How to Pray the Lord’s Way

Luke 11:1-13

June 25, 2000 | Brian Bill

Prayer has been in the news a lot this week.  On Monday the Supreme Court delivered its strongest rejection of prayer in public schools in nearly a decade, forbidding invocations at school activities like football games, even when students organize them.  

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing the dissent opinion, said the ruling “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.” 

I don’t know what you think but it seems to me that the Supreme Court is out of step with most people in our country.  On Wednesday, USA Today published a survey that shows that 78% of Americans support prayer in public schools.

Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint Commentary, had this to say about the ruling: “Maybe we should let the Court know it has gone too far.  Many good Texans, I suspect, will go to football games this fall and defy the Court’s order.  What a sight it would be if stadiums filled with God-fearing citizens rose to their feet and recited together the Lord’s Prayer.” 

I know this is not a football stadium but let’s take advantage of the privilege we still have in church to stand and pray the Disciples’ Prayer as found in Luke 11:1-4.

This version may be a bit different than the one you’re used to because Jesus also gave his disciples a model for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.  Most all of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, and some of us have attended churches where it was recited every Sunday (ask people to raise their hands if they were in a church that did this).  I grew up saying this prayer so much that it just became rote for me.  

Not everyone is familiar with this prayer.  Two men were out walking one day.  One guy challenged his buddy by saying, “If you’re so religious, let me hear you quote the Lord’s Prayer.  I’ll bet you $10 you can’t do it.”  The second guy responded, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  The first guy pulled out his wallet, fished out a $10 bill and muttered, “I didn’t think you could do it!”

Before we launch into our text, let’s address whether Jesus intended for us to repeat this prayer verbatim.

Don’t Just Recite It

On one hand, we are to pray this prayer because it is Scripture.  Anytime we take a prayer passage and pray it back to God we bring Him glory.  But, let’s take a look at four reasons why we are not required to recite it today.

1. This prayer is recorded twice in Scripture and the wording is different in each prayer. 

If Jesus was giving us a prayer to be memorized and recited, He would not have given us different words the two times He gave it.

2. The disciples said, “teach us to pray” not “teach us a prayer.” 

It’s one thing to read or deliver a prayer; it’s something else to know how to pray.

3. Jesus warns us against repetitive prayers. 

In fact, in the verse immediately proceeding the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:7, the King James Version says this: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.”

4. This prayer is repeated nowhere else in the New Testament. 

We have no record of believers using this prayer in any of the other prayer passages in the Bible.

Clearly, Jesus was not intending to give the disciples some sort of prayer that they could memorize and then just deliver.  It’s much deeper than that.  Jesus wanted to give His followers a model to follow when addressing God so that we can learn how to pray like Jesus Himself prayed.

That’s what we’re going to do today.  I don’t want to just give you some more information about prayer.  I’m not interested in laying on some guilt because you’re not praying enough.  I don’t even want to give you some easy steps to a deeper prayer life.  And, I don’t want to just preach; I want to actually lead us in prayer as we walk through this passage.


the reason we pray and the reason God answers is to put Himself and His glory on display

The model for prayer that Jesus gave to His followers can be looked at in a variety of ways.  It can be divided into two sets of three elements each.  The first three (Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come) deal with God’s glory.  The second three (give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation) deal with our needs.  Prayer is to begin with the character of God.  And, the reason we pray and the reason God answers is to put Himself and His glory on display.

We must begin with God when we pray.  I don’t always do this.  On Wednesday, when I was praying and writing down my requests in my journal, I was ashamed to realize that I had just jumped right into a long list of requests without taking the time to worship and praise my holy heavenly father.

This profoundly simple model captures everything we need to know about prayer.  It sets the standard, or pattern, for praying the way Jesus prayed.

For our purposes this morning, I’m going to use the following outline:

  • The paternity of prayer: “Father”
  • The priority of prayer: “Hallowed be your name”
  • The program of prayer: “Your kingdom come”
  • The provision of prayer: “Give us each day our daily bread”
  • The pardon of prayer: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”
  • The protection of prayer: “And lead us not into temptation”

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

Let’s begin by looking at Luke 11:1: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When He finished, one of his disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’”  Jesus was a continual source of amazement to His followers.  They watched and they listened to everything He did.  I can picture the scene.  Jesus is praying again and the disciples are standing around watching and listening.  After he said, “Amen,” one of them courageously asked the question they were all wondering about: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Several things strike me about this request.

