Take a Fresh Look at Prayer
by Chris Hodges
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘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.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Jesus certainly prayed a lot. In fact, all Jewish people learned how to pray when they were very young. Keeping this in mind, it’s all the more interesting to read that Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1).
Now here’s my theory about this rather unique request: Since these Jewish disciples already knew how to pray based on their cultural upbringing, I don’t think they were asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. Instead, I believe they were saying, “We don’t know how to pray like you do—to receive that life-giving experience that comes not from just saying a memorized prayer, but from being in conversation with God. Can you teach us to pray with passion, like we mean it?”
Jesus’ response, of course, is the best-known prayer in the world, the Lord’s Prayer. He said to his disciples, “Okay, I can teach you. After this manner, pray this. . . .” I believe Jesus then did what all the rabbis have done down through the ages when instructing their students in any area: he taught his followers the topics of prayer that they should bring before God.
If you want to reinvigorate your conversations with God, I encourage you to make the Lord’s Prayer your own. Take each of the seven phrases, putting the idea in your own words and then personalizing it.
Think about how you want to address God in a warm, loving way. Consider which of his names you want to remember and honor (our Peace, our Protector, our Provider, and the list goes on and on). Ask for his will to be done before your own agenda. And when you do ask for your needs to be met, invite God to meet them in all areas of your life, not just the urgent ones. Ask him for forgiveness and ask his help to forgive others in the same way.
Tell him you need him to help you avoid whatever tempts you personally. If you’re tempted to go to the mall to shop and overspend, then ask him to help you with that. If you’re tempted to chat online with someone you shouldn’t, ask him to be with you so that you don’t go there. Whatever your temptation is, invite him to strengthen and fortify you. Take a stand against the enemy in your life. And finally, have faith in God’s ability to accomplish everything. This fresh approach will make prayer one of the most enjoyable parts of your day. Amen!