Prayer may be the greatest blessing God gives us here on this earth. Each of us has tremendous potential to serve God and others through the ministry of prayer. It’s available to every believer, no matter who we are or what our life circumstances. God designed it to bless us beyond all imagining, and yet it is easily within our reach.
As accessible and powerful as prayer is, I have to tell you that it can be one of the most difficult disciplines to master in the Christian life. Over time, praying for loved ones who are stuck in destructive habits can lead to discouragement, and the busyness of life can impede our prayer time. Even the disciples who lived and walked with Jesus must have experienced frustration with prayer. They could have asked Jesus to teach them how to preach, how to evangelize, how to study the Scripture, or any number of things, but what did they ask? “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
The Lord’s Prayer Is Our Model
Jesus’ reply is known as the Lord’s Prayer. I prefer to call it “the Disciples’ Prayer” because it provides a pattern for all believers to follow. Containing just 66 words, it is the most well-known prayer in history, and it is at the very heart of who God is and what He longs for His children to be. When we use it to inform our own prayers, we gain a more focused prayer life that aligns our heart with God’s priorities.
Rather than being a formula to repeat word for word, the Lord’s Prayer presents a systematic coverage of topics. As we pray for our family, let’s consider five aspects of this model prayer.
Calling God “Father” acknowledges His intimate love for His children and our position as members of His family. Hallowing His name means “to sanctify or praise” Him for who He is—our Creator, Father, and Lord who alone is worthy of our praise.
Many things compete for our praise, including family ties. God created the family to foster an environment of love and devotion, and most of us pour ourselves into family life wholeheartedly. Yet the enemy of our souls loves to take God’s gifts and use them to turn our affections from the Giver to the gift. When we allow anything to become more important in our life than God (even our family), we commit the sin of idolatry. By praising God at the outset of each prayer, we remind ourselves that He comes before our spouse, siblings, parents, kids, grandkids, and all other relationships.
Submit to His will.
When we pray for something as dear as our family, it can be tempting to run ahead of God’s plans, pursuing our own will rather than His. Looking to Jesus’ life, we find a model of perfect submission to the Father’s will. As the cross loomed before Him, He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). God sees beyond our circumstances, and His care for our family surpasses our capacity to love. We can submit to Him with confidence, knowing His plan is best.
The apostle John gave us this assurance: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). How do we know if we are praying according to God’s will? We make sure our request is in harmony with His Word because His will and His Word will never contradict each other. Then we follow up by carrying out His will as it becomes clear to us. When we include God in our planning, He helps us toward the goal He has set.
“Your kingdom come” refers to a kingdom that is yet before us, but it also refers to the kingdom within us and our believing family members. Anyone who is a Christian has the King living within their heart (Luke 17:21), and a glimmer of God’s kingdom manifests itself in their life. Knowing this, we pray for our loved ones to submit to the plans God has for them. If we ask God to give our kids health and spirituality only so that we can be proud we have good kids, we ask amiss (James 4:3). Instead, our heart’s desire should be that our children can be useful, meaningful servants in God’s greater kingdom work. When we pray for the welfare of others in the context of our love for God, we can pray with great confidence that God will hear us and answer our prayers.
Depend on Him to meet our needs.
By instructing us to pray for each day’s needs, the Lord reminds us that, regardless of our place in life, we depend totally upon God each and every day. Each moment of the day is a gift from Him. Whenever we enjoy a morsel of food, we delight in one of God’s gifts to us.
Children seem to have a special fondness for bread. Whether it’s pull-apart monkey bread, pizza crust, or dinner rolls, they gobble the stuff up greedily. We may not always endorse their meal selections, but I think the kids are on to something here. Jesus called Himself “the bread of life,” connecting the sustaining power of bread with the spiritual sustenance He provides. And in Matthew 4:4 He states, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This verse highlights the superiority of God’s Word while acknowledging the nourishment that bread provides.
How does bread meet the needs of the human body? How does something that is gleaned from plants have the ability to supply us with strength? It is only possible through the word that proceeds out of God’s mouth. God speaks, and seeds receive the nutritional properties we need to grow and become strong. If God were to withdraw His word, food would lose its usefulness. The Bible says Christ “sustains everything by the mighty power of His command” (Hebrews 1:3, NLT). God is the Giver of all good things.
Shortly after giving His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus explained God’s eagerness to provide for our needs this way:
In this passage we find assurance that God is not only able to meet our every need, His willingness to give us good things surpasses that of the best of earthly fathers. Almighty God can be trusted with our prayers, and He can be trusted to meet the needs of our family.