1. One of the disciples brings up the subject of prayer, not Jesus.

Even though Jesus considered prayer vitally important, He did not initiate the topic.  Why?  I think it was because He wanted the disciples to conclude on their own how important prayer was.  By the way, this is the only time in the Gospels where we read of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them anything.  They could have asked for some instruction on a variety of topics like preaching, teaching, or how to perform a miracle, but prayer is the only subject matter they specifically asked for some help with.

2. Jesus knew the power of a good example. 

It is no accident that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray at the very time the Lord had set aside for His own prayer.  I know that I have learned the most about prayer by following the model of others.  I’ll forever be indebted to Alex and Eugenie Longinow who taught me how to pray Scripture back to God.  They never wrote it down for me or led a prayer seminar; I just listened and prayed with them during prayer meetings at the church where I interned.

3. The disciples were not known for their praying. 

I don’t know of anywhere in the Gospels where the disciples were characterized as men of prayer.  They often watched Jesus pray but they didn’t enter into prayer themselves.  In fact, in the hour of Jesus’ greatest need they dropped their eyelids instead of dropping to their knees.  The question voiced by this one disciple shows that prayer is not only needed, but that it was a deficiency in his life and in the life of his friends.

We’re the same way, aren’t we?  We know prayer is important, we know Jesus modeled it, but most of us fall far short.  If we want to pray like Jesus prayed, let’s learn along with his disciples. 

Verse 2 begins with, “When you pray, say…” Even though it was just one disciple who wanted some tutoring in prayer, Jesus uses the plural pronoun here to indicate that prayer is to have a corporate element to it.  While we certainly need to pray on our own, we can’t discount the importance of praying with other believers.  Prayer is not to be selfish, but to be done with a sense of community and togetherness.

Most of us come to the Lord with a lot of “I, me, and my” in our prayers.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he used no singular personal pronouns.  Listen: “give usour daily bread…forgive us our sins…we also forgive…lead us not into temptation.”

Let’s look at each of the elements.

The Paternity of Prayer

“Father” is probably the most common term we use in prayer, and rightly so, because that is how Jesus addressed His prayers, using the phrase more than 70 different times.  The only prayer He ever prayed without using it was when He was on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Only in sin-bearing was He separated from the Father.

This term indicates a childlike trust in our heavenly Father who will not only hear us but longs to listen to our requests.  The better we know what our heavenly father is like, the more we will readily leap into his arms in prayer.

When we become Christians, Romans 8:15 says that we receive the Holy Spirit who makes us children of God, “and by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”  This word “Abba” means “daddy,” and communicates the intimacy and nearness of God.  He is not indifferent or detached from His children.

As such we don’t have to approach Him with big churchy words or formalities.  He wants us to embrace Him as our Father, to come to Him without fear of retribution or shame.  He wants us to come boldly into His presence, having the confidence that He is eager to hear the prayers of His children.  

Let’s Pray: “Our Father God, we come to you this morning as your children.  We praise you for allowing us to have a relationship with you.  Thank you for loving us deeply and for longing to have us approach you as our ‘daddy’ in prayer.  Thank you for your nearness and for your involvement in our lives.”

The Priority of Prayer

After acknowledging God as our Father, Jesus now instructs us to see Him as holy: “Hallowed by your name.”  He is intimate like a Father and He is infinite in holiness.  God’s nature is like a daddy but His name is holy.  Our open access to God that leads to a close relationship with Him should not destroy our esteem for Him.  He is not the “big guy in the sky” or “our buddy.”  He is the holy and awesome God of Israel, before whom we should tremble like Isaiah did in Isaiah 6.  

Even though He is my loving Father and does meet my needs, my first petition should not be on my behalf, but on His.  Praying, “hallowed by your name” is a safeguard against self-seeking prayer.

To make something “hallow” carries two basic ideas in the Greek.  The first means to make an ordinary thing extraordinary by bringing it into contact with something extraordinary.  That’s how it’s used in 1 Peter 1:16 where God says, “Be holy because I am holy.”  We’re unholy, but by coming into contact with One who is holy, we can be made holy.  

The second meaning for “hallow” means to treat something or someone as set apart or separated.  To “hallow” God’s name therefore is to hold His matchless being in awe and veneration so that we will believe what He says and obey Him.  Friends, we have to guard against becoming flippant and shallow in our view of God.  God is holy, holy, holy.  The holiness of God is the only one of His attributes repeated three times.

