The Sermon on the Mount: Day 17

The Model Prayer

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Today's Text: Matthew 6:9-15, Proverbs 30:8, Luke 11:2-4, James 1:13-15, 1 Peter 1:3-9

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:9-15, Proverbs 30:8, Luke 11:2-4, James 1:13-15, 1 Peter 1:3-9

If we stacked the books, commentaries, and sermons that have been written about the Lord’s Prayer together, we might be able to build a bridge long enough to get us to the hillside where Christ first taught us how to pray. Our fascination with this segment of the Sermon on the Mount seems surprisingly obvious:

We don’t know how to pray.

I’ve been a follower of Christ for more than two decades. By God’s grace, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in my understanding of His Word and my grasp of my role in the Body of Christ. But when it comes to prayer, I still get the feeling that I’m somehow doing it wrong. Turns out, I’m in good company.  

It was after the Sermon on the Mount that the disciples begged, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus patiently repeated the model He’d already given them. Even if we’ve read, meditated on, and listened to commentary about the Lord’s Prayer a zillion times, Jesus’ words remain worth considering. (Take a moment to look at them again now in Matthew 6:9-13.) When my own prayers feel clunky or inefficient, these words of Jesus’ jog my memory about a few things.

First, prayer is not solely about me and my desires. It is first and foremost about God and His glory. If we rewind the Sermon on the Mount tapes just a smidge, we see that before Jesus taught us how to pray, He taught us how not to. He warned us not to pray fancy words in the hopes of being applauded by an audience of onlookers (Matthew 6:1-6). Prayer is not a tool we can use to bend the spotlight toward ourselves. Instead, Jesus’ model prayer opens with a list of “yours” that focus on the Father:

Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done.

My prayers get off course because too often my heart is postured to think about my reputation, my little kingdom, and how I can convince God that my will needs to be done. But those things don’t get kicked to the curb entirely. The second half of the Lord’s prayer pivots to “us” beautifully.

Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts.
Lead us not into temptation.
Deliver us from evil.

Of the seven petitions given in the Lord’s Prayer, three are about God and four are about us. It’s the order of importance that is worth noting. God first, us second. It’s a pattern we should imitate in how we live, love, and pray.

Going over the Lord’s Prayer with a fine-toothed comb also reminds me that it’s okay to pray God’s words right back to Him. Many of Jesus’ words in the Lord’s Prayer nod to Old Testament passages and concepts (see 2 Chronicles 20:6; Proverbs 30:8; Psalm 71:4). Surely if the Word became flesh and quoted Himself, we can quote Him too.

Since prayer is a conversation of the heart, the goal is not rote memorization. Isn’t it possible to say the same things over and over and still mean them deeply? I told my husband and children I loved them this morning at the breakfast table. It’s the same script I’ve been reading for years, and I mean it now more than ever. When we don’t know how to pray, we can pray God’s Word, confident it never loses an ounce of its power.

From listeners on a hillside, to His disciples, to us, God invites us to lay down pretenses and performance and boldly approach Him through prayer. Lord, teach us to pray? Friends, He already has.

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Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

  • I worked with a group of retired pastors for several years. They always led the most profound prayers, and I was terrified to even say grace at a meal in front of them. Finally, one said to me, “You know you are praying for God – and not to please us, right? Just say whatever is on your heart. We trust God put those words there for a reason.” Now I lead group prayer regularly. Sometimes my words are awkward or I stumble, but you know what? Nobody minds. I think was afraid to be vulnerable in front of people, but my vulnerability seems to help them to connect to Christ. God is amazing in how He works through all of us!

  • Over the years I have asked God to teach me to pray and why to pray. And although I still struggle at times with how to pray, why to pray and consistently spending time in prayer with my Father, there is one thing I have learned about prayer. Prayer is not about convincing God to change situations or other people but it’s about allowing God to convict my heart , move me, change me, and sustain me.

  • Gema Muniz

    I loved todays study, specially 1 Peter 3-9. In this verse it talks about our suffering and our faith. It states that our suffering increases our faith and our faith is worth more than gold to God. How awesome is it that God always finds a way to take ashes and makes something beautiful out of it. Our bible states that we should pray for all things and be thankful for all things, and now I see why it says that because even in our darkest moments God sees nothing but beauty radiating from us. He sees our faith and our faith is what give us eternal salvation. I love reading God’s word and finding reassurance in a world that only gives us uncertainties. Thank you God for your faithfulness, for your love, and for loving me the way you do. Amen!

