In the gospel, Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He is teaching all of us how to pray, if we take on board the “how to pray” part of the gospel. Jesus taught how to pray through the Lord’s prayer.
Although I don’t usually pray the Lord’s prayer, my prayers are instinctual rather than scripted and arise out of the moment, but I believe Jesus is giving us good advice in how to pray, which I share with you as well as myself.
Before I describe what Jesus taught and what I interpret his teaching on prayer as, let me say that prayer can start by addressing God or putting our minds on God. I believe God is outward, not inward, so this post on prayer takes the outward in how to address God.
Then, some say we pray by talking to God, to tell God what’s on our mind.
This is when one is talking to God to get things off one’s chest. Hoping that a healing will come after the words are spoken.
However, getting lost in one’s words, prayer can become a self-focussed therapeutic session. We’re hoping for some catharsis from our problems, but it may become a never ending circle that finds no resolution.
I know, I’ve tried this kind of prayer–to the point where I thought I was getting nowhere. But I trust God was listening even to that prayer and working out how to help me, so it was probably useful.
We can have a tendency to focus on our own problems and thoughts, so we may need some guidance in how to pray, to get our minds off ourselves.
Jesus gave his disciples some pointers in what to include in the content of their prayers.
These points are:
“May your holy name be honoured” (Luke 11:2)
God is our Creator and source of life. So, one can pray to honour God in one’s life, family, friends, community, throughout the world.
“May your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2)
For God’s goodness and life to come into people’s lives.
“Give us by day the food we need” (Luke 11:3)
Pray for provision, every day, for one’s own life and the people among us.
“Forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who does us wrong” (Luke 11:4)
Every day, asking God to break down your heart, to melt it, to mould it, into a heart of forgiveness, and love, for those that have wronged you.
“And do not bring us to hard testing” (Luke 11:4)
Ask God to bear life with a lighter attitude.
In Luke’s record of the Lord’s prayer, there are four kind of prayers, it seems: (1) To have God and goodness in one’s life, (2) To be provided for and to have our daily needs met, (3) To know how to forgive, and (4) To bear life with a lighter attitude.
By praying these, we may not need to pray self-focussed prayers as these prayers look to cover what’s essential to life itself. It looks like our needs have been addressed in these prayers.