading on, think for a moment what it means to have God, the Holy, All Powerful, Creator and Ruler of everything, as your Father. Respect Him and receive His love.
“THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” – VERSE 10
Because He is God, your heavenly Father knows what is in your heart. He knows what you are going to say before you say it. So why pray? The ultimate purpose of prayer (and of every created thing) is to glorify God. Through prayer, you have the incredible privilege of participating in God’s awesome eternal plan. Prayer is not about getting God to do something He does not want to do. Prayer is a means by which we appropriate (take possession of, lay hold of) God’s will. Prayer is a means by which God ushers His will into this world.
Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). If you take Jesus at His word, then apart from Him we cannot even pray. Recall that by His word, God spoke the world into existence (Psalm 33:6, Psalm 9). As you become intimate with God, study His Word, walk in obedience, and listen in prayer, the Holy Spirit will use you in prayer to speak His will into this world. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Realize that God’s will is perfect and good (Romans 12:2), and that He is able to do exceedingly more than you could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). In a way, what is available to you through prayer is like a special expense account with unlimited funds. An expense account is defined as an arrangement by which all expenses are paid to fulfill a certain task, which in this case, is Kingdom business. Many of us hardly ever draw on that account, and when we do, the amount is meager compared to what is there for us. Many submit requests for funds but are denied because the request is not in line with the purpose for which the account is intended. Discover how to appropriate all that God has for you through prayer!
You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives ... (James 4:2–3).
“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.” – VERSE 11
When you give your life to God, you are no longer your own. You belong to Him, and your well being is His responsibility. He is your Father, and He promises to provide what you need to live the life He has called you to live. Consider the following verses - Matthew 6:25-33, (Psalm 37:25, Philippians 4:19). It has been said that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision. That statement is most often applied to ministries, but it is equally applicable to people.
But why the “daily” part? For one thing, depending on God for your daily needs keeps your relationship with Him current and fresh. It also helps you to see a clear relationship between your need and His provision. Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of prayer is not to get things or to get things done. It is to glorify God. However, when you pray in a specific manner concerning a specific need and that prayer is answered in a specific way, then God becomes more real to you and to those around you who know what He has done. He receives glory, and you grow in your understanding of His character, His nature, and His ways.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (petition) with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added).
“AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS.” – VERSE 12
One writer has observed that “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is of the soul ...it is the entrance into all the Father’s love and all the privileges of children.” Based on the work of Christ on the cross, God offers the gift of forgiveness for every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit. But for a gift to become yours, you must receive it. You enter into God’s forgiveness when you trust Christ as your Savior. You continue to walk in the freedom and blessing of His forgiveness as you confess your sins and as you forgive those who have sinned against you.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:15).
“AND DO NOT LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.” – VERSE 13
As verse 11 leads you to pray for your physical need, and verse 12 the need of your soul, so verse 13 teaches you to pray for your spiritual need. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds you to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But you need not be fearful for 1 John 4:4 reminds you that “greater is He (The Holy Spirit) who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world” (descriptions added).
God offers you every spiritual resource you need to defeat the enemy. And as it is with God’s provision for your body and soul, you may appropriate these spiritual resources through prayer. Notice that in verses 10–13 the pronouns are plural. Pray not only for your needs, but also the needs of others. Praying for others is called intercession. Think about it – many of your friends are even now being stalked by our adversary; some are being held captive by evil spiritual forces. Through prayer you have the privilege of participating in their rescue!
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” – verse 13b
Verse 13b does not appear in all early manuscripts. However, for the purpose of this study guide, consider that this verse is a powerful proclamation which praises God. And praise is certainly the appropriate response for one who has just been blessed by intimate fellowship with God.
In Exodus 33 we read about a dialogue between Moses and God that took place after the nation of Israel had been incredibly dishonoring to God. Moses had a lot to speak with God about. At the conclusion of their conversation, Moses told God that he did not even want to go forward unless the presence of God went with Him. After concluding your time of prayer with God, you would not want to go on without a sense of His presence either, would you?
The Bible teaches that God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). When you praise God, you are inviting Him to manifest His presence in your life, and the powers of darkness will flee because they cannot stand the presence of God.
The word “amen” literally means “so be it.” In the words of one writer, “To add ‘amen’ to our prayer is like the judge striking his desk with the gavel, proclaiming, ‘It is done.’ ”