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Faith: Use the Lord's Prayer as a guide

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, and we can use the same lesson.

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I can truly say, "Thank you, God, for everything." PineandLakes.com Illustration
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Currently within our tradition, we are in a season of praying to God for protection, direction and revelation.

It has been a season not only to seek his guidance, but we also believe some of the best days of the church are still to come, and prayer remains an essential part of moving us forward. When one prays, we are not only given direct access to our heavenly Father, many times our prayers move God to respond in powerful ways.

But prayer must also be done in reverence and with a humble spirit as we approach His throne. And that is exactly what we find Jesus expressing to his disciples as he taught them to pray during his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-15).

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Why did Jesus have to teach his disciples how to pray? First, up to this point within the Jewish tradition much of the praying was done through the priest. One would go to the temple, where a sacrifice was made and the priest would take your offering and petitions before God.

Second, it was needed because of the attitudes Jesus observed within the Pharisees during their times of prayer. The Pharisees like to showboat on the street corners and babble on for all the people to see and Jesus went on to say, “Don’t be like them!”

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Instead, this is how you pray, and what you and I are blessed with today is not only that we are given direct access to our heavenly Father as we use this prayer as a guide within our own private prayer life, we also have a prayer that many traditions will say as part of their worship service.

The Lord’s Prayer first directs our thoughts toward our heavenly Father, who is to be revered and worshiped above all. We come to him and acknowledge that he is sovereign, he is righteous, he is holy as we call out that his will be done as it is in heaven.

So the first half of the prayer thus focuses exclusively on God and his agenda as believers adore, worship and submit to his will before they introduce their own personal petitions.

In this part of the Lord’s Prayer, we first come with a heart of gratitude as we thank God for our daily bread. This could also be the place where we petition our needs before the Lord, asking that he step in and answer our requests.

The next part of this prayer is perhaps the most difficult because it is a step we must be willing to take before God is able to take. And that is the area of forgiveness. And it goes like this: "Lord forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us."

This is not a suggestion; it is a command. In fact, Jesus went on to reminds us that if we are not willing to forgive others, then the Father will not be able to forgive us.

And the last part of this prayer has to deal with temptation. In this part of his prayer, he is reminding us we have one we can come to that will give us his power to resist the temptation that comes our way.

If nothing else, if your desire is to commune with your heavenly Father for whatever reason, then prayer is where it begins. And if you are one who struggles as to what to say, use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to direct your thoughts and move the heart of God into responding back to his children.

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John Rister is pastor at Backus Nazarene Church.

Related Topics: FAITHFAITH COLUMN
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