What is prayer- Part 2
While using the term “soul breathing” to help us understand how natural and easy prayer should be, it would be dangerous to leave that as the only teaching about prayer.
Just as there are healthy and safe ways to breath physically there are healthy and safe ways to “soul breathe” and to pray. Undirected prayer leaves us open to spiritual attack. (I will later talk about spiritual warfare and prayer.) Prayer needs a focus and a form. Where do we look for the best example of how to pray?
The last verse in James Montgomery’s song is based on the request made by the disciples of Jesus when they saw Jesus pray.
O thou by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray!
Look at Luke 11:1 “Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (NLT) Jesus responded by giving them an example of a prayer. We know it as “The Lord’s Prayer” and will look at it for what it can teach us about prayer.
“Jesus said, ‘This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”’” Luke 11:2-4 (NLT)
This prayer is also found in Matthew 6:9-13 and is the one most quoted. The two accounts are similar with a few subtle differences. ““This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”
Note that Jesus taught His disciples (and He teaches us) that it is important to direct our prayer to God. When praying we need to turn our attention to God. The prayer recorded in Matthew is translated to begin “our Father” this beginning address reminds us that God is our beginning, we have a special relationship with God and that relationship is inclusive. (The word “our” is important.) Father is a term that suggests there is a physical or spiritual relationship between the one who uses it and to Whom it is directed.
When we pray, we must be careful to address God either by Name or by intent. Our Father in Heaven is a phrase that leaves no doubt that we are praying to God. Remember it is important to ADDRESS your prayers. Just like you address mail, e-mail, and even when on the phone it is most polite to say the name or the title of the person or people to whom you are communicating.
The next phrase of both the King James and International Version is, “Hallowed by Thy Name.” In the New Living Translation we read, “May Your Name be kept holy.” This second step is to ADORE, not flatter but to pause and really think about God and tell Him. It is also to remind us that we need to APPROACH God with a holy and honest intent. God knows the intent of our hearts and our motives. So be honest about your prayer and reason for praying.
Sometimes we just have to say, “I am at the end of my rope and I need help.” Or we may say, “I feel like I have no place left to turn for help.” God, our Father in heaven, wants to have a relationship with us and He wants it to be an honest one. He will begin at the beginning with us. God hears the prayers of all people. God answers the prayers of all people with a “yes” or a “no” or a “wait.”
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is a statement of ABSOLUTE surrender. It is also praying God’s will. Jesus honestly prayed God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. He admitted that going to the cross was not His desire and would really like it if God could change His plans, but Jesus also prayed “not My will but Yours Lord.” Absolute surrender is an important part of prayer.
“Give us today our daily bread.” Bring you needs before God. ASK for what you need and what you want. Then leave it with God. There are times when you will feel in your heart that you need to keep asking about some things and further study in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 would indicate that there are some prayers that you need to keep on praying about until God give you an answer.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus teaches us about asking for and extending forgiveness. A word that begins with the letter “a” which will continue the alliteration is ABSOLUTION. Absolution means forgiveness, liberation, pardon, release and freedom.
An image that comes to mind is the picture of a person trying to walk, but has weights chained on to their body and locked with locks. These weights are sins that person carries with them. Sins they have committed and not confessed and sins others have committed against them that they have not released. When they come to God, they ask to be forgiven and set free. God asks them for the key they hold clenched in their hand. God uses that key to unlock the locks…every lock so that the person is free from the chains that bound them to unforgiven sins their own and those of others. To truly be free from sin means we have to let go all the chains. Then leave the chains, locks and keys behind. Don’t pick them up again. Don’t go over and rehears old hurts. Move on with God.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Translate in the Complete Jewish Bible version is stated, “And do not lead us into hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.” It brings to mind a phrase from Psalm 23, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
Asking that God would not lead us to “temptation” the way we understand the word today is quite different to its original meaning. Our life journey will take us to happy “mountain top” times and difficult “valley” times. We will be tested and tried by what happens to us in life. Jesus is teaching us to pray honestly and ask God to go easy on us – but we are also asked to trust God and follow where He leads. The valley of the shadow of death describes the gullies or valleys that lead from the low winter pastures to the higher, summer mountain pastures. The gullies and valleys held danger in that a mountain storm could send flash floods with little or no warning and cause great difficulty and even death when the shepherds led their sheep to the summer pastures.
The shepherds had to keep alert for all signs of danger in the deep valleys. Lead us not into hard testing – Lord you know the dangers. Keep us safe from the Evil One. God knows the traps and lures that have been set for us. Jesus wants us to avoid the pitfalls of life. He tells us to ask God for help. The word to sum it up is ALERT. We ask God to be ALERT and watch over us like a Great Shepherd and help us to be ALERT and avoid the temptations, traps and dangerous situations that could cause us to fall.
Many translations add “For Yours is the Kingdom, Power and Glory forever Amen.” It is always a good thing to end prayer with thanks and a show of trust. The last word is AMEN. Amen means faithful is He. God is faithful and we can trust Him. Thank you God AMEN.
By Commissioner Debi Bell