Before we start asking for what we want, we need to ask for what we should be in light of His penetrating holiness

One way that we can “hallow” His name is by living a life of obedience before Him.  God want His name “hallowed” in us so that we can become a vehicle of His holiness to others.  Martin Luther said that God’s name is made holy among us “when both our doctrines and our living are truly Christian.”  That’s where prayer begins.  Before we start asking for what we want, we need to ask for what we should be in light of His penetrating holiness.

Two questions come to mind related to this part of the prayer:

  • Are we approaching God with holy reverence, awe, and respect when we pray?  
  • Are we “hallowing” God by the way we are living?

Prayer: “Our holy heavenly Father, we bow before your majestic presence, recognizing that as we come before you, our sins threaten to consume us.  You are holy, holy, holy and the whole earth is full of your glory.  We praise you and prize you because of your transcendent holy name.  We hallow your name because you are high and lifted up and we hallow your name by striving to live holy lives.”

The Program of Prayer

When we pray the third part of this prayer, “Your kingdom come,” we are saying, “Almighty Father God, take control of my life and do what you will for your glory.”  Prayer is not asking God to do my will.  It is bringing myself into conformity with His program.  Praying the Lord’s way does not mean letting God in our plans, but calling for God to fulfill His own.  My anemic prayers are too often filled with my kingdoms, my plans, and my causes.

Can you imagine what would happen if we were preoccupied with the things of God?  Just think about what would take place in this community if we were determined to pray that God’s kingdom rule would make itself known in the lives of our neighbors and co-workers!

Let me go back to my introduction.  While the Supreme Court’s decision on prayer is certainly concerning, this is not the real issue.  As Christians we don’t pin our hopes on what a court may decide because God’s kingdom will prevail.

The word “kingdom” in the Greek means “rule” or “reign.”  I think this is a better translation than the word “kingdom” because this word makes us think of castles and knights.  To pray, “Your kingdom come” is to pray that God may take up reigning residence in the hearts and lives of those who are in rebellion.  It is a prayer for salvation, for kingdom citizenship.

There are at least three aspects of praying for God’s kingdom to come that should permeate our prayers:

1. Conversion.

We should pray that people would bow before Christ and get saved. 

2. Commitment.

As believers, we need to daily respond to the royalty residing in us and bow before His lordship in our lives.  We need to check to make sure Jesus is at the center of our lives, not anyone, or anything else.  The bottom line in prayer is this: “God, because you are King, do what you want in my life and in the lives of others.”

3. Consummation.

One day the heavens will split open, and Jesus Christ will descend and plant His feet on the Mount of Olives, and He will establish His kingdom that will last forever and ever.

How is one qualified to pray, “Your kingdom come”?  By changing citizenship through conversion.  How does one live out that citizenship?  By commitment.  And how is that citizenship fully realized?  By consummation.

Let’s pray: Our Father who art in heaven, you are holy and you are the King eternal.  We pray that your kingdom, not ours, would come through conversions, through our commitment to your kingship, and we look forward to the glorious day of your appearing as you consummate history and usher in your eternal kingdom.  Help us to be kingdom oriented in the way we live so that we will honor you with our lives.”

The Provision of Prayer

The first half of this model prayer is God-ward.  The second half focuses on the believer.  Once God is given His rightful place, then we have the proper perspective toward ourselves. This magnificent section of the prayer covers our whole being: body, soul and spirit: “Give us each day our daily bread” relates to our body.  “Forgive us our sins” speaks to our soul.  “And lead us not into temptation” deals with our spirit.  

“Give us each day our daily bread” may at first glance seem irrelevant to most of us.  While there certainly are people right here in this community and in other countries that are not sure where their next meal is coming from, most of us have plenty to eat.  This request has more to do with the totality of our physical life.  The word bread is really a broad term meaning all of our physical needs.

When we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we are saying that we trust God as the source to supply all the physical needs of our lives, and we affirm that He will take care of everything we need.  Notice that this trust in God for these needs is for each day.  In the first century, bread had to be made on a daily basis.  They couldn’t just buy a couple loaves and put them in the freezer.  Like manna that comes once a day, God provides one day at a time.

Do we pray for our daily needs?  Do we take time to ask God to meet our physical needs or do we at least give thanks for them?  Sure, we might say grace before every meal but these prayers can easily become just a sanctimonious way of saying, “Let’s eat.”

Friends, if we don’t ask God to give us what we need every day we will gradually succumb to the delusion that we actually can provide for these needs ourselves.  We can think that we handle this part and God only handles stuff that is serious.  Here’s the danger in thinking like this: pride can swell up within us and we can subtly pull away from trust in God.