Trust Him to forgive our sins.
(Other translations use the word “trespasses” or “sins.”) It’s easy for us to embrace the first part because we all yearn for forgiveness. But the second part is more challenging.
One could argue that this is the most important phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. It is the only phrase Jesus repeats for emphasis. At the end of the prayer, Jesus says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are unwilling to forgive others when they wrong us, does that mean we aren’t truly Christians? It may.
While I would never suggest that someone might lose his or her salvation by committing a sin—it is by grace, through faith, that we are saved, and our salvation depends wholly on the finished work of Christ on the cross—I would be equally unwilling to give an unsaved person confidence that he or she is right with God. Jesus illustrated this principle with a parable about an unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35: If we hang onto unforgiveness in our hearts, the reason may be because the Holy Spirit does not live there.
And yet, do you know any Christians who are unforgiving? No doubt you do. All sorts of Christians carry grudges, and I consider them to be real believers. So let me suggest another side to forgiveness that we ought to consider.
When we fail to forgive a family member, we damage our relationship with them, but they don’t cease to be our family. In order to restore the relationship, we have to seek forgiveness and repent of our damaging actions. Likewise, if we want to experience oneness with the Lord in our daily relationship with Him, we can’t hold grudges against others. Lord Herbert expressed this idea well: “He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must someday pass.”1 Practicing forgiveness keeps our heart connected with God and others.
Family hurts often cut us the deepest. When someone with whom we share our life lets us down, holding a grudge can feel justified. The pain is undeniable. But the only way to heal the pain is to forgive the person who hurt us. When we let go of wrath, we not only reconcile the relationship, we also free ourselves from the bondage of anger.
In His prayer, Jesus calls us to pursue forgiveness with God and others. This is the key to conquering evil, fostering healthy relationships, and maintaining a vibrant prayer life.
Ask Him for strength to resist Satan.
Temptation could also be translated as “trial” or “test.” These moments of testing often coincide with life’s highs and lows. A promotion at work, a child’s success, accolades from someone we admire… unless we are vigilant, Satan will use these occasions to lure us into pride and selfishness. Likewise, the defeat we feel in the face of failure can give Satan’s “fiery darts” a place to land in our heart if we aren’t careful.
When we ask God for deliverance, what are we really requesting? What does that look like in our life? The Psalms provide some categories that can help us understand the types of deliverance we can expect of God:
- Deliverance from persecution by enemies of our faith (Psalm 7:1, 2)
- Deliverance from physical harm in the form of random, senseless tragedies (Psalm 11:19-21)
- Deliverance from personal adversaries (Psalm 31:15)
- Deliverance from poverty and need (Psalm 33:18-19)
- Deliverance from the power of fear (Psalm 34:4)
- Deliverance from the power of evil (Psalm 23:4)
When Jesus instructs us to pray for deliverance from evil, He is reminding us that danger constantly surrounds us. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul gives us a sobering look at spiritual warfare. Satan and his demons are “the rulers of the darkness of this age.” We cannot defeat them in our own strength, but as God’s people, we have access to the power of His strength.
What If We Don’t Get It Right?
In the context of praying for our family, it’s worth noting that the Lord didn’t teach us to pray, “Give me this day my daily bread” or “forgive my debts.” No, He taught us to ask for “our daily bread” and forgiveness for “our debts.” Praying for the needs of our family and others is not just a thoughtful thing to do, it is our high calling.
Does this intimidate you? It shouldn’t. The Lord knows what we need, and He is eager to supply it. Immediately before giving the disciples His model prayer, Jesus said, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). And in Luke 18, He told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The tax collector realized the depth of his sinfulness and received God’s forgiveness with this simple prayer: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Almighty God is far more concerned with our heart than our words.
When we’re not sure how to pray, we can trust the Lord to help us. John 17 gives us a profound appreciation for the Lord’s continuing, ongoing ministry on our behalf.
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
Incorporating the precepts of the Lord’s Prayer into our quiet time will bring power to our prayers. It is not a magical formula that we have to get exactly right, but it gives us confidence that our petitions on behalf of our family are consistent with God’s will. As we honor Him, submit to His will, trust Him for our physical and spiritual needs, and rely on His strength, we will embrace His priorities. And we will better embody the marvelous truth that His “is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
1John MacArthur, Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 131.