Overcome Doubt and Intimidation about Prayer - Learn to Pray using the Lord's Prayer
Updated: Aug 1
What are your thoughts when the suggestion is made to “pray about it?”
Does it feel like a fruitless effort? Do the circumstances seem too dire to stop and wait to see if God will answer? Do you feel unworthy of God's attention? Or do you feel guilty praying for yourself when so many others are in need?
Or maybe, you are just not sure how to pray?
You aren’t alone. The truth is that even Jesus’ disciples didn’t know how to pray, at least not the way they saw Him praying! After following Jesus for some time and experiencing many miracles, they did not ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to cure Leprosy,” or, “Lord, teach us how to speak the way you do... how to be gentle like you are... how to love our enemies like you command... how to have strong faith.” Of all the things they could have asked to learn, they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
The disciples could see that there was a special relationship between God the Son and God the Father. They knew that Jesus often went away by Himself to pray for hours. They witnessed the effect that His prayer life had on His earthly life and the miracles which resulted. Above all else, they understood from His example that prayer was vital.
Let's take a look at how Jesus answered His disciples' question.
First, Jesus said that individual prayer should be private…
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
He also said that it should not be emotionless recitations…
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7-8
Finally, don’t forget to be thankful.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he reveals a key ingredient to the best results from prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything,” he writes, “but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
So, if we remember to be thankful in our prayers, the result is supernatural peace from God overtaking our hearts and minds. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!
Jesus also gave His disciples a sample prayer that we now know as The Lord’s Prayer. Many of us today are already familiar with the prayer even if we have limited church exposure.
“This then is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “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.” (Matthew 6: 9-13)
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus lays out a model for prayer. Through the years, people have created acronyms to help us remember it. Here are two…
A – Adoration
C – Confession
T – Thanksgiving
S – Supplication
P – Praise
R – Repent
A – Access
Y – Yield
Let’s keep those in mind as we go through the Lord's Prayer.
To begin with, the Jews did not refer to God as their Father. This was a new concept. When Jesus told them to make the address, “Our Father,” Jesus was not only saying God was His Father but that God was also their Father, and they could call Him “Father.” Moreover, God wanted to be called Father. He wanted to have a relationship with them! This created a whole new level of intimacy between the disciples and God. Another part of Scripture even talks of our Spirits within us crying, “Abba Father!” – which is best understood as, “Daddy” or “Poppa.” (Romans 8:15)
Next, Jesus reminded his disciples that even though they were free to approach the throne of God boldly because they were His beloved children, it was also necessary to remember that God is holy. “Hallowed be your name.” There is power in the holy name of Jesus. Sometimes Christians become so excited about Jesus’ love that they forget His holiness. We should also have a reverence for our Most High God.
Third, when we say, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” this is a recognition that God’s ways are best. We humbly submit to His perfect will.
Fourth, we ask, “Give us today our daily bread,” recalling also that Jesus referred to Himself in Scripture as “bread.” Not only are we completely dependent upon God for our physical sustenance, but also our spiritual bread. We need Jesus daily. This line might then be said, “I am here. I want to hear You. I want to know You.” God honors our request and will not turn away those that seek Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Note that those first four parts of the Lord’s Prayer are the Praise or Adoration in the acronyms.
Fifth, “Forgive us our debts,” or sins. We ask for forgiveness - the Confession and Repent of the acronyms. Sin will always hinder our relationship with our holy God. Even though we have been made holy through the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross, our sinful actions can stand in the way of what God wills for our lives. The Holy Spirit gently touches areas which need our confession and repentance. The longer we refuse to deal with our sin, the more our prayers are in danger of being affected. The Apostle Peter warns, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12, emphasis mine)
Sixth, we are reminded of another key to our prayer life. The verse goes on to say, “as we have forgiven our debtors” or “those who have sinned against us.” Jesus commands us to also forgive those who have hurt us, even when they don’t deserve it. The truth is that people rarely deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is not really about letting someone get away with their crime. Forgiveness is a command from God for the sake of our souls, because while we were still sinners, Christ forgave us. (Romans 5:8) If we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, it only hurts us and hinders our relationship with God. Furthermore, unforgiveness can also affect us mentally, emotionally and eventually physically. If we remember that we have a grievance against someone, we must submit to God and forgive them for the sake of our prayers. Sometimes a forgiveness in the heart is all that is necessary, but Jesus will go with you if you need to speak with the other party.
At last, we say, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” or “the evil one.” Sometimes, the temptations we experience in life are from the evil one who prowls around like a lion waiting to devour. He watches for areas in our lives where he can attain a foothold. Satan is the father of lies and seeks only to steal our attention, kill our passion for Jesus and destroy us. Therefore, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus reveals that Satan is real and active. It is important for Christians to remember it and to ask for the Lord’s deliverance from the devil's schemes. Another way to say this might be, “Help me walk in right paths and to recognize and stay away from what would tempt me to sin." (For more detailed instructions on dealing with demons, see my book here.)
At this point, the acronyms tell us to present our requests to God (“supplication”) and submit to His will (“yield”). Remember, His "will be done,” not ours, and in His timing, not ours. It may be difficult, but it's important to wait for God. His ways are always best. When we step in and try to move ahead of God, we are often only met with disappointment. (Matthew 16:25)
If you still feel intimidated about prayer, focus on the beginning, “Our Father.” God wants you to come to Him as His precious child, “casting all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you!” (1 peter 5:7) You don’t need to worry about getting your prayer right. You are not unworthy. You certainly should not feel selfish asking for help for yourself. Come to Him as you are, lay your heart with all of its confusions, hurts and hopes bare before Him, and He will take care of the rest.
But there is one more step.
Finally, we are still. After we have covered all the items on our prayer list, we quiet our minds. God will often bring people or situations to mind – turn those thoughts into prayer! He will call sins to mind that we have forgotten – repent! He’ll bring verses to mind or worship songs. Turn it all into prayer! God is speaking with you.
God will also give answers to your prayers through Bible study (learn how here), messages at church services, and other Christian brothers and sisters. It will surprise you to see a pattern forming in what you’re reading in the Bible and what you’ve been praying about. God is teaching you! The truth is that God wants to have a relationship with you, so He is going to speak to you if you’re listening for Him. He wants to guide you and help you through your life. He wants you to find true peace in Him. Don’t give up, and don't be afraid.
Are you not sure if you are really His child? The Bible tells us, “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12a)
If you have never received Jesus, repent of your sin and trust in Jesus now. He paid the price with his life so that you could. Receive Him, and become his child today!
Meg Grimm writes biblical studies and research articles that help set women free from impractical standards of the world. She strives to unveil true beauty and sensible body care principles from a godly perspective.