  • I love Philippians 4:6 in the Living Bible, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers”. I was praying last spring for God to lead me to a church in my area and to find Christian friends. Then, one day someone ‘happened to mention’ a new church that was forming. From the moment I walked through the door it felt as though I was home. Dear Christian friends welcomed me so warmly. This past Sunday one of them said that she had been praying the same prayer and was so grateful to God for answering it. It then dawned on me that I had forgotten to thank Him for answering my prayer. Like some of you have said, I often feel like I’m talking to the air when I pray. I pray and then forget. God answers our prayers. He really does. Sometimes I just don’t notice and thank Him. I praise Him this morning not only for when He answers my prayers, but also for who He is. We serve an awesome God! I love you, Jesus!

  • Thank you so much ladies for all your sharing. Prayer is tough sometimes as one of you said you feel like your talking to yourself. Some days I even plead with God talk to me. Let this be a two way thing. But then I know he does answer us through different ways an answer to a specific prayer or a small act of kindness through a child. Or his beauty around us. His still small voice as you fall asleep reading His voice. All I can say this morning is Lord I love you beyond words. All I can do is read your words and obey them then I know you have a home here in my heart. As that’s what you have told us if you love me then obey me then I will come and make a home in you!
    How precious are your ways oh Lord!

  • I’m reading in my SRT bible today, as always, but what stuck out was the ‘echos of jesus in james’ specifically in relation to the sermon on the mount. Thank you SRT team for helping us truly be women in the word every day. For all the little details you put into these study plans and connecting all the books of the Bible together for a better understanding. <3

  • Heather N

    Prayer is one of the easiest parts to my faith. I pray a lot in the car and in my head throughout the day. Prayer is just talking to God and he already knows what I’ve done, my motivation behind my actions (good or bad) and what I need. Honoring him for who he is like telling your bff how awesome she is. God is the only one I verbalize everything to…because I know he gets it.

  • churchmouse

    Oops what the problem was…

  • churchmouse

    It posted! Four attempts but… I don’t know why…what the proven was… Still, you all have blessed me as I’ve read your comments over and over while I kept trying. God surely wanted me to take note of all you have said. Thank you!

  • churchmouse

    When the Church says the Lord’s prayer out loud in unison, it seems a profound thing. It’s the only time I feel completely comfortable praying aloud. The church I attend does not do that very often, but when we do, I feel like I am standing on sacred ground.. I bow down and say “Holy!”

  • When I pray, I get fixated on my worldly self, problems, people and all the interactions that come with those. Because that’s really all I know or have experienced.
    When Jesus prayed, He focused on praising God and asking for more of God here on earth. Because He knew heaven. That’s where he had come from was from God.
    He prayed for the earthly stuff b/c he loves us and I think to show us that our needs and cares are not insignificant. But I think this prayer also shows us to lift our gaze and thoughts and hearts to God before tackling the trials of this world. We can’t do it without Him!
    And why wouldn’t we praise Him?! For all the heartache that we pray about, doesn’t it lift our hearts to give thanks for all the good and joy that is God and that He gives us?!
    Thank you Lord for the privilege of coming to you in prayer! Thank you for this community and all the perspectives and ideas of drawing closer to you. Bless each one here today Lord and help each one of us draw a closer to you. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.

    • Cassie Kendall

      Kim,

      I love your thoughts here! We have to look to God before tackling the world’s trials. Everything seems so much smaller when we put it in the right perspective. Our God is big enough for anything, and if we focus on that, we can be sure that any care and need we have can be met.

  • How amazing God’s word is! A sharp sword. Convicting me this morning about my relationship and how I’ve acted towards people at work. Reminding me to forgive others as I want to be forgiven.

  • I would love to make this lesson kid friendly for our 6 an 8 yr old in our little homeschool. Any ideas?

  • Sometimes prayer seems easy, spontaneous. If I am overwhelmed, in distress about something I can pour out my heart, cry out to God. But then, there are seasons when I feel that I am not spending the “right” amount of time praying. I have these index cards with names and situations that I pray about, but do I do this forever? After a while I feel as if I am just saying a name without thinking about the person because I have sooo many to pray for. I feel guilty if I cross off a name…too often prayer seems a hard “work” that needs to get done or I am failing here. Today’s study is a good reminder for me to take a deep breath, ask for the Spirit’s guidance and begin…Our Father.

    • Anita

      Journaling my prayers has helped me to stay focused. A long ago teacher also gave me a tool to use; aloud, in my closet, or journaling, it works well: P.R.A.Y.E.R.S. Praise, Repent, Acknowledge His forgiveness, Yourself, Everyone else, Reigns-remembering and acknowledging Jesus Christ is in control, and Salutation-closing your prayer.

