The Model Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 (often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”) is probably the single most familiar prayer in history, yet it is often misunderstood. It was never meant to be used as a “rote” prayer, word-for-word. Jesus didn’t say “pray this”, but rather “pray IN THIS WAY” — in other words, it was a MODEL for the way that we are to address God.
Thus as a model, it shows us the kinds of things that God wants us to talk about with Him when we pray. I liken it to when my father was alive, and he would send me an e-mail. He would typically write about several subjects: the weather where he was, OU football, the garden, his health, the grandkids, etc. But when he would write, I would not just forward his same letter back to him. Rather, I would read those topics and respond to each one, for these indicated his areas of interest — the things my father wanted to talk with me about.
The same is true with the Model Prayer. God doesn’t want us merely to pray the same prayer He gave us right back to Him. Rather He wants us to use it as a guide: these are the things our Heavenly Father wants us to talk about with Him when we pray:
— He would have us begin by “hallowing His name” in worship, singing and thanksgiving.
— He wants us to intercede for His Kingdom’s work (the church and missions)
— He wants us to pray about doing His will (and not our own) in the things we face.
— Then He allows us to pray for “our daily bread”: the needs we have that He can meet. Our prayer should consist of more than merely asking for needs, but there is a place for it, AFTER we have prayed about His name, His kingdom, and His will!
— We should also ask forgiveness for our daily sins (“forgive us our debts”) and extend that same forgiveness to others (“as we forgive our debtors”).
— And then ask for protection for ourselves and those we care about (“lead us not into temptation …”).
If we will spend just a few minutes praying in this way through each section of the Model Prayer, we will have spent a good amount of time in prayer with our Heavenly Father. More importantly, we will have spent it talking with Him about the topics which He Himself gave us in His model prayer.