Jesus Tells Us How To Pray
Let’s admit it; prayer isn’t always easy.
And it’s not always fun either. Sometimes we can be distracted, confused or even discouraged at prayer.
When that happens, the best way to get back on track is to simplify. Return to basics, slow things down and focus on what’s really important in your prayer.
But what is most important?
The answer is in Jesus’ response to his Apostles, when they said, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
Jesus responded with the “Our Father,” the Lord’s Prayer we’ve all come to know so well.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
It’s a perfect prayer created by our perfect God. We can’t go wrong with that.
Here are four lessons the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that we can adopt every time we raise our hearts and minds to God.
Jesus teaches us that a perfect prayer requires the adoration of God. “Hallowed be thy name” is a humble acknowledgment of His infinite goodness and glory.
It orients our perspective as mere creatures, entirely dependent on the incredible mercy and love of our God.
Adoration is bowing our heads and our hearts when we seek to converse with the Lord and Creator of all. It is our duty as His beloved creatures to give Him reverence and adoration.
The second aspect of a perfect prayer is “supplication” or asking for something.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we see two different kinds of “asking” that we can routinely use to enliven our prayer: positive and negative supplication.
“Give us this day our daily bread…
lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”
Positive supplication asks God to grant us the good things that we need: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This applies to physical and spiritual goods, but especially to the Holy Eucharist.
Negative supplication entreats God to spare us from physical and spiritual evils: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.…”
Of course, God sometimes allows his loved ones to suffer, but we may still seek his mercy. Let us imitate Jesus, our perfect model. Despite being God, the Father willed that Jesus suffer for us. During his agony in the garden, Jesus even prayed to be delivered from his Passion (negative supplication), but only on the condition that the Father’s will be done.
This example is not only a perfect demonstration of negative supplication, but it also reveals the essential foundation for each and every prayer we to offer to God… a foundation which is also expressed in the Lord’s prayer.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”
This is what we might call the “hinge” of every supplication we make to God. Whether we ask to receive good things or be spared from evil, we must always pray that God’s will be done, or our prayer will be in vain.
The Lord’s Prayer provides another essential quality for our prayerful consideration: contrition, sorrow for our sins and wrong-doings:
“…and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
This is what made the publican’s prayer so pleasing in God’s sight, while the prayer of the prideful Pharisee was rejected.
A prayer infused with contrition is a true prayer. A humble prayer. A prayer that is sweet and loveable in God’s sight because it is an honest prayer!
Who is there who can claim to be without sin?
We’ve all offended God in some way or another and that’s an offense to the infinite majesty of God. If we make a true act of adoration, we’ll be compelled to make an act of contrition as well, because how could we draw near to an all-good God without considering how we’ve dishonored him with our past sins?
But rather than despair because of our failures, what does Jesus teach us?
To beg for forgiveness, as a child to a loving Father.
Thus far, the qualities of a perfect prayer have been quite clear.
But what about thanksgiving? Where is that in the Lord’s prayer?
While we don’t see the exact wording we’d expect, the meaning is there:
“Hallowed be Thy name…give us this day our daily bread”
This is an expression of thanksgiving. A simple example will show us how.
Imagine you’re a child again and you’re visiting your grandmother. She made you a delicious batch of cookies….your very favorite kind.
You take a few, you gobble them up with delight and you come back and say, “Grandma, you’re the best ever! Could I please have some more?”
No doubt your grandmother would grin from ear to ear and hand over the cookies.
Praising her and begging for more of what she gives is a greater expression of gratitude than merely saying “thank you.”
That’s exactly how we express our thanksgiving in the Lord’s Prayer.
We proclaim His glory, “Hallowed be thy name…,” followed by supplication for all of the good things He already gives us and the things we can’t get enough of, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The Perfect Prayer Recipe
With the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us the four simple things that make up a perfect prayer.
And if we take them to heart, all of our prayers, no matter how distracted or confused, can be made perfect.
Adoration. Contrition. Thanksgiving. Supplication.
Here’s a simple acronym to make it easy: ACTS.
Prayers are ACTS of love.
Remember that and you’ll continually offer prayers that are powerful and pleasing in God’s sight.