These four aspects of prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer can provide a structure and flow for your prayer life. Approach them like dance steps rather than hard-and-fast rules to infuse freshness into your prayers.
Jesus said . . . ,“When you pray, . . .”
To start we must stop. To move forward we must pause. This is the first step in a deeper prayer life: Put down your wish list and wait. Sit quietly. “Be still and know that I am God.” Become fully present in place and time so that your scattered senses can recenter themselves on God’s eternal presence. Stillness and silence prepare your mind and prime your heart to pray from a place of greater peace, faith, and adoration. In fact, these are themselves important forms of prayer.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with an invitation to adoration: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name.” Having paused to be still at the start of a prayer time, the most natural and appropriate response to God’s presence is reverence. Try not to skip this bit. Hallowing the Father’s name is the most important and enjoyable dimension of prayer. Linger here, rejoicing in God’s blessings before asking for more.
Your kingdom come, your will be done. . . . Give us today our daily bread.
Prayer means many things to many people, but at its simplest and most immediate, it means asking God for help. It’s a soldier begging for courage, a mother alone in a hospital chapel. The Lord’s Prayer invites us to ask God for everything from “daily bread” to the “kingdom come,” for ourselves (petition) and for others (intercession).
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. . . . Amen.
The final step in the dance of prayer is surrender. It’s a clenched fist slowly opening; an athlete lowering into an ice bath; a field of California poppies turning to the sun. We yield to God’s presence “on earth as in heaven” through contemplative prayer and by listening to His Word, which is “our daily bread.” We yield to God’s holiness through confession and reconciliation, praying, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” And we yield to His power in spiritual warfare, asking our Father to “deliver us from evil.” It’s by surrendering to God that we overcome, by emptying ourselves that we are filled, and by yielding our lives in prayer that our lives themselves become a prayer—the Lord’s Prayer—in the end.