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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 08 2023

Christ's keys to meaningful prayer

Two gospel passages record what many Bibles in their paragraph headings refer to as ‘The Model Prayer’. It gives us an outline for our prayers, to which we can add specific needs and requests, and shows us how to address and approach our Heavenly Father.

by David Fenney

The two passages outlining the model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 are almost identical, but the context indicates they may not refer to the same event. Jesus may have used the same material on more than one occasion. Luke’s version is in response to the disciples’ request to “teach us to pray.” Matthew’s account is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-2). It follows Christ’s instruction which is stated three times: “When you pray…” (Matthew 6:5), indicating our Savior expects us to pray.

After warning about praying using “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7) Christ outlined the manner in which we are to pray in Matthew 9:9-13: “In this manner, therefore, 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 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.”

Luke’s version begins “When you pray, say,” then continues as Matthew’s except it omits the last sentence (which is possibly a paraphrase from part of King David’s last recorded prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:10-11) and the “Amen.” Both versions use the pronouns “our,” “us,” and “we,” indicating our prayer isn’t just about us individually. This fits with Philippians 2:4 which explains we shouldn’t just be concerned about our own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

Jesus instructed us to address our prayers to our Father, the supreme self-existent Being who wishes to have a relationship with us. While God the Father is the One to Whom we are to address our prayers, this does not preclude asking Christ to intercede on our behalf in times of deep distress or urgent need. He is our Advocate, Mediator and High Priest with the Father (1 John 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).

“Hallowed” means holy, sanctified, set apart. We “hallow” God’s name by acknowledging His greatness (Isaiah 40: 21-26; Psalms 104:1-2:), by praising and thanking Him (Philippians 4:6) and by our obedience (Titus 1:16).

Seeking God’s Kingdom should be an overriding priority in our lives (Matthew 6:33). To this end we can request help to have Christ’s mind in us (Philippians 2:5) and to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We should be mindful of the prophesied end of this age, and pray for God to hasten the time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:6,14), as well as praying for the Gospel to be preached without hindrance and for the effectiveness of the ministry (2 Thessalonians 3:1).This section of our prayers might include sighing and crying over all the abominations being done in our age (Ezekiel 9:4).

We all need physical “bread”—food or sustenance—and other vital necessities to stay alive. However, we should not be asking for ourselves alone, but also for others. Christ also teaches about the need we all have for spiritual food: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It would also be appropriate to include requests for the sick or those in distress (James 5:13-16), as well as any other concerns we may have.

Jesus then explained we must forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15 and 18:35). Praying for our “enemies” may assist us in forgiving them as we begin to see their weaknesses and problems which may not be dissimilar to our own (Matthew 5:43-44).

We should ask God for help and protection from the trials and tests, to learn from them, and to have faith to trust Him. We should also pray specifically for protection from Satan. In His last recorded prayer on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed His Father would “keep them [all His disciples] from the evil one” (John 17:15). As we approach the end of this age and Satan’s ultimate defeat, we need daily protection from the devil’s deceits and his attempts to destroy us spiritually.

Matthew’s version of the Model Prayer indicates we may end our prayers the way we started with praise and thanks to God (Ephesians 5:20). In John 14:12-14 we are told to ask the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, claiming authority to be in His presence through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. When we finish our prayers, “Amen” means “so be it.” When we say it in response to the prayers of others, “Amen” means that we agree with what has been said.