Prayer is an act of giving and receiving and Jesus says there are six things we can give to God in prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.
- I give God my respect or honor.
9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Jesus was the first person to get us address God by calling him father. It’s a revolution. In the Old Testament God is referred to as Father 10 times. 1st 39 books – 10 times, but in the gospels – 160 times! “Father” This is a revolution. Not. “Oh distant unknowable mystic force in the vast expanse beyond” We call God father, a term a endearment. We are not to come cowering to God in fear.
“…Hallowed be your name.” He’s talking about respect. We start prayer by honoring God. Honor is thanking God for who and what He is. It could also be called praise. To praise God means to prize God, to value Him, to esteem Him. It means to brag on God. “God, You are good” That’s what it means to praise or honor God.
Why should I honor God? Because it gets my focus off myself and onto God so I can talk to Him.
- I give God priority in my life.
The second part of prayer is to commit myself to God’s will. I give Him my life. Notice it says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (verse 10)
I often have to remind myself, life is not about me building my kingdom, but God’s. Also God has a will for my life. Part of prayer is saying, “God, what is your will for me today? The problem is, God’s will is not always done. That’s why we’re to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Why? Because in heaven, God’s will is done perfectly. On earth it is not done perfectly. My will gets in the way of God’s will!
Once we have done those two things: given God our respect and our priority in life – then Jesus says there are four other requests that you can make that categorize every need you’re ever going to have.
- I give God my worries
11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread represents the necessities of life — our physical needs and material needs. God wants us to pray instead of worry. He’s promised to provide all our needs. Philippians 4:19 “My God shall supply all of your needs.”
It’s interesting the phrase “daily bread“. The word daily in the Greek is the word epiousios. The only time this word is used in all of Greek literature is right here. It’s only used once in the Bible and it’s not found in any other Greek document in history. Many Bible scholars thought Matthew made the word up, until in 1945 when they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. They found a little fragment of paper at the side in the cave. It was a shopping list — a several thousand year old shopping list. That word was on the shopping list — epiousios. It was a category of things to buy at the market, which represented perishables. They didn’t have refrigerators in those days so some things you had to buy every day. He’s saying, “Give me today what I need for today so I don’t have to worry about it.”
What do you need today? Energy to make it through the day? Finances? Wisdom? Give me today my daily bread. Remember manna in the Old Testament? God gave it, God provided it, but it spoiled if you tried to keep it longer than a day. God wanted them to trust Him moment by moment.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It says, in everything. I would be embarrassed to tell you some of the prayer requests I’ve made in my life. Some are kind of silly or petty or not really of major importance. But it doesn’t embarrass God. God says we can pray about everything. If we prayed as much as we worried, we’d have a lot less to worry about. Give God our worries.
An Aggie bought a parrot that only said, “Let’s make out.” He was embarrassed. Someone he knew at church had a parrot and it would say, “let us pray.” The aggie thought he should get his parrot with the religious parrot and be taught some manners. He puts his parrot in the cage with the religious parrot & says, let’s make out’ the other parrot exclaimed, “My prayers are answered!”
Nothing is too insignificant for His care. We can talk to Him about anything. I have discovered that the more specific I am, the quicker God is able to answer the prayer. When we say, “God, bless me”, what does that mean? God, give me a bunch of things? How are we going to know if He answered it or not? What’s a blessing? Sometimes a blessing is a problem. We’d better be careful when we pray, “God, bless me.”
- I give God my guilt.
“…forgive us our debts…” (verse 12a) That’s the next category of prayer. All of us have regrets. All of us make mistakes. All of us fall short. I don’t come up to my own standard, much less God’s. It’s not very hard to admit you’re not perfect.
Even though I have regret and guilt there is no reason to carry it as a burden. God has made a provision for that in Christ’s death on the cross. What do we do? It is called confession. We don’t repress it, or suppress it. We confess it. That’s how we get rid of guilt. God says, “I will cleanse you” (1 John 1:9) and He forgives us instantly, totally, completely, freely, continuously. He says one of the benefits of prayer is that I can unload my guilt.
God wants to forgive you.
- We don’t have to Beg God “God, please! Pretty please with sugar on it!”.
- We don’t have to Bargain with God (“God, if you forgive me, I will never do it again.”) If that’s your area of weakness, you’ll be back there within a day or two.
- We don’t have to Bribe God — “God, if You’ll forgive me, I promise to always read my Bible.”
- I give God those who hut me.
Prayer involves other people and our relationships, because relationships are important. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (verse 12) In life I get hurt by others sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. How I handle that hurt determines my peace of mind. When I bottle up hurt and hold onto it, it will poison my life.
Since I have been freely forgiven, I too should freely forgive. Others shouldn’t have to beg, bargain or bribe me to be forgiven. I’ve learned to not confuse forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness should be immediate for others, but trust takes time.
In my marriage the times I’ve felt closest to Niki, have been times after a major blow‑up. It took time, but we both confessed to each other, asked forgiveness, then we pray together.
In prayer, I give God my respect. I give Him priority. I give Him my worries. I give Him my guilt. I give Him those who have hurt me. This is what prayer is all about. See how practical it is?
- I give God my temptations and weaknesses.
“… And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” (verse 13)
Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus experienced every temptation known to man, the same ones we do. It is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation.
When I pray, “God, I’m struggling in this area. I’m not making it here. I keep stumbling. I keep falling, please help me.” Jesus knows what it’s like to have people leave, to be stressed, to be angry, to be misunderstood, to be lonely. He understands it all, every temptation and every weakness. Prayer is asking God to help me overcome temptation and have strength through my weaknesses.
Prayer meets all of our deepest needs; physical, emotional, and spiritual.
There’s an overlooked element that many people miss. What is the powerful key to prayer?
- Praying together
“OUR Father… give US … OUR daily bread … forgive US … OUR debts … as WE have forgiven OUR debtors … lead US not into temptation … deliver US …” All of the nouns are plural. Nine times!
There is power in group prayer. That’s why we all need to get in a Growth Group.
People say, “I just pray by myself.” Then you’re missing out on one of the major benefits of being a Christ follower. Praying with others is powerful.
If you’ve never prayed with other people, here are two suggestions. Start by praying aloud when you’re alone to ear the sound of your own voice.
Then begin to pray at meals. Our family holds hands together and not the same person prays every time.
Jesus teaches us some great insights on how to pray. I hope these principles help you grow in prayer, grow spiritually and grow closer to Christ.