It goes by many names: prayer, intercession, supplication, or meditation. But the idea is quite simple. Prayer is the act of talking with God. People complicate it in all sorts of ways by requiring that you use certain words or objects, that you sit or stand, face east or west or have a priest present. But Jesus had a really simple approach. He simply gave us a list of topics that God wants to talk about. Jesus’ list goes like this:
Your Relationship: “Our Father, who is in heaven”
Jesus taught that our prayers should start where all things start with God. It begins with a relationship. Prayer doesn’t begin by invoking a saint or going through a medium. It begins by addressing and naming your relationship with God himself. Jesus gave the example of “Our Father in heaven.” But others in the Bible began by addressing God as Guide, Savior, or King. The point is to put a name to your relationship with God. How has he been relating with you? My personal favorite is “Friend” as my relationship with God began when I felt I had no friend but God.
Worship: “May your name be honored as holy”
Next Jesus teaches us that we should tell God what we love about him. He gives the example of God’s holiness, which is a word that means special or unique. I’m sure glad that God is not like everyone else in my life. I’ve got a lot of good people in my life, but none of them (myself included) can ever really live up to my expectations. God is the only one to never let me down. But maybe there’s another attribute that you love about God or something that he has done that you admire or appreciate. Either way, this is basic relationship advice. If you love someone, then you need to make sure you are telling them that you love them and why. God is no different in that regard.
Surrender: “Have your kingdom, have your will be done, as it is in heaven so also on earth”
This is a statement of trust and commitment. Again, we see that Jesus is guiding us to put into our relationship with God what we know to put into any meaningful and long-lasting relationship. That means giving God our trust and our commitment. It’s not crazy for God to ask this from us. It’s what we ask of everyone we have a deep relationship with. God has a certain thing he is trying to accomplish in your life and in this world. He calls this thing his kingdom. He wants you and the world to be ruled by the law of love. Do you trust his plan? Are there places in your life that you are holding onto with anxiety, fear, or stress? Maybe now is the time to surrender those things over to God’s plan.
Ask: “Give us today our daily bread”
Maybe you trust his plan (see note above), but you have a few things you’d like him to add to his plan. Well, that’s where Jesus goes next. Tell God about the things that you need. What’s troubling you? Where do you need God to show up in your life or in the lives of those around you. Don’t worry. He already knows what you are going to ask him, even before you ask it. But he is looking for a relationship with you and would like to talk with you about these things anyway. Just note here that Jesus has this as just one of the things you should be talking with God about. If you only ever talk with him about what you need, you might be one of those “friends” who only calls to ask for a ride. Don’t be that person with God.
Forgive: “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive those indebted to us”
This one can be a bit harder, but it is a core piece of God’s plan for you and your life. He knows you’ve made some mistakes and he wants to forgive you. He has already offered the forgiveness. That’s not anything you need to worry about. He is ready to forgive. He just wants you to come to him to receive that forgiveness. Confess, tell him where you’ve made mistakes, and let him give you a fresh start. But don’t forget the second half of this topic. He also wants you to forgive others. And it’s a package deal. He forgives you. And you forgive others. In fact, what you’ll find is that you will never really be able to accept God’s forgiveness until you’ve found a way to give forgiveness to others.
Protect: “And do no lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”
Finally, Jesus tells us that we need to ask God to protect us. We each face the same basic two dangers every day. We face dangers from the inside and dangers from the outside. Dangers from the inside we can call “temptations.” These are those unhelpful cravings, bad habits, or bitter seeds that we hold onto, and that tempt us to act out in selfish or unloving ways. The second kind of danger comes, ultimately, from the evil one. This doesn’t mean that the devil himself is likely to knock on your door tomorrow, but it does mean that this world, the institutions, people, and situations that we interact with, have all been tainted. They are bent, twisted, and out of shape. And as such, we can find ourselves surrounded by dangers to our physical, spiritual, or emotional selves wherever we go. But whether the danger is coming from ourselves or from some outside force, God is big enough to protect us. Just talk to him about it.
Many people call this “the Lord’s Prayer,” but whatever you call Jesus’ teaching on the topic, use what he has said to guide your talks with God. He has given you a list of topics that your Father in heaven would like to talk with you about. He is waiting and ready to listen.
For more help on this topic, you can download the free I Am Second Prayer Guide.