As Christians, we're supposed to pray, but surprisingly few of us have any real idea of just what that means. Prayer is not something you do because people expect it. It is not something to do when you're in church because "that's what you're supposed to do". Prayer is our means of communicating directly with God. What do we declare to Him in prayer?
Interceding for others
Obtaining His guidance
Confession of sin and obtaining forgiveness
Jesus taught about prayer in Matthew chapter six. and gave us some guidelines to follow when praying. It is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer", but could perhaps more appropriately called "The Christian's Prayer Guide".
Matthew 6:5, "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."
The first thing He tells us is that we are not to pray just to be seen by others. If you are praying because you want people to think you are a religious person, they might. But that's the only reward you'll get from that prayer.
Matthew 6:6, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Here we get the idea that prayer is an intensely personal thing, and something that requires that we shut out all distractions. It's a time that we talk to God, and He deserves our full attention. So, turn off the T.V., Radio, Stereo, video game, or whatever. Get into a situation where you can concentrate on communicating with God. You don't need to inform the world that you're praying, God knows, and that's what is important. This is not to say that you shouldn't let anyone know that you pray, or that you are praying. It means that you shouldn't make a big show of it for others.
Matthew 6:7-9, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
Jesus tells us that just because we say a lot in our prayers, doesn't mean it's going to do us any good. We don't have to go on for twenty minutes telling God that we need a new whatchamacallit. He knows what we have need of, BEFORE we ask him! After all, He made us, He knows what's going on in our lives. He knows that your old whatchamacallit is old and broken down.
"so then, what do I do?"
Matthew 6:9, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name."
Jesus gives and example of how we should approach prayer. Note that He does NOT say `pray this prayer', instead He says `After this manner'. Another way of saying this would be, `pray like this'.
"Our Father which art in heaven"
First we need to be aware of just WHO it is that we are addressing. He is our heavenly father, our creator, the Lord and master of the universe
He is Jehovah, "the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God,". The LORD of all.
He is Jehovah-jireh, "Jehovah will see" or "Jehovah my provider". The God who sees all of our needs and provides for them.
He is Jehovah-nissi, "Jehovah my banner".
He goes before us in all of our battles IF we will follow Him.
He is Jehovah-shalom, "Jehovah send peace".
The one true source of lasting peace.
He is Jehovah-shammah, "Jehovah is there".
There is no place you can go where He isn't.
He is Jehovah-tsidkenu, "Jehovah our righteousness".
The only righteousness we have is what He gave us by way of the cross.
He is El-Shaddai, "God who is more than enough".
Our cup truly runneth over!
"Hallowed be thy name"
To `hallow' something is "to render sacred, to consecrate". God's name is not to be taken lightly. He is Holy, and to be treated with respect. Exodus 20:7, "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." To take the name of God in vain is to use it in an empty or unworthy fashion like cursing or as an expletive. His name does NOT contain `Damn', and should not be used as such
Matthew 6:10, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
Here we're asking that His kingdom come to be on the earth, and that His will is done here on earth like it is in heaven. We are actually placing ourselves in agreement with God that His kingdom shall include the earth and all therein. and a prayer of agreement is a powerful thing, especially if you are agreeing with God! The place to start with that is with ourselves. Are WE doing His will?? If we as Christians aren't, it's a sure bet that nobody else will either. We must seek His will, both in prayer, and in studying His Word.
Matthew 6:11, "Give us this day our daily bread."
Our needs are met by Him. He provides us not only with food that we eat for the sake of our physical selves, but His word, which is nourishment for our spirit. We need to feed our spirits just like we need to feed our physical bodies. Without that spiritual food which is His Word, our faith will wither. Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." we need to hear the Word, so that it will sink into our spirits. The more of the Word that we have inside of us, the more faith we can have coming out of us.
Matthew 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Matthew 6:14-15, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Strongs defines a `Christian' as "A follower of Christ". If truly we are His followers, then we must seek to be like him in every way. one of the most important of these is the matter of forgiveness. Jesus spoke of our need to forgive others twice in the space of just a few moments. This should give us the idea that forgiving others like we are forgiven is a pretty important matter.
Since we are forgiven of all our sins because of His death, burial, and resurrection, we must extend that forgiveness to others. We are told to be perfect, even as our father in heaven is perfect. How can we live an effective Christian life if we carry around the burden of unforgiveness? Holding a grudge against someone will not do us (or them) any good at all. It will not heal wounds, promote peace, or end fights. And in fact, unforgiveness will tend to worsen those things. So if you have something against someone, or someone has somehow wronged you, Forgive them! Then put it out of your mind and don't bring it up anymore. God has done it for you, He doesn't keep reminding you of your past sins. that's Satan throwing your past at you, trying to burden you with guilt. Don't let him do it! It makes no difference if they deserve forgiveness or not. We didn't deserve God's forgiveness, but He did it anyway.
Matthew 6:13, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
We should desire and acknowledge God's protection. He can and will keep us protected from the evil one and all of his traps. We also must recognize that it is God's kingdom, and therefore His will applies. And that the power that makes us free from the law of sin and death is His. Glory is also due Him. He has forgiven our sins and adopted us into His own family! We should seek to glorify Him in our lives. We can do this by the example of how we live. Give him credit when He does something for us. Tell others what He has done for us. Let others know how He has removed this burden or destroyed that yoke that we were carrying around. Also by bearing fruit, Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."