Praying can be difficult for anyone. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to pray about, and sometimes it’s hard to pray at all.
In those moments, where praying isn’t something that comes naturally, it’s good to know how to pray effectively.
Learning from Jesus
So who could teach us better than Jesus?
Not only is he an expert in praying through practice (he was known to withdraw for hours just to pray), but he’s also the first to create a blueprint for prayer. It’s commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, and the most famous version is found in Matthew 6. The words are so famous that it’s easy to overlook all that’s buried between the lines.
Many people don’t like (or at least appreciate) the Lord’s Prayer because it’s so famous. When you hear words too often, they become just that: words. But when you peel back the layers, you see that Jesus doesn’t mean you should be using those words (although they’re still very useful).
Jesus lays out the ingredients and the build-up for a good prayer. So if you’re looking for an answer to how to pray effectively, consider these building blocks for a great prayer:
The Lord’s Prayer as a Blueprint
9Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Jesus starts with praising God. That’s how any prayer should start, too. Not only does it address God as the recipient of the prayer, but it also starts with acknowledging His glory. You’re entering a holy personal conversation with a magnificent God, and by addressing both the start of the conversation and the magnificence of God, you’re starting the prayer off on the right footing.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
The prayer then continues on the same idea: acknowledging the power of God.
But this goes a step further. Not only is this an acknowledgement that God is powerful, it also surrenders our personal power.
The line ‘Your will be done’ means that you’re submitting to His outcome and His plan. Even when those are vastly different than the things you were going to ask for.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Speaking of asking for things, this is the part in the prayer where we focus on ourselves. After addressing the glory of God first, and his power (and our submission to that power) second, our needs come third.
And those needs are still remarkable. Jesus teaches us to ask for our daily bread. This may not be a command to literally only ask for bread, but there is a message hidden in this need: your daily bread isn’t an overwhelming luxury. It’s not the things that you don’t need, but would like to have.
It’s not that God wants you to live on just bread, but that when it comes to asking him, ask for what you need.
The daily part of the famous words ‘daily bread’ also means that we should trust God that He will provide. We don’t ask for a bread for today, and one for in the freezer. Daily bread is an expression of trust, implying that we trust tomorrow’s daily bread will be there as well, even if we don’t see it today.
12And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
It’s easy to say ‘forgive us our debts’ when it’s just such a short sentence, but God doesn’t want us to skid over them.
It’s much harder (and much more beneficial) to reflect on the things you’ve done wrong and to realize how it makes you feel, how it made others feel, and how God must feel. Only by really addressing your own sins, can you move on to a resolution to be better.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
This may seem like a strange sentence. Why would God lead us into temptation in the first place? The answer is that He doesn’t, but that He leads us in how we live our lives. It’s acknowledging that yes, we are subjective to sin and our own sinful nature, but that with God’s guidance in our lives, we’ll be led away from temptation.
The second half of the sentence is again a reference to God’s power, but there’s more behind the surface. It’s a proclamation of faith, too. Jesus died for our sins, so that we could be saved. Through Jesus, we can indeed be delivered from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Once again, we turn back to God’s power. We can ask all these things because we lay them in God’s hands. Because he has the power to make happen what needs to be done, and because we trust Him to know what is needed better than we do. It’s being in awe of how great God is, and acknowledging how precious it is that we can talk to the creator of the universe in such a direct manner.
A Blueprint for Every Prayer
In summary, the parts of the Lord’s Prayer make a blueprint for every kind of prayer. If you’re looking for ways to pray effectively, the Lord’s Prayer creates an outline for the perfect prayer:
- Acknowledging God and His glory
- Submitting to His will and power
- Asking for what you need
- Going through your sins and forgiving others
- Glorifying God again
To really change your life through prayer, start each day with a morning prayer.