Listen: Matthew 6:5-8 : “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
So if God knows what we need before we ask, why should we even bother praying? There is so much more to praying than just asking. We don’t pray to God just when we need something, even though he invites us to cast all our cares on him. We don’t pray to God because we want to look good – either to the people around us or even just to ourselves. We pray to God because through faith in Jesus we have an intimate connection to the one who invites us to call him “Father.”
If you want to learn how to pray, then read the psalms and pray them. One pastor I know said that he loved to pray a psalm in the morning and another in the evening. When you pray the psalms, you will quickly learn that talking to God is more than just asking for favors. Praying to God is contemplating his majesty in his presence. Praying to God is working through the conflicts in our hearts in God’s presence. Praying to God is exalting him and praising him and rejoicing in what an awesome God he is. Praying to God is joining with all the saints and angels before his throne and being overwhelmed by his glory. If I had my life to live all over again, I would spend more time alone with God in prayer.
Prayer: Father, dear Father, I come before your throne as your dearly loved child. When I wake in the morning, you are there to hear my first words. When I fall asleep in the evening, you are there to hear my gasps for mercy. When I am in trouble, you know better than I what course to set before me. When my heart is running on empty, you restore to me the joys of salvation. I pray to you Father, because I fear and love and trust in you above all things. Amen.
Listen: Matthew 6:9-13 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
If you look at the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11, you will see that they don’t match up exactly. The point is that Jesus did not give us this prayer so that we can have the exact words to pray over and over and over again, even without thinking. He was teaching us how to pray and what to pray for, from our heart. When you go to bed at night and pray the Lord’s Prayer, try praying it from your heart, using the thoughts, but not the exact words. In other words, make it your own. Something like this:
Prayer: Father, dear Father, thank you for making me your child. You adopted me when I was baptized and clothed with Christ, and I know that I am yours forever and you are mine. I pray that in my life, I would always make your name holy by living as your dear child. Keep me from sin and unbelief and especially from anything that would bring dishonor to your name. I thank you for making me your child and an heir of your kingdom. Help me to grow in my faith daily through your Word. I also pray for …, that you would help them to know you as I do and come to faith in you. Let your word be proclaimed in all the world so more will be added to your kingdom daily. I pray that your will be done here on earth, and in my life, as it is in heaven. Teach me to say “no” to sin and to live according to the new self you have put in my heart. Keep me from every kind of hypocrisy lest I only put on a good face for believing. Give me my daily bread and all that I need for this life. Make me content with what I have and give me a generous heart to share with others. Forgive me all my sins, my many sins, and move my heart to forgive my brothers and sisters as well. Teach me even to love my enemies so that I might reach them with the gospel. For all the temptations that I face today, give me strength, especially in regard to …. . I know that you will stand with me. Send your angels to protect me so that the wicked foe will have no power over me. And from every evil of body or soul, deliver me. In the hard times of my life, then let me only draw closer to you and look ahead to the time when I will be safe in your arms forever. I ask this all, dear Father, in Jesus’ name, knowing that you reign over all things in heaven and in earth. I am confident that you have heard me and will do what is best for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.