You probably admire someone in your life for the love they have for Jesus. You hear it in their voice, see it in their smile, and feel it in their love for you. You know this person has communed with God — personally, intimately, regularly. You assume they have a vibrant and consistent prayer life, even though you've never seen their private prayers. And you wish your relationship with God was more like theirs. It's obviously no surprise that Jesus's disciples experienced such closeness with him. Luke writes, "Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray'" (Luke 11:1). We can safely assume that Jesus prayed with his disciples, probably regularly. They had heard him pray. Yet this was different. "Teach us to pray," really meant, "Tell us what happens when you are alone with God." What Jesus says in the next few verses are the boldest, and most important, words to take with us into prayer.
Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:9–13)
You may have memorized a version of the Lord's Prayer when you were younger. It's simple enough for children to commit to memory. But we need to remember that Jesus gave this prayer to twelve grown men. This is not just a prayer for sixth-grade Sunday School, but for all of life. Jesus taught these men this simple, yet awe-inspiring prayer, and then sent them into the world to be persecuted and eventually killed for their faith. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a childhood toy to be shelved and remembered with affection. It’s not for nostalgia. These are words to be rehearsed and held with conviction, through whatever we face or suffer in this life, until our final breath.
Are you looking for a place to start in prayer, for words strong enough for the heavy challenges and hardships before you in our broken world? Listen to Jesus pray, again.