How to Pray

That prayer is essential to the Christian life is something few would argue against. It is so vital that Jesus once told his disciples they could not cast out demons because they led prayerless lives (Mark 9:14-29). In other words, their faithlessness is what resulted in their powerlessness. What is astounding, however, is that few Christians care to give thought or emphasis to the structure of prayer. Not many ask, “How can I pray biblically?” 

Since prayer is an essential spiritual discipline intended to build up and evidence our faith, it stands to reason that knowing how to do it is necessary. One can only be trusted with driving a car if they know how to drive. Otherwise, the result will be chaos. The same is true with prayer, especially since we aren’t communicating with any random person on the street but God himself. Using Matthew 6:9-13, or as it is popularly known, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, I will seek to show how one ought to pray.

Our Father in Heaven

All prayers should start with an acknowledgement of who God is. By calling him Father, it means acknowledging that it is only because of him that we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is an acknowledgement that only in him do we have life both physically and spiritually (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 36:9; 100:3, John 3:16; 10:10, Ephesians 2:1-10). Not only that, it is also an acknowledgement of our close-knit relationship with him. For a little history lesson, the thought of calling God ‘Father’ was unheard of in ancient Israel. Outside of Christianity, the first Jew to call God Father is dated around the fourth century. It is one of the reasons the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him (John 5:17-18). Because of him, we are now called the sons of God and thus have the right to call him Father (Romans 8:14-15).

Even though we call God Father, we still need to acknowledge that he is far beyond us and is still sovereign over all the universe, seated on his throne in the heavens (Isaiah 6:1-5, Revelation 22:1-5). Because he is sovereign, we can now come before him confidently.

Hallowed be thy Name

Once we acknowledge his Fatherhood, Kingship and set-apart nature, we are to attribute to him all the glory. The statement ‘Hallowed be thy name’ is generally considered by many scholars, and rightly so, to be the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer. In short, our prayers shouldn’t just seek to attribute all the glory to God but make a petition for his name to be revered not only in our hearts but in the hearts of all peoples. The same passion God has for his glory, so much so that he created us and the universe (Isaiah 43:6-7) and redeemed us (Philippians 2:5-11), becomes our passion. Our love and honour for his name will far exceed any earthly good he could grant us (Matthew 10:34-39, Luke 10:17-20).

In all we do, whether eating or drinking, all of it will be for his glory and honour, for there is truly none like him (1 Corinthians 10:31). He alone is God (Deuteronomy 6:4), so pray that you may always honour and exalt him even when in doubt. 

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Only when we have petitioned that we may always seek to honour God’s name can we ask for his Kingdom to come, as only those who glorify his name will be a part of his Kingdom. In a world filled with all manner of evil, it should be our great joy to pray for the ‘not-yet’, as that will give us the confidence to press forward for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Paul regarded everything as loss for Christ’s sake because he looked forward to what lay ahead. Due to this, he could press forward (Philippians 3:7-21). He also wrote to the Romans that they were to wake up from sleep and work out their salvation because it was nearer to them than when they first believed (Romans 13:11-14). 

We shouldn’t just pray that his Kingdom comes but also that his will be done. There is a reason why asking for his will to be done comes before making our needs known to him. As James wrote, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15).

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Why are we not to be anxious about what we will eat or drink? Because the same God who cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air will care for us as well so long as we seek his Kingdom first and rejoice in him always (Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:4). When we do, he promises to be at hand. Through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, we can make our needs known to him (Philippians 4:6-7).

However, as already stated, let these requests be made within the confines of seeking his will to be done. Remember, even Jesus requested that the cup of suffering be removed from him. Still, even then, he sought that it not be his will but his Father’s (Matthew 26:39). In short, even when praying, trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, for only he can make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Forgive Us as We Forgive Others

1 John 1:8 reads, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Our prayers should also include the acknowledgement that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Since we are still on this side of heaven, that means, just like Paul, we will do the things we ought not to do. At the same time, we are forsaking to do what we ought to do (Romans 7:15-25). Like David, we ought then to ask God to forgive us and to renew his steadfast spirit within us (Psalm 51:10). When we do, we rest on the promise that ‘he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).

However, there’s the slight caveat that we can’t ask for forgiveness if we aren’t forgiving those who have wronged us. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of people who didn’t even know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). Not only that, but our ultimate forgiveness purchased through Christ’s blood happened while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Thus, we have no reason not to forgive those who wrong us because God, in Christ, forgave us for much worse. We shouldn’t be like the unforgiving servant of Matthew 18:21-35. And as we forgive, we should also pray for the salvation of their souls.

Deliver Us From Evil

Our final petition is simply a recognition of the fleshly bodies we still are in. It is also acknowledging that our good God can provide us with a way of escaping every temptation that we might face (1 Corinthians 10:31). We aren’t to emulate Peter, James and John, who were deep in sleep when they should have been praying as Jesus instructed so that they wouldn’t enter into temptation. The reminder is that the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:36-46). We are to turn over our weakness to God, for when we do so in him, our weakness becomes strength, and thus we can stand against the schemes of the Devil (2 Corinthians 12:10, Ephesians 6:11).

Using Scripture

Essentially, God’s word should be at the root of all our prayers, as we can only defend ourselves against the Devil’s attacks through his word. There’s a reason Jesus replied to the Devil using God’s word (Matthew 4:1-11). How can a young man keep his ways pure? By living according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9). The point here is that even your prayers should be armed with the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17). Prayer is simply an acknowledgement that it is only by God’s grace that you can live, move and have your being. For you to do that confidently, with focus and glorifying God while at it, let it be built off the meditations of Scripture. 

Do you want to glorify God? Look to his word. While doing so, build your prayer life on it so that both in word and deed, you are building yourself up in the most holy faith (Jude 20). Knowing how to pray biblically will prevent you from praying in a way that glorifies you instead of God. Also, it is a means of showing your trust in God’s sovereignty and not leaning on your own understanding (Matthew 6:7-8). 



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