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Learning How To Pray

Have you ever tried to pray but just didn’t know what to say? Or started to pray only to have your mind wander off so that you can’t even remember what you were praying about much less know what you should pray about next? Don’t give up! Here’s a simple solution to get you praying more confidently: learn to pray using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide.

Although most of us stopped really thinking about the words of the Lord’s Prayer years ago, when you take the time to re-think these familiar words you will discover a prayer that sweeps across most of the subjects that you want to pray about and is a perfect springboard for your own prayers. Of course it works well: it is the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. They asked Him to teach them how to pray and He did. He gave them something simple and easy to remember, yet totally comprehensive. You certainly can’t find a better teacher or a better model.

The second reason to use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide is that you already know it. You carry it around in your head and can repeat it at a moment’s notice. So when your mind wanders or you get stuck wondering what to say next, you can easily repeat the familiar words of the prayer until you come to the place where you left off. You can think about the next phrase and begin praying easily once again. Even if you have been comfortable praying for years, using this familiar pattern can help you once in awhile when your mind is either overloaded or a complete blank—say when you are overtired, sick, stressed or facing a crisis

Here’s how it works. Next time you try to pray, go through the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer line by line. Put each line into your own words. Think about what it specifically means to your life in the 21st century and expand on the idea. Let’s go through the prayer line by line together right now to illustrate how it can be done:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. At the beginning of your prayer, acknowledge that God is your Father. Acknowledge that God is God and that you are only you. For example, you might pray, “God, thank you so much for loving me and adopting me as your child even though you are incredibly powerful and I did nothing to deserve your love.”

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. These phrases are all about your desire to have God’s ideals acted out here on earth, here and now. Ask God to show you what He wants done today and to give you the energy or courage to do it. Ask Him to show you any ways in which you might be unaware you are doing something that is less than His ideal and to help you change. This is a good point in your prayer to pray about events outside of your control such as world crises or other current events that concern you. Ask God to work in these situations and direct them in a way which will turn other people towards Him and will serve His ultimate purposes even though you might not understand them. Ask Him to give guidance and comfort to the leaders involved and to use the situation to draw them closer to Himself and His truths.

Give us this day our daily bread. Ask God to provide for you and your family physically today. Feel free to expand the list beyond food to other needs such as housing, clothing, a job, safety, etc. Get specific about what you need. Thank Him for the ways He has provided in the past. Ask Him to teach you not to worry about the future but instead to trust Him for your needs. Sometimes you may want to use this time to also ask God about the needs of other people, anyone from extended family members to neighbors, to people in your church or people you saw on the evening news.

And forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us. Ask God to forgive you for those things you know you have done wrong. Sometimes this prayer may focus on things you did today, for example, indulging in a bit of gossip or complaining. Other times you may want to pray for God’s help in conquering a sin that keeps recurring in your life. If there is a “big sin” in your past that continually looms in the back of your mind, pray about that too. Ask God for His forgiveness once and for all and thank Him that you can now move on. Then, think about whether there is anyone in your life that you have not forgiven. Are you holding any grudges, big or small? Take a moment to mentally forgive the people involved. If you cannot, ask God to begin to break down your anger and help you forgive more fully in the very near future. You may find it helpful to take time at this point in your prayer to pray for the person or people whom you find it difficult to forgive. Ask God to help you see them through His eyes and to begin to fill you with the kind of love He has for even the most unlovable people.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. After praying for forgiveness you will find it easy to pray next for protection from future temptations. You may want to use this time to ask God to help you with a specific temptation that always poses a problem for you. I also use this time to ask God to protect my family from evil. I think particularly about my kids in school and pray that God will give them strength to resist the many temptations they will face all day long. I ask God to aggressively build a wall around them to protect them from evil people and evil acts.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Amen. Here is where you can acknowledge the fact that God has the power to answer your prayers and you can relax, waiting to see His answers. This may also be a good time to acknowledge that God will ultimately win and that most of what you see around you will fade away someday. Ask God to help you carry this perspective with you all day. There. Pretty simple, wasn’t it? Try it for a few days and see how fresh words and thoughts each day as new needs and situations arise and as God broadens your horizons. Remember that it was Jesus, who loves you, who gave you this pattern. Use it often.

– Catherine Reid