How to Pray
by Peggy Phifer ©1996
You hear it every day.
“Oh, God!” “Oh my God!” “Jesus!” “Jesus Christ!“ “Oh, my Lord.” “Good Heavens!”
Generally speaking, these words are exclamations of surprise, disgust, shock, or exasperation. In other cases, it’s just plain swearing, out and out blasphemy.
I got to reflecting on this one day when a co-worker dropped her head to her hands and muttered, “Oh, God.” Obviously, she was in distress, and needed help. Was she praying? I’d like to think so.
When we utter those words or phrases above, we are addressing God, Jesus, Lord, and Heaven. Prayer doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be said loudly, or publicly. Anyone can pray, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. Prayer does not need an audience to be effective. The only audience we need is the One to Whom we are addressing the prayer.
When Christ’s disciples once asked Him how to pray, Jesus replied with these words:
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .” Matt. 6:9 [NIV]
Of course you’ve recognized what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. It’s been set to music, and is used as a general benediction in many church services around the world. In fact, and unfortunately, it’s become so much a ritual that it has lost most of its meaning.
It’s unlikely that Christ intended us to take His words and turn them into a form to be used in unison, repeatedly, in religious services. It is much more probable that He used them as a guide by which his disciples would know the elements to be included in any prayer they offered.
Let’s look at this prayer a little more closely:
“Our Father in heaven . . .” Here, we are addressing the Person we want to hear our prayer. This is exactly like starting a letter: ‘Dear Father . . .”
“Hallowed be your name . . .” We are to acknowledge that our Father’s name is Holy, Blessed.
“. . . your kingdom come . . . “ We know that one day He will bring His kingdom to earth.
“. . . your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .” Why His will? Because when we allow Him to be in control, we are giving Him the authority, and permission to do what He knows to be the best possible things for us! Do we always know what’s good for us? Of course not!
“Give us today our daily bread.” This is easy. We are asking, and thanking Him for what He has provided. Notice the word ‘today.’ Again, that’s easy. Christ didn’t say ‘give us tomorrow’s daily bread,’ just today’s.
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is a little harder, isn’t it? Now, I don’t believe the ‘debts’ here mean simply all those bills that have piled up. It also means those wrongs we’ve done to someone. The envy, jealousy, gossip . . . things we’re all guilty of doing every single day of our lives. Okay, here we are, asking God to forgive us for these things, which is good. But, Jesus also included that kicker . . . we also must forgive our debtors. That neighbor who spread those rumors about you. The girl at the office who got the promotion you thought you deserved.
“And lead us not into temptation . . .” Hmmm. Does the Lord lead us into temptation? No, rather, this is a plea that He keep us from being led into temptation, as confirmed in the next words “. . . but deliver us from the evil one.”
Now, how should we pray?
We call on His Holy name; we recognize His Kingdom; we instantly turn our wills over to Him, letting Him know that we want Him to have His way and what’s best for our lives. We make our requests of Him, then thank Him for everything we’ve been given. We ask Him to forget our misdeeds even as we tell Him we’re willing to forgive those grudges we’ve been nursing so long. Finally, we pray that He will protect us as we go about our daily lives, and keep us from the temptations all of us face day after day.
Prayer is a personal thing. It is a private conversation between us and God. You don’t have to use big, fancy words. He knows what you mean. He knows what you’re feeling. You can use simple language, just as if you were on the telephone with your best friend. Because He is just that! Your very best Friend.
Peggy Blann Phifer
Rev. Copyright 2008©