You want to pray and you want to pray effectively. So, what will you pray about?
Jesus needed only about 50 words (52 in the English Standard Version) to revolutionize prayer. He gave His disciples a roadmap for personal prayer which we traditionally call “The Lord‘s Prayer”. It’s worth noting that no one in the New Testament ever prayed or repeated the prayer. Even Jesus, in the approximately 20 occasions where His prayers are recorded, never repeated the prayer. Instead of saying, “Pray this prayer” Jesus said, “Pray like this” (Matthew 6:9).
The Lord’s Prayer, or as some call it, “The Disciple’s Prayer,” therefore, provides a pathway or map for personal prayer. It functions as a prayer guide. Due to the depth and richness of it’s content, there are numerous ways the prayer has been outlined. My friend, fellow Austin pastor, and co-author of our book on prayer, Trey Kent, for instance, has developed a prayer guide based on the Lord’s Prayer with 12 segments. I have seen many other excellent outlines of the prayer as well. No matter how it may be outlined, I agree with Michael Green, the British New Testament scholar, who said, “The marvellous prayer has depths we shall never plumb.” For the purposes of this devotion, we will analyze the prayer using 6 broad categories. These “categories” of prayer can guide your daily devotion today or for years to come. The Lord’s Prayer, in other words, helps you know what to pray about!
You can begin your daily prayer by praising God. Jesus started there when He said,
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name”
Starting with praise keeps our prayer “God centered” instead of “me centered.” If I say to my wife, “You look beautiful” I am praising her. If I say to my daughters or my son, “Your work is excellent” I would be praising them. If I say to God, “You are holy, worthy, mighty, merciful, loving”, etc, I am praising Him.
Praise is a way to express love and our devotion to the Lord in the most personal and intimate ways. For some reason, when we pray like that, it opens up our prayer to greater possibilities, and our faith in God rises. Praise changes the entire dynamic and mood of prayer into a hopeful and faith driven exercise. A friend of mine once said it like this, “It’s amazing what praising can do!”
The world we live in is fallen and broken. We want to pray- and the times demand an urgency in prayer- for renewal, revival, and the influence of God to move freely in our churches and in our culture. Jesus taught us to pray,
“Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
We can pray for God’s will and justice to prevail in our nation, for souls to be saved, for the church to be revived, for spiritual awakening in America, and anything else that will advance the Kingdom of God on earth. I always pray for people by name I know who need to be saved. I pray my church and I myself will experience renewal and revival. I pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and everything involved with it. Our godless times, the level of spiritual warfare, and the increasing Satanic attacks around the world demand that Christians know how to pray for the Kingdom of God to come!
It’s God’s will that we spend time praying for our own needs. Jesus expects it and encourages it. He taught us to pray,
“Give us this day our daily bread”
You know what you need to pray about for your own life. Your finances, your health, your job, grades at school, and everything else that touches your life personally is a potential prayer request! The instruction of Jesus was that we would seek our “daily bread” which is a not too subtle reminder that we need to pray for God to meet our needs everyday! Prayer is a daily commitment.
All of us need to bring our repentance “up to date” on a daily basis. Nothing can disrupt our relationship with God faster than unconfessed sin. Jesus taught us to pray,
“and forgive us our debts”
Be honest with God and yourself about your sin and personal struggles. God wants to forgive you and change you from the inside out. Don’t let sin keep you from prayer- let prayer keep you from sin.
In the Lord’s Prayer there is only a single reference to other people. Jesus said,
“as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Even though the reference to others relates to those who have treated us unfairly-someone in our debt or who needs our forgiveness- it is still a reminder that no prayer is complete which does not include other people and their needs. For instance, every morning I pray for each member of my family by name. I know what is happening in their lives and I want God’s best for them. Praying for them is a important part of my daily time with God. Then, I usually have many others on my mind who have asked for prayer too. Praying for other people is one of the most selfless and most powerful forms of prayer. We should all seek to excel in the ministry of intercession.
I once heard Pastor Chuck Smith say, “There’s only one thing worse than not growing in Christ, and that’s going backwards!” I want to keep growing in Christ and I’ve learned at least two things about spiritual growth. First, I never grow by accident. Second, I will face opposition. Jesus challenges us to pray about our own spiritual well being when He says,
“And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Every morning I ask the Lord to give me a holy life. Our personal growth in Christ-likeness depends upon the active help of God and our willingness to resist temptation. Pray, therefore, for your own growth, holiness, and victory over temptation. You will constantly face an organized, demonized, and weaponized enemy who wants to “steal, kill, and destroy.” In prayer, we can “beat the devil before we meet the devil.”
Imagine how your life could change if you started spending time in prayer every day with an organized, deliberate plan. Commit to the time you’ll need. Have a Bible (on your phone or in traditional book form) near. Decide to follow a plan such as the one we’ve reviewed today. Make notes for yourself while you’re praying. Add other areas to your prayer list. God wants to meet with you today!
-J. Kie Bowman, Austin,Texas