For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. — Matthew 6:13 NKJV
I’ll never forget when my understanding of prayer changed forever.
I was a sophomore in high school, fifteen years old and newly saved, when my pastor, Larry Stockstill, taught on the Lord’s Prayer. Pastor Larry was passionate about prayer — to the point that I half-expected him to preach on the power of prayer any given Sunday. He even made sure we had prayer in the name of our church: Bethany World Prayer Center.
But hearing him teach on prayer this time was different.
- It was the first time I realized that the Lord’s Prayer wasn’t just a prayer — it was an outline for prayer.
My mind was blown! I thought you were just supposed to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and recite it whenever it was time to pray. And at that particular age and stage, the twenty-one seconds it took for me to say the Lord’s Prayer was just about how long I spent in prayer. The main reason I didn’t pray longer was that I didn’t know what to say. So, like most of my friends and many of the Christians I knew, I would simply recite the Lord’s Prayer, give God a few requests, and call it a day.
Learning to consider the Lord’s Prayer as an outline, a model for prayer, remains one of the greatest discoveries in my entire Christian life to date. I hope this discovery can have the same impact on you.
When His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus used a technique that many rabbis used — teaching God’s truth by providing an outline drawn from the Scriptures. The disciples already knew how to pray based on their upbringing. They had learned traditional prayers that most Jewish males memorized as part of their upbringing.
But when they saw and heard Jesus pray, they were stunned. He wasn’t praying as they had been taught, so they asked their Master to teach them to do it His way. So that’s exactly what Jesus did — He gave them the gift of an outline for how to talk to the Father. It changed everything for the disciples that day, and it changed everything for me too.
Now I hope it changes the way you understand the Lord’s Prayer — and perhaps all prayers!
Our Father in Heaven: Respect and Intimacy
Having a deliberate plan in place when you pray goes a long way toward deepening your relationship with God. Rather than stifling your connection, a prayer plan facilitates staying focused and going deeper. The primary components of prayer planning are model prayers. These are not scripted prayers to be read verbatim but simply outlines, templates, and blueprints that help you include the major elements of prayer such as praise and worship, confession, petition, and intercession.
While we’ll explore several distinct models found in the Bible, the best starting point is the prayer outline Jesus Himself gave us. It’s the model prayer of all model prayers. In response to their request, Jesus instructed His followers to pray 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 forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. — Matthew 6:9–13 NKJV
It’s important to realize that Jesus wasn’t teaching us words to memorize but rather how to connect with our Father. With this relational goal in mind, Christ gave us an outline with seven distinct aspects of prayer. Similar to rabbinical teaching of the day that followed specific outlines, Jesus concisely demonstrated elements for us to explore and expand upon as we pray.
A logical starting point when teaching others how to communicate is to focus on their audience, the person being addressed — and that’s exactly how Jesus began: “Our Father in Heaven...” It’s difficult to grasp how radical it was for His disciples to hear that they — and we — should connect with God relationally. And not just relationally — we should begin by calling God our Father, which Jesus implies may be His favorite title.
Jesus called Him “Abba,” which conveys intimacy, and told us to do the same. It’s similar to when we address our earthly fathers as Daddy or Papa. It’s warm and personal, familiar and comfortable. Rather than starting with a formal approach, we speak to God as His sons and daughters:
You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father’. — Romans 8:15 NLT
God wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. And your relationship with Him begins with a right view of God. Nothing will determine your relationship with God more than your view of Him. Addressing Him as your Father still shows respect but accurately demonstrates your access and closeness.
When my kids were little, I loved nothing more than for them to jump in my lap, cuddle up, and tell me about their day. As they grew into adulthood, our communication wasn’t as physically close, but the love, familiarity, and intimacy remained. They know they can come to me anytime — not just when they’re struggling or needing something. I love it when they pop in and just say, “Hey, Dad, how are you? What are you working on? How’s your day going?”
God loves for us to come to Him in this same way — as children who love Him and want to spend time with Him.
Excerpted with permission from Pray First by Chris Hodges, copyright Chris Hodges.
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Do you start your prayer with, “Father…”? Or “Abba”? Or an intimate name for God? If not, what would change if you addressed Him as your heavenly dad? Come share with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily