Can you imagine what it would have been like to sit with Peter, John, and the other disciples and listen to Jesus as he taught them to pray? Or what if you were a bystander who could hear the Lord conversing with his heavenly Father in prayer?
That’s just what we are going to do this Lent. Prayer is one of the traditional practices of the Lenten season that helps us to grow in our love for God and neighbor and prepares us for the joy of Easter. One way we can deepen our prayer life during Lent is to reflect on the teachings and prayers of our Master, Jesus. How did he teach us to pray? How did he pray to his heavenly Father? And how can his prayer change the way we pray to our heavenly Father?
In this issue, we’ll sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from the Master himself. In our first article, we’ll listen to him as he teaches us the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). In our second article, we’ll imagine hearing Jesus in his own prayer time speaking personally to his Father (John:17). And in the final article, we’ll look at Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as he struggled to embrace his Father’s plan to offer himself on the cross for the salvation of the world.
Learning from the Master. So let’s begin! Envision yourself as one of Jesus’ first disciples, traveling with him from one town to another. You watch his daily routine: each morning, he rises even before the sun is up and walks away to a quiet spot so that he can be alone with his Father. You and the other disciples have also started to pray this way.
Jesus has been such a good teacher, asking you and the other disciples each day, “What questions do you have for me today?” One morning you speak up. “Lord, we see how much you love God and how much you rely on him. We see how you go off to pray early each morning. Will you teach us to pray as you do?” And this is what Jesus tells you.
God Is Your Father. “Oh, I have been waiting for you to ask me this question! And how it delights me to teach you to pray to my Father and your Father.
“First, remember that God is not only my Father. Our God, the Creator of the universe, is your Father as well, and you are his sons and daughters. This is why I taught you to say, ‘Our Father.’ And because he is our Father, we are one family and brothers and sisters to one another. This is why I have called you to follow me together. And this is why I have taught you to love one another and serve one another, because we are a family.
“When you begin your prayer, know that your Father is not a distant parent who lives far away from you. Yes, he dwells in heaven, but he is also ever close to you. He knows when you sit and when you stand (Psalm 139:2). He knows your joys and your sorrows. He knows the good you do and the times you fail. He even invites you to call him Abba, Father. Speak to him as you would your own human father.
“When you go to your Father in prayer, begin by telling him, Hallowed be thy name, Father. Praising his name lifts you up into his presence and makes you aware of how holy and mighty he is. Of course, when you consider how holy your Father is, you might feel weak and sinful in comparison, but you are in good company. Didn’t the prophet Isaiah feel unworthy when he encountered the holiness of our Father? ‘Woe is me, I am doomed!’ he said (Isaiah 6:5). Yes, our Father is holy, but know that, like Isaiah, he welcomes you into his presence with joy.
May God’s Kingdom Come. “Over these last months, we have traveled from village to village proclaiming God’s kingdom. Thank you for dedicating so much of your time and energy to helping me get this message out. You know that everyone is invited into our Father’s kingdom. It is a kingdom of forgiveness and mercy, of healing and restoration.
“But don’t forget: this is truly the Father’s work. The kingdom won’t come about on human effort alone. So pray, Father, may your kingdom come. Pray this at the start of any day: when you begin a new project, when you sit down to eat with your family, when you go to sleep. Then look for the ways that our Father’s kingdom is advancing in your midst.
“Here’s something else you can pray: Thy will be done. You know, when I was young, my mother told me how an angel had appeared to her one day and announced my upcoming birth. (I will tell you that story another day!) Her words have stuck with me my whole life. She said, ‘May it be done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). So make these words a part of your prayer each day. This is what you can say: ‘Thy will be done with my time, Father. Thy will be done with our purse of money. Thy will be done in my family. Thy will be done in my relationships with my brothers and sisters. Thy will be done in my joys and our sorrows.’
On Earth as It Is in Heaven. “Be expectant when you pray. Who among you would give his child a scorpion when they ask you for an egg (Luke 11:12)? Not one of you! Your Father, King of heaven and earth, is all good, so pray expecting that you will see his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. Know also that when you pray for someone who is still here on earth, your prayers can connect that person to the Father who lives in heaven. Your prayer has power because your Father, who is all-powerful and all-loving, hears you.
“Then trust your Father to provide for your own needs. Pray to him, Give us this day our daily bread. Ask him to give you what you need today, whether that’s wisdom to solve a problem or the strength to love another person. You don’t have to pray for more than you need beyond that day. Remember that when our ancestors journeyed in the desert, God fed them each day with manna from heaven. He gave them only enough for each day so that they could depend on him to faithfully provide for them. I will provide for your daily needs too, because after I have completed my mission, I will feed you with myself, the Bread of Life.
The Joy of Forgiveness. “I know that so many times you feel burdened because you have sinned. So let me teach you a lesson about God’s forgiveness. When you repent of something you did wrong, our Father delights in forgiving you. God wants you to know that ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us’ (Psalm 103:12). So pray each day, Forgive us our trespasses.
“And I tell you that when you ask for forgiveness, you must also imitate your Father by praying, As we forgive those who trespass against us. Remember how I taught you to forgive one another even seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22)? ‘But, Lord,’ you say, ‘Peter did this to me again, or John hurt me with these words! It was wrong!’ That might be true, but nevertheless, be ready to forgive, and be ready also to ask for forgiveness. Be at peace with your brothers and sisters as much as you are able. Even if you don’t feel it, make an act of your will by praying, ‘I forgive this person completely, Father, because my forgiveness is but a fraction of what you have forgiven me.’
Protect Us from Evil. “This world has so many trials and so much temptation. I know this, my brothers and sisters. But I have put you in this world so that you can love one another and fulfill the mission that I have entrusted to you. You have a mission, just like Moses and Abraham and all the holy men and women of old. Like them, you don’t belong to this world; you belong to your Father. So pray, Father, lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. Pray for each other in this way. Lift up one another to the Father, and ask him to strengthen each of you for this journey. The evil one will not prove victorious in the end.
“I tell you, my disciples, the kingdom belongs not to this world but to our Father in heaven and to all his sons and daughters who serve him in humility. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever. So put your trust in your heavenly Father. Each day ask for his love, his mercy, and whatever else you need to walk the path he has chosen for you. Our Father hears your every prayer!”