In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus gave guidelines for us when we pray. In this section, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares what is called today the “Model Prayer.” In Luke 11:1-2, this same prayer is shared with the apostles when one of them asked, “Lord teach us to pray.”
In the Sermon on the Mount and to His apostles, Jesus gave four instructions to guide us when we pray.
Pray in secret: Jesus was making a contrast with how the Pharisees prayed. “They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” If and when you are called on to pray in public, you should be in the habit of praying in private.
Pray sincerely: “And when you pray, don’t keep on babbling like pagans.” When you make request repeatedly does not mean that it is “babbling” or “vain repetition,” because both Jesus and the apostle Paul repeated their petitions. It becomes “vain repetition” if requests are “babbling words” without a sincere heart desire to seek and to know God’s will.
Pray according to promises: It is important to read the Bible and know the many things that God has already promised. Without knowing these promises, we can sometimes ask for things that are already ours. When Jesus said “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” He wants us to know it is His will to grant us these promises. The Model Prayer begins with God’s interest: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.
Pray, having a forgiving spirit: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” He was not teaching that believers earned God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, for this would be contrary to God’s free grace and mercy. Rather, if we have truly experienced God’s forgiveness, then we will have a readiness to forgive others.
You have heard the expression, “Prayer changes things.” In reality, it is God Who changes us and things when we pray.