  • The workbook questions really helped me gain new insight today. Particularly the question that says: notice the order. Where should our prayers begin. Why does this matter?

    I’ve always struggled with the last part. Why does starting with praise matter?

    When you speak with unbelievers, they often believe God requires praise for his own ego. But this is false. God doesn’t have an ego. He is not human. He is not even a he. Sometimes I call God a she just to remind myself of that.

    What the questions helped me realize is praise = gratitude. And gratitude is a pure form of love.

    Gratitude is an offering to God that simultaneously heals us. It heals us from all the painful thoughts we inflict upon ourselves, even if just for a moment.

    God is love, so when you start your prayer with love, it’s like your linking your heart up directly to God’s heart. He loves this! Because in this peaceful surrender, you allow him to work on your heart better. Starting your prayer with praise/gratitude/love syncs you up with God. Never realized that until now.

  • Thank you all for praying for me yesterday. Much better day.

  • candacejo

    One of the lines from The Message version of The Lord’s Prayer says, “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” Oh, how we love to blame everything on the enemy, and he is plenty busy wreaking havoc in our lives. But we can definitely be our OWN worst enemy, sabotaging the very efforts of our Almighty God. He is working good, molding our character, paving the way before us, righting wrongs, fixing attitudes, healing hearts and minds and preparing us for a grand homecoming. May I not make it more difficult for Him with my stubborn ways but submit to HIS will, in prayer, so that He can use me for His glory.
    One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: “Don’t shine so that others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see HIM.” This only happens because of prayer! ♥

  • churchmouse

    Sorry to worry you all – trouble with posting here beyond a word at a time – still can’t get my original comment to post

    • C Gunckel

      I am sorry churchmouse because I love reading your posts and even though today, I did not get to read them GOD saw in your heart your words. May you be blessed abundantly today.

    • Cynthia

      I look for your insight every day. Hope you are able to post later. I can hardly wait to meet you and give you a hug for how God has used you to bless me! Hugs!

  • Kristine L

    This was the exact topic my preacher taught on this past Sunday! One of the things I’m inspired to do is pray the Lord’s Prayer every day, but to rewrite it in my own words, however each particular phrase speaks to me that morning. It keeps the well-read words fresh for me, and it’s surprising how different each go-round is, yet how it stays true to the ancient word.

  • churchmouse

    Help

  • churchmouse

    When the Church says the Lord’s prayer aloud in unison, it is profound. The church I attend does not do it often but when we do, the Lord’s presence is nearly palpable. It is the only time I am completely comfortable praying out loud. I feel like I should remove my shoes because I am standing on sacred ground. I bow my head and cry “Holy!”

  • churchmouse

    Test

  • So beautifully said. It’s not about us, it’s all about him! Thank you for this reminder

    http://Www.in-due-time.com

  • churchmouse

    There’s something profound about the Church saying the Lord’s prayer out loud together in unity. The church I attend does not do it often but when we do, the presence of God is almost palpable. It’s the only time that I am completely comfortable praying out loud. I feel like I should remove my shoes because I am standing on sacred ground. I bow my head and cry “Holy!”

  • churchmouse

    There is something about the Church saying the Lord’s prayer out loud together in unity that is just profound. The church I attend does not do it often but when we do, I feel the Lord’s presence in nearly a palpable way. It is truly the only time I feel completely comfortable praying aloud. There is just something special about the body of Christ praying aloud in unison. I feel like I should remove my shoes for I am on sacred ground. I want to bow my head and cry “Holy!”

  • aprilinsydney

    I like the last bit of The Message translation: “You can do anything you want. You’re ablaze in beauty!”

    I struggle with prayer, never knowing what to say. I know God hears me but it’s like talking to the air… I’ve started writing my prayers. It feels less awkward. I also really don’t like praying aloud for other people (when they’re there). I find I’m concentrating more on saying the right words (whatever they may be) — not to show off, just so I don’t sound like a blithering idiot — than actually talking to God.

    • SB

      Aprilinsydney! I journal my prayers too. I like that it’s right there too! I can see what I was worried about 2 weeks ago is still an issue or look back a year and see how God has worked!! Recently I’ve been writing all I’m thankful for an it has been such a blessing to be reminded daily. And sometimes when I’m not that thankful but know I should be, I write and see amazing things happen!

