The Lord's Prayer

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'

He said to them, 'When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation." ' (Luk 11:1–4)

John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray and our Lord's disciples also wanted to know how to pray. So Jesus said to them, 'When you pray, say this…' and he taught them what we refer to as 'The Lord's Prayer'.

I was taught that prayer as a child and recited it regularly in the Anglican church I attended. But when I was born again I found I didn't pray it during my private devotions. I prayed about many other things, but when I tried to pray that prayer it just didn't seem to come from my spirit.

Didn't Jesus tell his disciples that when they prayed they should pray that prayer, and wasn't I now a disciple of Jesus Christ? So why wasn't I praying it? I couldn't understand it, but I can now.

Praying without the Spirit

Jesus' disciples didn't know how to pray because they didn't have the Holy Spirit. In Joh 14:17 Jesus said (referring to the Spirit), 'The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you [future tense].'

The Holy Spirit was with the disciples at that time, but he wasn't in them. If you haven't the Holy Spirit you don't know what God's will is unless someone tells you. That is why Jesus had to teach his disciples how to pray.

He taught them a prayer that summarized the most important elements of the Christian faith in the order of their importance—'daily bread' being the spiritual food we need to sustain spiritual life.

Jesus is the bread of life; whoever feeds on him and continues to do so, ideally on a daily basis, remains in him and will live for ever (Joh 6:48,56,51). The Greek word translated 'remains' in v56 describes a state that begins and continues, yet may or may not end or stop [1]. Spiritual food is as essential for the continuation of spiritual life as physical food is for physical life.

You will note that Jesus said, 'When you pray, say this…'. He didn't say, 'When you pray, pray this…' There is a difference between saying a prayer and praying a prayer.

Before I was born again I used to say prayers: they came from my mind and my unregenerate heart. But when I was born again I started to pray. When a born-again Christian prays it comes from their spirit as the Holy Spirit leads them. All true prayer is inspired by the Spirit of God.

Praying with the Spirit

After his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to his disciples, breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit (Joh 20:19–22).' At that point the Spirit entered them and they were born again. The disciples would have prayed the prayer the Lord had taught them up to that point; after that they would have prayed as the Holy Spirit led them.

Praying the Lord's Prayer is not wrong. If you pray that prayer you are praying in the will of God, but it may not be what the Holy Spirit wants you to pray at this point in time.

Now we have the Holy Spirit we can be more accurate in our prayers; and when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit we can be even more accurate by praying in the language (tongue) he gives us. That language bypasses our minds and comes from our spirit (1Co 14:14), so we are always praying in the perfect will of God.

Michael Graham
April 2019
Revised September 2023

[1] The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan, 1999, p1570. Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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