NOTE: The below is an adaptation of a document I wrote for my late husband back in 1996—a baby Christian at the time—when he was seeking to know more about my faith and beliefs. For some reason, I felt led to share it here today.
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“Oh, God,” you hear someone say. Or “Jesus!” “Oh, my Lord,” or “Dear Heaven.”
To some, these words are exclamations of surprise, disgust, shock, exasperation, or just plain swearing. Nine times out of ten, the latter is exactly what they are. However, there are some folks who use these exact same words, in the same tone of voice, with the same inflections, but they are, in fact, a brief prayer. Yes! They are praying.
“But,” you say, ‘how can that be?” Ah, let me explain.
When we utter those words we are addressing God, esus, Lord, and Heaven. Prayer doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be said loudly, or publicly. Anyone can pray, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. Prayer does not need an audience to be effective. The only audience we need is the One to Whom we are addressing the prayer.
Did you know that Christ’s disciples once asked Him how to pray? Jesus replied with these words:
“This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name . . .” Matt. 6:9 [KJV]
Of course you’ve recognized what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer. It’s been set to music and is used as a general benediction in many church services around the world. In fact, and unfortunately, it’s become so much a ritual that, to many, it has lost most of its meaning.
I think it unlikely that Christ intended us to take His words and turn them into a form to be recited in unison, repeatedly, in religious services, although it does have its place there. Instead I believe it is much more probable that He used them as a guide by which his disciples would know the elements to be included in any prayer they offered.
Let’s look at this prayer a little more closely:
“Our Father […] in heaven . . .” Here we are addressing the Person we want to hear our prayer. This is exactly like starting a letter: ‘Dear Father . . .”
“Hallowed be thy name . . .” We are to acknowledge that our Father’s name is Holy, Blessed.
“. . . thy kingdom come . . .” We know that one day He will bring His kingdom to earth.
“. . . thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven . . .” Why His will? Because when we allow Him to be in control we are giving Him the authority and permission to do what He knows to be the best possible things for us! Do we always know what’s good for us? Of course not!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This is easy. We are asking, and thanking Him for what He has provided. Notice the words ‘this day.’ Again, that’s easy. Christ didn’t say ‘give us tomorrow’s daily bread,’ just today’s.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Oh, boy, this is a little harder, isn’t it? Now, I don’t believe the ‘debts’ here mean simply all those bills that have piled up. It also means those wrongs we’ve done to someone. The envy, jealousy, gossip . . . things we’re all guilty of doing every single day of our lives. Okay, here we are, asking God to forgive us for these things, which is good. But, Jesus also included that kicker . . . we also must forgive our debtors. That neighbor who spread those rumors about you. The guy or gal at work who got the promotion you thought you deserved.
“And lead us not into temptation . . .”
Hmmm. Does the Lord lead us into temptation? No, rather, this is a plea that He keep us from being led into temptation, as confirmed in Christ’s next words:
“. . . but deliver us from evil.”
Now, how should we pray?
We call on His Holy name; we recognize His Kingdom; we instantly turn our wills over to Him, letting Him know that we want Him to have His way and what’s best for our lives. We make our requests of Him, then thank Him for everything we’ve been given. We ask Him to forget our misdeeds even as we tell Him we’re willing to forgive those grudges we’ve been nursing so long. Finally, we pray that He will protect us as we go about our daily lives, and keep us from the temptations all of us face day after day.
Prayer is a personal thing. It is a private conversation between us and God. You don’t have to use big, fancy words. He knows what you mean. He knows what you’re feeling. You can use simple language, just as if you were on the telephone with your best friend. Because He is just that . . . your very best Friend.
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Peggy Blann Phifer
Rev. Copyright 2017©