Let’s pray: “Our holy father God, we desire to have you triumph as King in our lives and we lean on you to provide for our physical needs.  If it weren’t for your provision, we would have nothing.  What we do have is a gift from you.  And so we choose to trust you for our daily bread, every day so that we might grow in our relationship with you as we see you provide in ways we never thought possible.”

The Pardon of Prayer

The next phrase of the prayer goes like this: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”  Forgiveness of sin is the greatest need of the human heart.  Only God can grant us a pardon from punishment and guilt.  

It’s been my observation that there is one thing that troubles Christians more than anything else.  It’s guilt.  We kick ourselves for our failures and punish ourselves relentlessly.  Let’s pray this prayer, asking God to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Romans 5:8 declares that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  Let’s claim it and live without being paralyzed by guilt and shame.

Now, having said that, notice that Jesus immediately gives us a limitation – we are to also forgive others.  This verse teaches us that it is wrong to ask from God what we are not willing to give to other people.  Let me ask you a question.  Is there anyone who comes to mind right now who is in need of your forgiveness?  Have you been holding someone captive?  Is there someone in need of some grace?  These are potent words.  When we fail to forgive someone, we set ourselves up as a higher judge than God himself.  Another way to say it is that our relationship with the Lord cannot be right until our relationship with others is made right.

Matthew 5:23-24 tells us what to do if we know of someone who has something against us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 18:15 urges us to make things right when we have something against someone else: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

Have you been wronged by someone?  Have you sinned against anyone else?  Meet with the person face-to-face.  Express yourself.  Then let it go by giving the gift of forgiveness.  Most of us grossly underestimate how committed God is to building and maintaining a loving community.

Before we pray together, take some time right now to do a “forgiveness” inventory.  Ask God to bring someone to mind that you have been withholding forgiveness from.  Ask Him also if you have wronged anyone else.  If the Holy Spirit brings a name to mind, determine right now to meet face-to-face this week.  Don’t short-circuit your own spiritual welfare.

Let’s pray: “Our holy Abba Father, we submit to your reign in our lives by trusting you for our daily needs and by living as forgiven sinners without any fear of condemnation.  Give us the courage and humility to make things right with others by owning our sins and by cutting others some slack by giving them the same gift of grace that you’ve given to us.”

The Protection of Prayer

We come now to the last part of learning to pray the Lord’s way: “And lead us not into temptation.”  The kingdom child realizes that he lives in a fallen world that pounds against him with temptations he can never resist in his own humanness.  

Just yesterday, I was sitting in a restaurant finishing this message when I was faced with a temptation.  In fact, I was typing these very words: “And lead us not into temptation” when the waitress came by my table with some more coffee.  I told her that I was ready for my check and she told me to just tell the person at the register that I had coffee.  Do you know what flashed through my mind?  I’m almost embarrassed to tell you.  I was thinking about how I could walk past the cashier without stopping and head to my car!

You and I are faced with temptations all around us.  The Greek word translated temptation is neutral and can refer to a test or a trial.  This phrase should read, “And lead us not into trials or testings that can turn into temptation.”  The word “into” means “into the power of” or “into the hands of.”

And so, we are to ask God to keep us from falling into the power of trials and temptations.  We are not strong enough to handle these on our own.  Will God answer a prayer like this?  You bet He will.  1 Corinthians 10:13 gives us a wonderful promise: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Brothers and sisters, ask God to lead you away from temptation.  When you’re faced with an enticement to sin, look for the way out.  God is faithful and will not leave you to face your temptations alone.  Pray for His protection and keep your guard up.

Let’s pray: “Father God, you are arrayed in majestic splendor.  You are close to us and yet you are wholly different and separate from us.  As we approach you we’re mindful of our sins that threaten to destroy us and those around us.  We confess them and surrender to your royal reign in our lives.  Give us everything we need for daily living, enable us to forgive those who’ve wronged us and show us the way of escape when we’re faced with the temptation to trample your holiness in our thoughts, words, and actions.”


An unknown author put together a great summary of the Disciples’ Prayer that will serve as our conclusion this morning:

  • I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
  • I cannot say, “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.
  • I cannot say, “hallowed be your name” if I am playing around with sin.
  • I cannot say “your kingdom come” if I am not allowing God to reign in my life.
  • I cannot say “give us this day our daily bread” if I am trusting in myself instead of in God’s provision.
  • I cannot say, “Forgive us our sins” if I am nursing a grudge or withholding forgiveness from someone else.
  • I cannot say, “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?