      • aprilinsydney

        Exactly! :) I just took a journalling course and one of the topics was gratitude. But not just making a “shopping list” of items we’re grateful for, but to choose one and expand on it in our journal — WHY are we grateful for that thing/person? It brings more depth and meaning than just a list. (And I LOVE lists!) x

    • Alli

      Sounds like you might be an introverted (recovering) perfectionist like me! :) I’ve always struggled with being self conscious when praying aloud as well. I’d often rather just not pray than pray aloud a prayer that is distracted by my thoughts. The past few years I’ve been really trying to take advantage of opportunities to pray aloud as opportunities to “get over” that issue. I figure practicing helps me become more comfortable and thus more open and free when I pray aloud. And God knows our hearts! He knows our desire is not to “show off” but to pray earnestly and humbly before him. His grace is sufficient to use my self-conscious prayers in front of others to encourage them and bless them even when I “feel” my prayers aren’t “free” enough. Thank you, Jesus!

      • aprilinsydney

        Ha ha Alli… I’m a total introvert / perfectionist :) My recovery is very slow…

    • Pam

      I write mine down also. I actually have a “note” on my iPad for each day of the week. I pray for different people or problems (terrorists, evil leaders in the world, persecuted Christians, starving children) on different days. It’s a blessing to see how the Lord answers and helps me to stay focused.

      • aprilinsydney

        I’m hoping to see the progress of my prayers in my journal, and what the Lord is doing :)

  • I confess, I ‘ve often believed, when I hear others articulate and beautiful words in prayer that I do not know how to pray.
    It’s okay.. God is working on that.. Thank you Lord God..
    This prayer right here.. this outline of a prayer given to us by Jesus long long ago yet still absolutely relevant, has been my go to, when words have failed me, when I have been too terrified, too numb, too confused, too ‘on the spot’, too un prepared.. they have been words spoken, pleaded, cried out, from the heart. They have not just been guidelines they have been faithful friends, when words have failed me, and Lord am I thankful…
    Ever so very thankful for these words known as the Lord’s prayer.. Thank you Jesus.. Thank you…
    Thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, forever and ever …Amen.
    Love,hugs, prayers Sisters…xxx

    • GramsieSue

      Thank you for sharing. There have been so many times I have literally told God, “I don’t know what to pray!” And in those moments I just trust that He is there and He is in control and I give it to Him. But now I will use His model just as you do. Perfect! ❤️

  • Alison MacFarland

    When I think of Heaven, I think it’s personalized to everyone’s different version of happiness. Others might think it is a tropical paradise. What do you all imagine Heaven to be?

    • I asked about if our dogs will go to heaven once when I was younger. That person told me whatever we want when we get there will be there for us! But as I’ve grown I can’t help but wonder if all I’ll want is to praise God. I think it will be so different I can’t imagine.

    • Rebecca

      I think heaven will be the feeling of being wrapped inside of joy, inside of peace, inside of love, as if all three were a single blanket that you could snuggle into.

  • I love the Jesus Storybook Bibles way of writing the Lord’s Prayer:

    Hello Daddy!
    We want to know you.
    And be close to you.
    Please show us how.
    Make everything in the world right again.
    And in our hearts, too.
    Do what is best — just like you do in heaven,
    And please do it down here, too.
    Please give us everything we need today.
    Forgive us for doing wrong, for hurting you.
    Forgive us just as we forgive other people when they hurt us.
    Rescue us! We need you.
    We don’t want to keep running away and hiding from you.
    Keep us safe from our enemies.
    You’re strong, God.
    You can do whatever you want.
    You are in charge.
    Now and forever and for always!
    We think you’re great!
    Amen!
    Yes we do!

    • Kristine L

      This was beautiful! We say the Lords Prayer with our preschoolers every Sunday, but this version puts it right at their level!

    • Mary

      I love it!!!! Thank you!

    • Karen From Virginia

      This is great thanks for sharing.

  • Karen From Virginia

    Good stuff on prayer. I love the priority of God vs me. May I honor you, Lord in my insomnia and pain. I’m overwhelmed. I need rest. Help me let go of my anger towards myself and honor you as you lead. Help me, Lord. Help.

    • Jeanna

      Karen, I am so sorry that you are suffering with insomnia and pain. I pray in agreement with you for help. May the Lord provide relief in the days ahead. While I know it may be easier said than done, keep your eyes fixed on Him, He is faithful and will be faithful to you. Sending hugs to you this morning.

    • Robin W.

      Praying for you and for healing. Father, I ask that Karen would be able to release the anger she has for herself and instead come humbly before you, broken, tired, and weary. Sweet Father, I ask for your love and mercy to wash over her. I ask that she be keenly aware of your presence and that she would be able to rest in the peace of your arms. Thank you, Father. Amen. ❤️

    • Praying for you Karen.

    • Lindsey

      Thank you for that Karen. I am battling anxiety and other health problems and my prayers are very scattered and definitely all about me. Praying for you to find rest and peace.

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