Pray then like this:
'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' (Matt 6:9-13 ESV)
Jesus gave this prayer to his followers as a model. Called the Lord's Prayer among Christians, it was not meant to be recited. Rather, he gave it to us to guide us in our praying. What can we learn?
This point should be clear. Only 6 of the 53 words ask God to do something for us. Most of our praying, however, concerns what we or other people need or want. We have missed something.
The most important phrase is "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The entire prayer hinges on this. Many times, people don't understand this phrase properly. They think that we should pray for God's will to be done in our society or our government or our schools—places where we don't see the will of God now.
Think about it another way. Is your life truly lived according to the will of God? Would your daily activity fit in heaven? Does your way of thinking line up with that of the kingdom?
Obviously, both you and God want the entire world to be doing his will. But the point of this personal prayer is that your life would match up with God's will. In other words, the primary purpose of prayer is not to change God; it's to change the one praying.
Consider these related Bible verses:
If we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1John 5:14 ESV)
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3 ESV)
Make God's will the focus of your prayer
It's inconsistent to both ask for God's will to be done and for him to provide something because of greed. So how can you know if you are praying in God's will? According to Jesus' model prayer, you should make the focus of your prayer that God will accomplish his will in your life. You need to commit that you want his will in your life.
When you pray, ask God what needs to change in your life to match his will. Then you will find that he more quickly answers your prayers since they are what he wants too.
Bob Caldwell is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.