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How Are We Supposed to Pray?

Updated on July 28, 2016

Does Anybody Know?

What is prayer? What does it mean "to pray "?

Do many people give any thought to these questions or do most of us just figure we  "know how " to pray. Is praying the "Our Father" enough?. Especially if you are praying the "Our Father". After all, isn't this what Jesus taught the disciples to pray?

Prayer can very correctly be defined as "holding a conversation with God" . The content of the conversation is another issue. The primary concern is that you are talking to God about something.

Who really thinks about the "how to " of it or in fact if there is a right way or a wrong way to pray? It is likely that most people feel secure that reciting the "Our Father" or uttering a desperate, "Oh, Lord!" or "Help me, Jesus!" are heard by the Father.

Mama said...

When I was little I learned two prayers at the knee of my mother and great-grandmother:

  • "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take ."; and
  • "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us 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, forever, amen"


Me, my wife, daughter and son. Just Us 4... and no more!
Me, my wife, daughter and son. Just Us 4... and no more!

One-Way Prayer?

Yes, this is prayer, but it is "one-way prayer". We really don't expect to hear a response from God when we pray a one-way prayer. We want to have a "two-way" prayer, a conversation with God. We know Jesus gave us the "Our Father", and we can pray that, but in it was He having a conversation?

Jesus was showing us the way to approach the Father. In one place he preceded His teaching by saying,

"And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." Luke 11:12

This validates the "Our Father" as a prayer, but again, if, we have a personal relationship with the Father, shouldn't there be more of us in our prayer?

In another place Jesus said,

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name," (Matthew 6:9)

Jesus precedes this teaching of the "Our Father" with the phrase, "After this manner therefore pray ye..." When someone says, do something after this manner, it is the same as saying do something "like this". To do something "like this" does not necessarily mean you are to duplicate the actual something. While it could mean make an exact duplication it could also mean otherwise.

For Example

A teacher can teach a student how to sing, how to write, how to calculate; there are specific manners, methods or ways to do these things. But, the song to be sung, the information to be written and the numbers to be calculated are all unique. Jesus was a teacher, among other things. Teachers give examples with the expectation that the students will clearly learn the methods and transfer those methods to other situations.

Adults who know how to drive don't limit their driving to going from their home to the license bureau. In fact how often do those of you who do drive ever go back to the license bureau? The fact is you learned how to drive, after this manner . And, once you did, you were free to drive anywhere you wanted.


Our Father which art in heaven....

When Jesus taught the "Our Father" He was teaching the format of prayer to the disciples and all those who would become Christians. The format is divided into sections. This first portion shows us each prayer should initially acknowledge who God is, the greatness of His name and the overall will of God.

  1. Our Father which art in heaven - If God is in fact your father, this is how He is addressed in prayer.
  2. hallowed be thy name- This phrase teaches us to honor, respect and count as holy the name of God. To remember that He is what His name says that He is.
  3. Thy kingdom come - Acknowledge that the kingdom of God is not yet established on earth there is a desire for that establishment.
  4. thy will be done - An agreement and submission to the sovereign will of God.
  5. on earth as it is in heaven - Again, submission to the sovereign will of God being duplicated on earth.


Give us this day...

This second section teaches us to ask for daily provision, forgiveness and deliverance.

  1. Give us this day - An understanding that provision comes from God.
  2. our daily bread - As with the manna in the wilderness this phrase teaches to ask for our nourishment on a daily basis. This includes physical and spiritul nourishment.
  3. And forgive us our debts- This prase teaches us to ask God to forgive us for any transgression we have committed against a brother or sister. Debt can be defined as sin against your brothers and sisters in Christ. Although we ask God for forgiveness when we sin against Him, we owe Him no debt. All debt was paid through the blood of Jesus. But, when we commit sin against our brotthers or sisters in Christ, we owe them. It could be an apology, or some form of restitution etc. The problem is, we don't always know who we have offended or who we are indebted to.
  4. as we forgive our debtors - This agrees with our debt being owed to man and not to God. God cannot be indebted to us, but man can. Anyone who hurt or wronged you is indebted to you. They owe you something. But, this phrase teaches us to forgive them. It also shows us that the measure of forgiveness that we give out is the measure that we will receive.
  5. And, lead us not into temptation - There is a common misunderstanding that God would lead us into temptation. There is nowhere you can go and not have temptation confront you. No matter where God leads you, you will encounter temptation along the way. So, I believe Jesus was saying lead us pass temptation, or in your leading, please help us keep the right mindset so we do not fall to temptation. (That is just what I believe-it seems consistent with the rest of the format)
  6. but deliver us from evil - The word "evil" is rendered in the Greek text as "the evil one". So in effect, Jesus is teaching us to ask the Father to deliver us from the devil.
    Now, this is consistent with the previous phrase. Both phrases make up one sentence. So, it could be rendered like this, "And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Could it be that it is only the evil one who tempts us?

    James 1:13. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man : (:14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

For Thine is the kingdom

This last portion teaches us to never doubt because no-one and nothing is greater or more powerful than God.

  1. For thine is the kingdom- This phrase teaches us to not faint in light of our requests for provision, forgiveness and deliverance. Everything that we need or desire belongs to God and, He is greater than any request we could ever make.
  2. and the power and the glory, forever - This phrase teaches us to acknowledge the eternal ability of God and the rightful adoration due unto His name.
  3. Amen - The word "amen" means "it is so - so be it". It teaches us to end our prayer with an agreement to our prayer. A finalization that what we have said is what we mean.


Then Where and What is the Lord's Actual Prayer?

Jesus gave us the format for prayer when He taught the disciples the "Our Father". The format is to be followed or if not followed exactly, than the elements of the format should be used in our prayers.

Well, if the "Our Father" is the format for prayer then what and where is the actual Lord's prayer? Where is the prayer that Jesus prayed? We know that we can pray the "Our Father" but somewhere Jesus actually demonstrated the "Our Father format using different words.

The Prayer The Lord Prayed...

The Gospel of John, Chapter 17

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.


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