In Matthew 6:9–13, Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Notice the pattern of this prayer and the specific requests it makes.
The pattern is vertical and horizontal. First, we direct our attention to God and his concerns; then, we ask God to direct his attention to us and our concerns. In Matthew 22:37–39, Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Prayer simply follows the pattern of these two great commandments.
The Lord’s Prayer makes six specific requests. First, we pray, “hallowed be your name.” The name of God is revelatory; it tells us about his person and works. According to Matthew 1:21, for example, Joseph and Mary named their baby Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” In Hebrew, Yeshua simply means, “the Lord saves.” So, the first thing we do in prayer is praise God for who he is and what he as done. By doing so, we focus on God’s powerful love for us.
Our second and third requests are “your kingdom come, your will be done.” The will of God is what he wants to accomplish in the world he created and the people he is saving. Through prayer, we prioritize God’s agenda for our lives.
Fourth, we pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” In first–century Palestine, most people lived at a subsistence level. They worked as day laborers, earning only enough money to buy what short–term provisions they needed. So, the prayer for daily bread was a prayer for actual bread. In our day, it includes other things. When we pray, we can ask God for whatever we need. Interestingly, there is a connection between doing God’s will and receiving our daily bread. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, and clothing, among others] will be given to you as well.”
Fifth, we pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” When we pray, we seek God’s grace and promise to send it along to others as well. Prayer is the nexus between our reconciliation with God and our reconciliation with other people.
Finally, we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Life is difficult. God uses these difficulties to make us better people. So, when we pray, we must learn to trust God in trying times.
When we pray, we ought to follow the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer and make its requests our own.