Do you pray? As a Christian, I believe that God is alive and that he listens and speaks. Prayer is at the heart of being a Christian. Put simply, prayer just means to “hang out with God”, to have communion and relationship with Him. However, prayer is also something that many of us struggle with. In my mission statement, I mentioned that I want to use this space to talk more about just that: how we can make time and space in our lives to re-charge and connect more and deeper with Jesus.
In today’s fast-paced world it is difficult to find time to quieten down and spend time turning our hearts to our Father in Heaven. And there are so many distractions – notifications on our phones, to-do lists, Netflix, spouses, children, the next knitting project… The list is endless.
Even if we are able to carve out time in our schedule and eliminate all the distractions, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to say. Should we first confess our sins to then have a clean slate before we can voice our desires? What should be the ratio between items thanked for and items requested? And who do we address – God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
Teach me how to pray
In one of his talks, Jesus actually addresses these questions and he gives us a guide to prayer. You might be familiar with it – it is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer. I have been using it for a long time to structure my time of prayer. It helps me keep my mind from being frazzled and all over the place. In this post, I wanted to just talk you through the different elements of it to inspire you for your communications with God.
“Our Father in heaven,”
It is very easy to just skip over this ‘opening address’ of the prayer but it is actually so significant. We are coming to the Creator of the universe, the One who puts breath in our lungs, the glorious Ruler over all things. And we are invited to call him Father. Wow.
So, first up: come before your Father who loves you and cares for you.
In my church are many families with young children and it is super fun to watch dads with their kids. They swing them around, carry them on their shoulders, make them laugh, comfort them, and carry them in their arms until they fall asleep.
We can come as we are. Children come to their Fathers as they are. Full of trust. They come to them craving love and protection. They don’t pretend anything. There is a quote by C.S. Lewis which says “We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.” We can come as we are.
“Hallowed by your name.”
I don’t know about you, but the word ‘hallowed’ is not in my day to day vocabulary. I looked it up and it is defined as “honour as holy” and “greatly revere and honour”. God is our Father but he is also the King. The Great I Am. The author of life. The beginning and the end. The Righteous One.
Reflecting on God’s glory and formulating our own worship for him is such a wonderful thing to do. Sure, we know that God is God – but somehow we need to remind ourselves of this. When I look to God and think about who He is and how great and wonderful, I am in awe. And life somehow comes into perspective. My bad mood about the cup of tea I spilled earlier just loses significance. I stop worrying because I am preoccupied with marveling at His beauty and goodness.
If you are not quite sure what to say or find it difficult to worship, the Psalms are so helpful. I particularly love Psalm 104:
“Praise the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great;
You are clothed with splendour and majesty.
He makes winds his messengers flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations, it can never be moved.”
“Your kingdom come,”
“Your kingdom come” is basically a way of asking God to redeem this world. To make this more visual you can draw a circle which represents you and your family. Then a circle around that which includes co-workers, friends, neighbors. Then another circle in which you can jot down the name of your town, the name of your mayor and your church. The next layer could be for national leaders and influencers and finally worldwide issues. Pray for God’s kingdom to come in each of these areas of your life. Ask Him to break into situations, to make Himself known, to use you to be a blessing and a light that points to the gospel.
“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Lay down your desires and plans before God and surrender. Ask him to do his will and ask him to transform your dreams into what He dreams for your life. This is also a great moment to just be quiet in God’s presence and listen. Maybe open your Bible. Seek his will for your life and for this world.
“Give us today our daily bread.”
God is our provider. Every good thing in our life comes from Him. Be thankful for everything He has given you.
He knows your needs. Bring them before him. He can fill every lack in your life, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. When I first moved to the UK I kept praying for a best friend. I had many lovely people around me but I just yearned for this one friend who you can be 100% honest with, who gets you, who you can talk to for hours. And a while later this amazing girl joined our church who loved talking about philosophy and faith and we started reading our Bibles together and had so much fun and we became best friends.
Sometimes God’s provision is not quite how we imagine it, but our call is to trust him that on each new day he will care for us.
Something I did not notice for a long time is that it says “give US OUR daily bread” – there are so many people who suffer from hunger but also from lack of love and safety. Pray for them. Aks the Holy Spirit to show you how you can help people that are in need.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
I find it so interesting that Jesus puts this line not at the very start of the prayer. If you have accepted the forgiveness and redemption that Jesus offers: you are saved. Once and for all. The ways in which you fall short do not separate you from the Father because Jesus has already dealt with them.
Sin obviously still has consequences – it hurts others and ourselves. But we are not alone in dealing with the aftermath of unkind actions and words. We can bring our failings and our to the cross, ask for forgiveness and also forgive those who have wronged us.
Forgiveness is a big topic but all I want to say here is: forgiving others is not acting like what they did to you does not matter. Forgiving others means to let go. If you choose to forgive you bring your pain to God and no longer carry your hurt and anger in your heart. Forgiving means to be set free.
Sometimes this is a process of declaring forgiveness and asking for God’s help to let go daily, until, bit by bit you are letting go of your burden and sometimes it is an instant release. If there is something that you cannot seem to shake, maybe speak and pray with a person you trust, in my experience, this has been very helpful.
“And do not bring us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”
Ask Jesus to get through difficult situations and for His help in resisting temptations. Tell Him about the things that tempt you and remind yourself that He is bigger and better than any earthly pleasure.
Pray for protection from evil thoughts, attitudes, and powers. Here again, the pronoun “us” is used – so pray for Christians who suffer persecution, people in war zones, refugees and those experiencing other hardship.
“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
God is in control. We might mess up but Jesus is still the King and has our life and this whole world in his hands. Hallelujah!
In that sense: Amen!