by Brad Beals
You might be familiar with the acrostic ACTS. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It’s a helpful way to organize your prayer time. But were you also familiar with the method the Lord Jesus gave us? We call it The Lord’s Prayer.
For many of us the only experience we have with the Lord’s Prayer is that we recite it corporately in church. Reciting it is not a bad thing. Formal prayers are good —they are real prayer— and they have their rightful places. But the Lord’s Prayer is more than that, because our Lord has made it more than that.
It shows up in two places, Matthew 6 and Luke 11, but they’re not the same prayer. The organization and content are the same, but the wording is slightly different. When we consider both versions together, it’s clear that Jesus didn’t intend it to be memorized simply to be repeated verbatim. In the Matthew version he begins it with “Pray then like this.” Not “Pray this” but “Pray like this.” And the Luke version follows up with two short parables that teach what our attitude toward God should be as we pray. One involves a friend going to another friend for help, the other a son going to his father for food. Jesus seems to be teaching us that prayer is personal.
Yes, the Lord’s Prayer is a real prayer that could be offered up to God for ourselves individually or corporately, and God would hear us. But it also (and I would argue more importantly) gives us a template for how and what to pray.
For example, this is how I might use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide in praying for my elder district:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
- May they call out to you, God, as Father in their need.
- May Your name be honored and exalted in their lives.
- May Your Kingdom increase as you make them fruitful.
- May Your Kingdom increase through their faithful witness.
Give us this day our daily bread.
- Provide for their physical needs today.
- Give them work to do and money to pay bills.
- Give them thankful hearts for shelter, food, and clothes.
- Help them sell that house, get that job, pass that exam.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
- Show them their sin that they would run to you for grace.
- May they turn to others and be truly forgiving just as they have been truly forgiven.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
- May they not be enticed by their own desires.
- Keep them from the temptations that lead to sin.
- Equip them with the whole armor of God.
- Give them grace to stand against the schemes of the Devil.
- May they persevere to the end.
Notice that these sections pretty much cover everything. When we pray this way we begin with God, deal with our sin, love our neighbor, and fight the devil. Not a bad day’s prayer work.
A final thought. In both versions, Jesus’ teaching included the command to pray. He didn’t just share his thoughts on how to do it. He told us to do it. I think we would be wise to listen here and to obey. We will be greatly blessed if we do, and so will those we pray for.