Can you picture the hyper-religious Pharisee standing on the street corner in the busy marketplace? He’s dressed in a flowing robe. His hands are lifted high, and his eyes are focused heavenward, except when he peeks around to make sure the crowds are watching his theatrical performance. With a practiced cadence and rehearsed phrases, and with a little too much volume, he waxes eloquently about his own religious attributes.
Jesus said, “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5–8, CSB).
Jesus did not give the Model Prayer to us to be memorized and recited repetitiously. Jesus did not say, pray “in these words” but pray “in this manner” (Matthew 6:9, KJV). We must use this prayer as a pattern, not as something to be mindlessly repeated.
The last half of the Model Prayer deals with our needs. The Master taught us to pray “give us”... “forgive us” ... and “lead us.” We are invited to ask the Father to provide for our physical and spiritual needs.
The first half of the Model Prayer focuses exclusively on God and His Divine agenda. Before we introduce our personal petitions, we are taught to proclaim these truths in prayer. “Lord your name is holy!” ... “Your kingdom is coming!” ... “Your sovereign will is being accomplished!”
Contrary to what is most common today, prayer is not the reciting of a long list of needs or demands. The Most Hight God is not a spiritual Santa Claus or a Jeannie in a bottle. The creature has no right to make demands of the Creator.
Too often our prayer-lives are comparable to the newborn child whose entire world revolves around their own selfish needs. The baby cries when he’s hungry, or sleepy, or when he needs a fresh diaper. Similarly, we often pray when we’ve tried everything else.
As blood-bought, born-again, Spirit-filled Christ-followers, our greatest desire should be for Christ to rule and reign in His kingdom! True prayer, like true worship, should never be self-centered. It should always and only seek God’s glory!
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-10, CSB).