Recently had a conversation where the topic and nature of prayer came up. Looking at the Lord's prayer I thought that I might take a shot at answering the question posed in the title. I think that prayer is:
- relationship - "Our father who art in heaven" speaks to me of the nature of the one to whom we pray. We do not speak to a Zeus like being sitting on a mountain but a parent who cares for us and wants the best for us.
- worship - "hallowed be thy name" tells me that there is a difference between God and my earthly father. When I speak to God I do so with reverence acknowledging that He is not only greater than I am but that He is different and worthy of my praise and obedience.
- desire - "thy kingdom come, thy will be done" reveals the heart of every believer. Things can be difficult in our lives. Yet in the midst of the pain there is something that cries out from our very souls that God would come to earth - that His will would be done and His kingdom be manifested.
- need - "gives us this day our daily bread" acknowledges that God is our source and, whether we understand it or not, He is the one who provides for the most basic of our needs.
- forgiveness - "forgive us our trespasses" is a phrase that should break us and ruin us. It is both an acknowledgement of the problem and a confession of the answer. When prayed from the heart it is a transformative sentence and one that can bring healing to us.
- responsibility - "as we forgive" engages our hearts in a way that brings peace to our hearts and reconciliation to our relationships. Apart from this prayer simply becomes the airing of grievances and a petition of wishes.
- discipleship - "lead us" identifies us as followers of God longing for His direction. It reminds us not only that He is with us always but wants to be our counselor teaching us the way to live.
- protection - "deliver us from evil" is both an acknowledgment of the sinister and a proclamation of divine saving power. Sometimes our need so obvious and in other times it is more subtle. Yet in all cases our need for protection is so much greater than we can imagine.
- humility - "thine is the kingdom ... the power ... the glory" reminds us that He is God and we are not. In the end life is all about the kingdom of God. When all is said and done the power of God sustains us. It is why we must seek to glorify Him in everything that we do.
- hope - "forever" is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It is a word that compels me to believe that there is more to this life than what we experience on earth. It challenges me to live in such a way that embraces eternity in my heart.
These ten words challenge me and remind me that prayer is so much more than petitioning a Santa Clause in heaven with the things that I think that I need. These ten thoughts instruct me concerning what Christ taught about prayer.